It was another day of emphasis on physicality and situational football for the Trojans in Thursday's practice. Helton wants his team to be situational masters who can play highly physical football. Helton specifically cited game 1 (against Alabama) and game 3 (against Stanford) as games the Trojans will struggle if they cannot play very physical football.
To help introduce more physicality Helton used the final few reps to run the ball to the right side and told everyone on the defense which play the offense was running. That meant the only way the offense could get a first down is if they were able to push the defense out of the way. It was an intense competition and the players seemed to really enjoy it.
Questions on the Defensive line:
Defensive line is still showing their youth, but they are getting better at getting after the quarterback but Helton says they still need plenty more work. Helton also stated they may be bringing safeties up to help stop the run with the young defensive line. The Trojan defense goes up against two of the best rushing attacks in their first three games. The top 2 finishers in the 2015 Heisman race were the running backs from two of USC's first three opponents. If the USC defense struggles to stop the run against the defending national champs in week one, and the defending conference champs in week three then it is not unreasonable to think USC could start the season off 1-2. Right now it feels like the pass rush could be really good in 2016 but the running defense might need some help, but there is plenty of work and improvement between now and September.
"We're getting some people healthy and back. I see Osa (Masina) out here running around and making plays. John Houston (is getting better). To get Noah (Jefferson) back to get some individual and get part of the team run segment, he's really getting healthy. [Jonathan] Lockett was coming off concussion protocol No contact right now, but he can move around. Clayton Johnson is still under concussion protocol with no contact no practice. So we're getting a little bit healthier and it is good to get the live reps for these guys."
Focusing on the little things:
"That's what Spring is, fundamental techniques. You don't hear the music out here to be able to listen to your coach. It is about assignments. It is about fundamentals. It is about techniques. That's what wins ball games. My least favorite word in life is talent. I'm sick of the word "we're a talented team". I want to be known as a tough, technique, fundamental football team. When you put talent with those three aspects then you're going to win championships, and that is what this spring is all about; becoming more fundamental technicians, master of our crafts."
Steve Sarkisian was knocked for being an excellent recruiter but not a very good coach. Before him Lane Kiffin also had brought in loads of talent. Both Sarkisian and Kiffin frequently had the most talented athletes on the field but failed to produce the desired results. Clay Helton's move towards fundamentals and techniques and really learning how to win a football game is a refreshing departure. Hopefully it is a departure that produces results.
The Quarterback competition:
Not much news here. Both Sam Darnold and Max Browne continue to improve. Browne is really improving as an on field leader and game manager. Darnold is improving his knowledge of the offense and his ability to create has shown improvement as well. As of now the competition still remains with Browne in the lead but Darnold trails by only a small gap.
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