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

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /
2 of 2
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Practice standouts

  • Raymond Scott… Scott has needed time to settle into the nickelback position, but his steadily-increasing impact moments have been a good sign. He had a pass breakup in 1v1s and put pressure on the quarterback during a backed up 11-on-11 situation, nearly warranting a safety call from the refs.
  • Matt Fink… Fink has been USC’s most steady quarterback in Spring Camp and he put in another solid performance on Tuesday, particularly in the 1v1 segment.
  • The cornerbacks… It’s been tough for the cornerbacks at times, but interceptions for Greg Johnson and Briton Allen as well as a pass breakup for Dominic Davis were good reward for their efforts to start Week 4.

Highlights and tidbits

  • Punter Ben Griffiths booted plenty of impressive kicks this Spring Camp, but a shank drew the most attention on Tuesday. One of his kicks flew so far to the right that it seemed destined to land outside the practice field, only it struck a light post first and bounced back onto the field.
  • 1v1 segment:
    • Matt Fink completed long throws to Michael Pittman and John Jackson III.
    • Scott and Chase Williams logged pass breakups, the latter impressively interrupting Pittman’s attempt to catch a fade in the endzone.
  • 11-on-11 tempo segment:
    • Fink was 3-of-4 while going with the first team. He continues to show the highest level of urgency of the quarterbacks when it comes to tempo.
    • Jack Sears was 2-of-3 with the second team.
    • JT Daniels was 4-of-4 with the first team, though his final completion to St. Brown could be questioned as Abdul-Malik McClain tore through his blocker and would have had a clear shot on the quarterback in live play.
    • Kedon Slovis was 4-of-4 with the second team.
  • 7-on-7 segment:
    • Sears was 4-of-5 with the first team.
      • Sears’ lone incompletion was an impressive pass breakup by Palaie Gaoteote, getting ahead of a quick shot to Pittman.
    • Fink was 3-of-5 with the second team.
      • Dominic Davis flew in on the sideline to break up a pass intended for Vaughns.
    • Slovis was 4-of-5 with the first team.
      • Greg Johnson jumped an out route intended for Pittman for a pick six on the freshman quarterback.
    • Daniels was 4-of-5 with the second team.
      • Vaughns made an impressive grab going up high to reel in the catch.
      • Daniels’ lone incompletion fell victim to the pads held up by student managers to simulate defensive linemen with their hands up on the line.
  • 11-on-11 full field segment:
    • Daniels was 5-of-5 with the first team while backed up in the endzone.
    • Sears was 1-of-3 with the second team in the middle of the field.
      • Hunter Echols knocked out Stephen Carr’s mouthpiece on a run play to emphasize the “thud” nature of the period.
    • Slovis was 4-of-5 with the first team in the redzone.
      • Isaiah Pola-Mao pressured the quarterback on a blitz, resulting in a pass behind St. Brown at the goal line.
    • Fink was 3-of-5 with the second team backed up in the endzone.
      • Pressure from Raymond Scott and Connor Murphy forced the quarterback to roll and throw away the ball twice.
    • Sears was 1-of-2 with the first team in the middle of the field. He took off running for a big chunk play on the ground.
    • Daniels was 1-of-3 with the second team in the redzone.
      • Markese Stepp dropped a pass on a screen.
      • Briton Allen intercepted a lobbed pass in the endzone.
      • Gino Quinnones botched a snap to end the practice.

News and notes

  • Surprising freshman… If any quarterback has surprised Harrell, it’s Slovis, who has picked up the system quickly despite his youth. Coming in when all the quarterbacks are learning a new system likely evened the playing field out for Slovis, according to Harrell.
  • Coming back to bite… While he has been impressive, Slovis was also the subject of a teaching moment on Tuesday. His interception to Johnson was on a throw Harrell has harped on before. Harrell said he’s pointed out Slovis being late on the out throw several times before, but the young quarterback kept getting away with it before because his arm was strong enough to fit the ball in for a completion. “It came back and bit him today,” Harrell said.
  • Killing them… USC has not been able to deploy four wide receiver sets as often as Harrell would like in part because, in his words: “We hardly have four receivers.” The intention is to “put our best 11 guys on the field,” Harrell said, whether that’s four-wide, three-wide with a tight end, or any other personnel set. However, going four-wide half the time, as he is used to, isn’t viable right now. “Whenever you’re trying to get as many plays as we’re getting and run practice the way we practice, if you go four-wide you’re going to kill them,” Harrell said.