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2016 USC Trojans Football: Highlights and notes from Saturday's practice, qb competition, injury updates and more

The USC Trojans football team is progressing nicely and there are plenty of great things happening for the team. The offense is really healthy, the quarterback competition is starting to heat up and Tee Martin is focusing on spreading the football out and getting plenty of talented skill players involved in the offense.

The Trojans are a young team with plenty of great up and coming talent, but they lack experience and still need to learn how to successfully handle various game situations.

"A little bit of situational football which we really need to learn, we got a young football team. . . . a great situational day"

Injury Updates:

"Chad Wheeler's got a mild ankle sprain I'm hoping he'll be back Tuesday. Jonathan Lockett had concussion like symptoms so we'll evaluate him, and Chuma had some wrist soreness from his surgery and we want to be preventative there so we took that away."

Quarterback competition updates:

The way Sam Darnold is playing is making Clay Helton's starting quarterback decision much more difficult. Perhaps this quarterback competition may not be over by the end of spring practice overall. It was a good day for all of the quarterbacks though.

"I thought it was the quarterbacks' best day, all of them. . . . You saw a lot accurate throws, which I like, down the field and I think Tyson (Helton) and Tee (Martin) are doing a really good job. You see the first thing that's going on in routes on air is what? Deep balls. To be honest with you we probably didn't do it enough last year. They're really making a point of emphasis of working on our guys adjusting to the deep balls and our quarterbacks being accurate with the deep balls and it really showed up in practice today. We've made a point of emphasis to try and push the ball down the field with our play action, you know we missed a couple and had a couple of drops but for the most part all of the quarterbacks were really accurate. It is a big part of if we are going to run the ball effectively and stay balanced you got to be able to be explosive down field."

On what new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergrast has brought to the defense so far:

"His defense is so aggressive in getting to the quarterback and getting him off his spot. You even saw today Max having to scramble out several times in the scrimmage type atmosphere. And the variety of blitzes that he (Pendergrast) brings, he really has about 4 to 5 coverages but he hides them so well and he teaches the guys to be able to rotate late and not give the telltale signs away. The aggressiveness and just the different angles of blitzes makes it hard for quarterbacks."

Aggressive blitzing defenses is a stark departure from last season's defenses which did not seem to bring any pressure on quarterbacks. If you'll recall after losing to Stanford last year (the first time) then defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox suggested that the problem with the defense (which had just given up 41 points to Stanford) was that his scheme and blitzes were not vanilla enough. That's right, his basic schemes failed because they were too exotic according to Wilcox. In other words, even with question marks on the defensive line 2016 should be a pleasant departure from last season on the defensive side of the ball.

Helon on spreading the ball out to more targets:

"One of the things that's happening is we're fully healthy on offense right now, especially skill wise, and there's so many weapons, and we're almost like that basketball team that has five really good players that if you try to double one somebody's going to get you. Right now you look out there you got a Juju and you got a Steven Mitchell, and you got a Justin Davis, and you got a Darreus Rogers, and then Deontay (Burnett) comes in, then Isaac (Whitney) comes in, then De'Quan (Hampton) comes in. There's really a lot of good athletes on the offensive side and I think (offensive coordinator) Tee (Martin) is doing a tremendous job of mixing those athletes and getting each one of them the ball. Then credit the quarterbacks, they're spreading the ball around and not getting locked in. They're really focusing on beating the coverage rather than focusing on one single receiver."

Last season JuJu Smith-Schuster was outstanding for the Trojans but there have been concerns that the offense and Cody Kessler over-relied on Smith-Schuster to move the ball through the air. There have even been wide receivers on the team claiming that Juju would be double covered and they would be wide open but Kessler still tried to force the pass into double coverage instead of hitting a wide open target.

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