USC’s annual spring game took place on Saturday in perfect L.A. conditions. The "game" took on a different approach to most spring games. Due to the plethora of injuries along the defensive line, head coach Clay Helton elected not to put his team in a game like setting, instead opting for a glorified practice with situational scenarios.
Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game:
For all the talk during the spring of spreading the ball around to other wide receivers, JuJu Smith-Schuster showed why that might not be the case come game day. USC’s top receiver hauled in 5 receptions for 55 yards and three touchdowns,, including a deep 38-yard score from Max Browne.
Clay Helton has talked throughout spring practice about getting the tight ends more involved in the offense. He backed that up in the spring game, running with multiple tight ends for most of the day. Imatorbhebhe, who sat out last year after transferring from Florida, looked impressive as a pass catching tight end, as he hauled in 5 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive line has been ravaged by injuries this spring. However, a bright spot from Saturday’s spring game was Rasheem Green’s performance at defensive end. He consistently beat double teams, and blew up several plays in the backfield. If he can keep that up into the fall, Clancy Pendergast may just have found his new Leonard Williams.
Both quarterbacks, Max Browne and Sam Darnold, had a very productive day. They threw for a combined 5 touchdown passes (Browne, 3; Darnold, 2), and 0 turnovers. The two split the first team reps fairly evenly, although Max Browne got one extra series to finish the day. While there likely still isn’t enough of a gap to make a decision, Browne did look slightly more confident and decisive than Darnold. Along with Browne and Darnold, Jalen Greene also put in a strong performance. The former wide receiver won’t challenge for the starting job, but if he decides to stay at QB in the fall there might well be a package of plays designed to utilize his speed.
The Running Backs
USC’s depth at running back is deep. Justin Davis and Ronald Jones continued to perform at the standard we’re used to seeing from them – they rushed for a combined 126 yards, 3 TDs on 22 carries. However, Dominic Davis was explosive and USC would be wise to find a way to get him the ball.
The one downside to practice was yet another injury to a defensive lineman. Noah Jefferson left the game after the very first full contact play and didn’t return. According to Clay Helton, Jefferson suffered a hyperextended elbow and the injury isn’t thought to be serious. But still, the last thing USC needs is more injuries on their already depleted defensive line.