clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 USC Trojans Football: Updates and notes from practice 10, offensive talent, aggressive defense and situational football

The USC Trojans football team continues to progress. The offense is deep and the defense is young and aggressive but still learning how to play football.

The defense is bringing the pressure:

The defense is really dialing up the pressure despite the youth and inexperience on the defensive line. Clay Helton is very pleased with the pressure the defense has been able to bring under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

"We really put the kids in a 20-play, all pressures situations with the whole gamut of pressures that Clancy has put in. . . . It was really, really neat to see. It showed one, how the package has been developing over the last 10 practices and then to see it all combined and see the quarterback really be forced off his spot, several sacks. It was great to see, thats what I remember Clancy's defense being ultra aggressive, and just a hard day for the quarterback. I was even sitting back there sometimes going 'wow I have no idea where its coming from'. They're really hiding pressures, hiding rotations, very, very nice day."

Despite the improvement from the defense in bringing pressure, Helton admitted he is still concerned about the young defensive line.

"I'll be honest with you, one is depth at defensive line, and the youth at defensive line, just to be honest. I've seen a progression for them they've gotten from day one where I was scared to death to now where I'm like 'ok they're getting better' but still we've got a long way to go. I think KU (defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze) has done a great job of progressing them, so has Clancy, but we've still got a long way to go. We need these last 5 practices are going to be important to us and then the 29 practices in training camp are going to be imperative for that group. That's the one group we're going to have to stay lucky and stay healthy. [. . .] There's talent there but they're very young. There is a busted assignment on occasion which you know whenever you give up a gap that usually ends up a big play. They're learning how to play ball. That's probably my biggest concern right now but I know they'll get it done they've got a really good coach."

An emphasis on Situational Football:

Addressing youth and inexperience on the talented team continues to be a point of emphasis for Clay Helton and the Trojans. To that end, he continues to focus on situational football during spring practices including overtime situations, both quarterbacks seemed to handle it well.

"We've been doing situational football all the way through spring practice and we put ourselves in an overtime situation, actually the third overtime, forcing you to go for two. It was good to see both quarterbacks drive the ball down for touchdowns and then the second group got the two-point play to win it."

What to expect from the offense:

Helton was asked to describe his offense or label his offensive scheme but he is tremendously impressed with the depth and talent he has on the offense particularly on the offensive line, a unit that was plagued with injuries last season.

"Its a pro-style offense that is very balanced right now. I think its balanced because of the amount of skill. I'm amazed right now when you look at all positions, when you look at the depth at the wide out position and the running back position we're very talented at that. You look at the three tight ends, I think they've really progressed. Taylor was kind of our lead horse last fall and he's carried that but Daniel and Tyler you see the progression that they've made I think we've got three quality tight ends that at the end of this camp and training camp I think is gonna be ready. Offensive line, first time we've been two deep in a long time here, and a solid two deep. I really feel like our offense, just like most offenses will live and die with the quarterback and how well the quarterback plays. Our goal is to be balanced put you in a situation with 50/50 run pass and when we must run the ball to win the game that's where we have to bring our physicality to the party. That usually ends up throwing you into 55. Normal down and distance you're probably gonna get 50/50 and then when its time to go win the ball game you're probably going to get heavy run."

It sounds like Justin Davis, Ronald Jones II, and possibly other backs are going to get plenty of touches this year. Helton says he's aiming to have half or just or just over half of all the offensive snaps being running plays. Last year Helton was running the ball about 45 times a game spread out over 3 running backs. All of that running, however, took a toll on an already injury-depleted offensive line. With the offensive line deep and healthy we could see a Trojan offense that can pound the ball all game long. If successful the running game will take some of the pressure off the young defense and new quarterback allowing USC to control the time of possession keeping their defense off the field while avoiding 3rd-long situations that force a new/inexperienced quarterback to make a big play to keep the drive going.

The Quarterback competition:

Addressing the quarterback competition, Helton said Sam Darnold is going to continue getting more team reps. At the beginning a camp it felt like a foregone conclusion that Max Browne would be the starter and that the competition would be over by spring. That appears to be no longer the case. When asked if Sam Darnold would be getting more first-team reps in practice the coach responded with:

"You've already seen that as far as both scrimmage situations and practice situations he's been with the first team and has done well. Both Max and Sam are playing at a very high level. I thought Max's Saturday practice was the best he's had. He made Trojan of the Day that day. It was by far his best practice with the accuracy that he had and the effectiveness of moving the ball. Sam continues to progress. [. . .] A nice situation that we have. I think we have several good quarterbacks."

Sam Darnold has always been a solid mobile quarterback but his ability to operate in the pocket and grasp the offense has substantially improved.

"He's always been a very good athlete, and he's always been able to create [. . .]. He's always had great vision to be able to move in the pocket, to be able to see things and find it. I see for him, in the first six practices you were like 'oh gosh where is he going with the ball' and now the light is clicking on and he's really starting to understand the system. Because of that you're seeing the ball coming out more on time. He took a couple of sacks today that I"m going to get on him about. You can see him being more comfortable with the offense and being more confident. Just like you saw in that last play in overtime he stepped right up in the pocket didn't reset his feet, he's on the move and throws a stutter-go for a touchdown which is not the easiest pass in the world, and has enough arm strength to do that."

You can also follow us on social media:



Join the team!

For more great USC Trojans videos check out USC Athletics on YouTube.