Plenty of USC Trojans legends were at practice on Saturday to show the team the tradition of excellence and help build relationships between current players and past players. Marcus Allen, Sam Cunningham, Mike Williams, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Matt Barkley and more were at practice to share their wisdom with the current USC players. Marcus Allen even addressed the team. Helton said these men are their 'big brothers' who can pass on knowledge and preach the importance of fundamentals. Allen stressed the quality of play and the fundamentals in his address to the team. He stressed being more physical and challenged the team to ignore the hype.
Ronald Jones II is obviously talented (even if Helton doesn't like using that word) but Helton is trying to help RoJo in other key areas for a well-rounded running back including receiving, pass blocking, and getting more physical running in between the tackles.
"He's really becoming a more powerful runner in between the tackles [. . .] I love what he did down there to keep that competition period alive. It was him and two defensive players, and instead of running around them he split both of them and went right through them. Those are the type of things we want from him, not only be the fast guy but the guy that can be between the tackles and be a physical runner, and he's had a good camp too."
Recall that last season there seemed to be several plays/drives where the offense went east and west too much instead of driving the ball up the middle. At times the screens, and the sweeps felt overused and ineffective. With the continued team-wide emphasis on physicality, the health and depth of the offensive line, and Jones adding a power rushing element to his skill set we could see a shift back to running the ball up the middle and possibly move away from the over reliance of outside plays.
Challenging the defense:
Helton continued to challenge his young defense to be more physical, fundamentally sound, and to play on the offense's side of the ball.
"The last two practices [. . .] we put the ball down and we ran the power to the right 3 times and today we said 'ok we're going to run it to the left' and everybody knows it on the field and the offense won that battle. The defense was challenged in our goal line competition, put the ball on the two yard line, act like it is third and two and we're running the ball and get it stopped, best out of five. They stood up to that challenge, they did a really nice job.
What I love and what you see out here is the kids are having fun. They're having fun just playing ball and competing against one another, bouncing around, dancing. They are understanding that to the winner goes the spoils and to the losers, we're running. A loss should hurt, and I think they're learning that through this camp."
Defensive back Isaiah Langley has been having a great spring. With Adoree' Jackson out the sophomore Langley has been getting plenty of reps. When Adoree' returns, however, Langley will not be relegated to the bench.
"One of things as you look at this league, it is a huge 3 and 4 wide league. Ten of our 12 games there's going to be a lot of 11 personnel, 10 personnel, 3 and 4 wides. The ability to have an extra corner on the field in some of the nickel packages is going to be invaluable. He's really gotten better with each time. His quickness to the ball, you saw it there on a huge pick for a touchdown today that really set the tone. We talked about how important non-offensive touchdowns are in our game. [. . .] He's having a great camp and is someone who is going to help us next year."
Given the struggles the defensive backs had last season, particularly against Oregon, Notre Dame and other games improving the secondary will be crucial to surviving in the Pac-12 Conference. Isaiah Langley being able to provide crucial help in situations should provide an excellent addition to the USC defense.
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