USC football practice notes: Tempo lessons on Day 11 (8/15)

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 /

Day 11 of USC football Fall Camp put tempo at the forefront, looking to teach both offense and defense lessons about the speed of the game.

FALL CAMP. First Scrimmage Evaluations

The weapon that is tempo has become more and more of a fixture in football over the years. USC football was looking to harness it for a variety of lessons on Thursday as they completed Day 11 of Fall Camp practices.

PRACTICE NOTES: Offense wins OT, defense sees positives

In a second-consecutive practice with shells and shorts, the Trojans ran a longer-than-normal 11-on-11 tempo period, with JT Daniels leading the first team and Matt Fink commanding the second team.

What was normally a six rep affair was extended to eight reps with one goal in mind: Giving the team on both sides of the ball a taste of “reality.”

When all was said and done, head coach Clay Helton gathered his team into a huddle at midfield and preached to them about the importance of being able to harness and defend tempo.

“I said you guys, this is reality. This is college football,” Helton said. “This is how fast it’s played. This how good of condition you have to be in when you play a tempo team.”

Adding a few reps to the script was designed to simulate the feel of a 10-play drive, including the need to substitute when the opportunity arises.

Helton praised the defense for recognizing when offensive coordinator Graham Harrell brought in his subs, taking the chance to platoon themselves.

It was also a chance for the offense to see how fast they could push it.

The results were mixed.

Daniels went 4-of-7 guiding the first team offense against the first team defense. He started out well enough, despite taking a sack from Christian Rector on the second play. He completed his first three passes to Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, who made an impressive catch stretching to his maximum height to secure the ball, and Drake London.

Unfortunately the final four plays were less stellar. He missed Vaughns, then found Markese Stepp before a long throw to Pittman fell incomplete thanks in part to good defense by Chris Steele. His last attempt appeared to end in disaster when the pass inside was broken up and floated high into the air long enough for defensive lineman Brandon Pili to snatch it one-handed. Fortunately for the quarterback, yellow flags flew for pass interference at the point of the break up.

The second team defense also made it tough on the second team offense led by Matt Fink.

A handoff to Quincy Jountti went nowhere. A quick shot to Chase Locke was broken up by Kana’i Mauga, who impressed throughout the drive. He tagged Jountti down on his next run attempt then nearly intercepted Fink when he tried to find a receiver quickly inside. Instead he found only the linebacker, but the ball bounced off his hands.

Fink recovered to hold the ball himself on the next play before handing off to Kenan Christon for a decent gain. Then the quarterback hit Pittman on the outside and Locke over the middle to finish his series better than it started, 2-of-4 in all.

As with everything on the practice field, it was a potential learning experience.