USC Trojans Spring Review
The USC Trojans finished up spring practice in the Coliseum on April 15th. For many other elite programs around the country, their spring culminates with a intrasquad game in front of tens of thousands of football-hungry fans. This was not the case for the defending Rose Bowl Champions, as they held what was a glorified practice comprised of periods of 7-on-7, team run and situationals such as backed up at the goalline, and red zone.
The spring “game” was a microcosm of spring practice. Flaws that had been exposed during the weeks of practice were displayed during the game, and the players who had showed flashes of potential, were exhibited. Injuries had plagued the Trojans all spring, and the theme of the offseason has become depth. As much effort and care were given to the second and third group as the starters. As injuries piled up, there were increased chances for young guys and backups to shine. The position group who lost the most talent was the wide receivers, but as it turns out, this group might have had the most successful spring.
Velus Jones made a name for himself this spring. The redshirt freshman WR from Alabama, routinely made dynamic plays throughout spring, culminating in his making three special, athletic plays in the “game”. Head Coach Clay Helton expects Jones to take Adoree Jackson‘s role next year, calling him the “Percy Harvin type”. Tyler Vaughns as well as Michael Pittman both had productive springs, and are expected to heavily contribute to the Trojan receiving corps come fall. This makes for a solid group for Sam Darnold to target.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 15, 2017
The expectations for Darnold are massive this year, but with such an emphasis on the backups, Jack Sears and Matt Fink also got a ton of reps. Backup quarterback is somewhat of a question mark for the Trojans as with the transfer of Max Browne, there is no experience after Darnold. The early enrollee Jack Sears, looked flustered at times as he tried to adjust to the speed of college ball. Fink looked more comfortable, but he did not pull away from Sears and claim the backup role. The running backs had a tough spring, but this was due in part because of adjustments. With new running back coach, Deland McCullough, and a patchwork offensive line, there were not very many long runs to be had. Ronald Jones lead the crop of running backs while Vavae Malepeai also made his presence felt.
Defense dominated the scrimmage along with the majority of spring, but this was to be expected. With holes in the offensive line due to injury, as well as players leaving, the defense was expected to be the stronger group. There were some interesting additions to the defense as well as position shifts. Freshman defensive tackle, Marlon Tuipulotu, had one of the most outstanding individual springs. He fought his way into the starting 11 and routinely found his way into the offensive backfield, blowing up runs and disrupting the timing of the quarterbacks. Jamel Cook, RS freshman defensive back, also made a lot of plays. During one practice, he had four interceptions, one off of Matt Fink and Jack Sears and two off of Sam Darnold. As far as moving players around, Cameron Smith, former All-American linebacker, has been moved to the “Mike” linebacker position, while John Houston slid into the starting lineup at the “Will” backer.
The Trojans have wrapped up spring practice, and are looking forward to fall camp. But their biggest issue is health, specifically on the offensive line. Looking back at last season, the Trojans had skill players who were good enough to compete with the cream of the crop, but the lines were the issue. This season, they believe that the talent of their fronts has caught up to that of their skill guys. If this is true, and they can become and remain healthy, the sky is the limit for USC. The Trojans open up their season on September 2nd at home against Western Michigan.