USC football practice notes: Fall Camp begins with youth, QB questions (8/2)

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

Practice standouts

  • Christian Rector… Rector broke up a pass and logged two sacks on Day 1. He had similar standout days in Spring Camp, but they came irregularly. That’ll be his task this Fall Camp, finding the consistency to make those kinds of plays on multiple days in a row.
  • Munir McClain… As far as freshman debuts come, McClain’s was eye-opening. Even though he was the lowest-rated wide receiver in USC’s 2019 class, he didn’t look it on Friday using his 6-foot-4 frame to make several impressive catches. The best of those was a play over the middle when the quarterback seemed to put the ball too high. It wasn’t too high for McClain, who launched himself up and stretched at full length to grab the pass out of the air.
  • Olaijah Griffin… The sophomore cornerback had two interceptions, first diving to scoop a low Kedon Slovis pass off the turf in 1v1s then getting under an over thrown Jack Sears attempt.

Highlights and tidbits

  • The first team defense on Day 1 featured safeties Isaiah Pola-Mao and Talanoa Hufanga, cornerbacks Greg Johnson and Isaac Taylor-Stuart, nickelback Chase Williams, linebackers Palaie Gaoteote and John Houston, defensive ends Christian Rector and Drake Jackson and defensive tackles Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele. Outside linebacker Hunter Echols also featured.
  • The first team offensive line included right tackle Jalen McKenzie, right guard Andrew Vorhees, center Brett Neilon, left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and left tackle Drew Richmond, who stood in for Austin Jackson while he is eased back in after undergoing surgery last month.
  • USC brought in refs to oversee practice just as they had done during Spring Camp. Players who were flagged immediately had to complete five up-downs.
  • After 1v1s, Helton called the whole team together along with the refs to explain how tightly officials will call any jersey pulling.
  • Freshman cornerback Max Williams nabbed an interception in his first full practice after Velus Jones’ dropped a pass up the seam. The ball bounced into the air and the nickelback came down with it.
  • Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote also took advantage of a tipped ball for a pick. Isaac Taylor-Stuart broke up a Kedon Slovis pass over the middle and Gaoteote was able to snatch it out of the air on the bounce.
  • JT Daniels completed the best pass of the day on a long shot to Michael Pittman in 11-on-11.
  • Jack Sears had a day of “almosts.” He put a deep pass just beyond the reach of Devon Williams then later had a long shot to a wide open Tyler Vaughns fall off the tips of the receivers’ fingers.
  • One Sears play that did come off was a third-and-nine conversion on a corner route to Pittman.
  • Though Pittman got the better of cornerback Dominic Davis on the previous play, Davis managed to make up for it by breaking up an endzone fade meant for the mismatched wide receiver.
  • Another fade attempt from Sears resulted in some controversy as Griffin was flagged for pass interference. The cornerback protested that Pittman had a fistful of his facemask.
  • Linebacker Ralen Goforth stripped walk-on receiver Jack Webster. Fellow linebacker John Houston felt he had a standout day.

News and notes

  • Available soon… Freshman safety Dorian Hewett didn’t practice, but USC doesn’t have reason to worry just yet. He has reported to camp but still has to be cleared by the NCAA.
  • Clean practice… Helton was pleased with the first day of practice from an offensive standpoint. “It was really a clean practice,” he said. “That’s the nature of this offense. It’s an execution offense and if you put really good talent really with it, the sky’s the limit. So our job is to perfect that execution in the next 25 practices.”
  • Playmaker… How does running back Vavae Malepeai describe new teammate Kenan Christon? “Playmaker.” The veteran back praised Christon for coming out and having fun with the game.
  • More focused… What is different about this year from last year? For John Houston, it’s all about mentality. “I feel like we’re more bonded as a team, focused, more competitive, bringing a different edge than we did last year.”
  • Ideal weight… Houston’s ideal weight is 228 to 230 pounds. He is currently just a few pounds away from that goal at 225.
  • Play free, play fast… According to Talanoa Hufanga, the simplification of USC’s defensive scheme is all built around the phrase, “play free, play fast.” That’s what the coaches are asking of their young secondary.