The Trojans took the field for the last and final non-padded practice of Spring Football, and coach Steve Sarkisian noted that right from the start, the intensity of his defense dominated the practice narrative.
It was fairly obvious the defense dominated from the start, forcing multiple turnovers and plenty of low, even bobbled snaps in team 11-on-11 drills, which Sarkisian said was just part of the growing process for his high-tempo program.
"We had some errant snaps, which can take the air out of practice, Sarkisian noted. Adding that "the five or six errant snaps, I tried not to look at as the focal point of practice because there was a lot of other good things that took place."
That change of pace in offense allowed for the defensive side of the ball to come out firing, even while some of the top players -Su'a Cravens, Leonard Williams, Josh Shaw- were watching practice roaming the sidelines.
The pace of play definitely slowed down. But the unique application of individual drills took precedence today, as the Trojans will continue to slow down tackling in team practice, focusing on teaching the right technique from the start.
Not having pads certainly helped the Trojans pass rushers who were able to compete rather well not only in individual drills but also during the run and quick-pass oriented team sessions, which the offense hopes to change up on Thursday.
PLAYERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF REPS
"The defensive line played great, they really got into the backfield real fast," Cody Kessler said. Coach Sarkisian built off that mantra, praising the likes of Jabari Ruffin, Gerald Bowman and even JC-transfer Claude Pelon for their ability to capitalize on extra playing time against the first-string offense.
Sarkisian thought that Bowman, who was cleared to return to the team earlier this spring, made his impact felt in the secondary during practice -highlighted by his tipped interception during one-on-one drills against Nelson Agholor.
As for the possible starter Jabari Ruffin, the high school wide receiver now converted to OLB/DE over the course of the last two years, Sarkisian says he has the natural tools to dominate the position with a combination of size and great pass-rushing skills that are beginning to flourish here in practice.
CLARITY AT THE QUARTERBACK POSITION?
It was a telling day at the quarterback position, even while the major contributors (Cody Kessler, Max Browne, Jalen Greene) stacked together some of their worst performances. "Every day may not be your day, every play may not be your play, but how you bounce back from it will probably be as important as everything," Sarkisian said.
Practice was centered around shotgun snaps in the silent count, which featured plenty of read-option handoffs and quick throws to the perimeter, but everyone recognized room for continued improvement. Sarkisian noted that facing the likes of this defense will "force some bad days," but believes the development of the QB group is promising.
Kessler noted that his mindset dealing with tough days in the office has improved from last season. Browne feels that bumps in the road will obviously happen, but its all about how you address the film in order to make key adjustments before your next passing rep.
When asked about the depth at the quarterback position, Sarkisian led everyone in attendance to believe that the incumbent, who has been playing extremely well, will take the reigns before the end of next Saturday's Spring Game.
Sark said they are closer to naming a starting QB and he anticipates it will be before the end of spring. #USC— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) April 9, 2014
NAGGING INJURIES LIMIT PARTICIPATION
Sarkisian has kept his players on the safer side of the injury bug, for the most part this spring, and that remained the case on Tuesday afternoon from Howard Jones Field. Highlighted by a lack of depth in the backfield, fourth string quarterback Connor Sullivan (the former USC baseball OF) took snaps at second-team running back.
Tre Madden was the lone healthy back in practice, and even Jahleel Pinner -who has actually continued to impress for his ability to shift between FB and RB- worked in the running back corp as well. We mentioned the three sitting out on defense, but sophomores Steven Mitchell (WR) and Nico Falah (OL) joined the ranks on offense.
WHAT DOES THE SARK SAY