USC football Spring Camp notes: Finding tone setters (4/2)

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Who is setting the tone for USC football’s offense in Spring Camp? For offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, it’s the offensive line and wide outs.

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Graham Harrell has found his tone setters.

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The offensive coordinator opened his fourth week of practice with USC football praising the players who will be responsible for making the Trojan offense purr.

No, not the quarterbacks. The offensive line and wide receivers.

Everything starts up front, Harrell said.

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He emphasized that with the linemen going into this week: “You set the tone for the entire team. That starts with you setting the tempo. If you get lined up fast and you play fast, we’re going to execute at a high level because no one is thinking, we’re just playing.”

The first 11-on-11 period of each practice is all about tempo and Harrell was encouraged by the way the line took ownership of the offense in that segment.

Their increasing familiarity with the tempo of the offense and the protections of the scheme has made the difference lately.

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“When your O-line’s playing well it makes it pretty easy,” he said. “I think the O-line is doing a hell of a job and because of that I think the quarterback play is improving.”

The quarterbacks are also benefiting from the presence of tone-setters at wide receiver, particularly Michael Pittman and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

“When those two are in there, they give you everything they have, every single play,” Harrell said. “They’re as competitive as I’ve ever been around.”

In fact, Pittman and St. Brown have forced Harrell to change the standard to which he holds wide receivers in general, such is their work ethic and competitiveness.

SEE ALSO: Four things we learned from Week 3 of Spring Camp

The willingness to give 100 percent all the time is no small thing this Spring Camp. Harrell is used to practicing with 14 to 18 wide receivers. At USC, he’s had single digit bodies healthy and available to him at any given time.

On Tuesday, Devon Williams missed out, leaving the Trojans with only seven healthy receivers. That just means more reps, “more reps than you would like,” for Pittman, St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, along with a host of walk-ons.

For Harrell, the way they go as hard as they go on every play, considering all that running and all those reps, is commendable.

If the offensive line is responsible for setting the tempo, then that wide receiver duo is doing their part to set the competitive tone for the team.