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USC Trojans Football: Getting Christian McCaffrey off the field on 3rd down

Getting Stanford off the field on 3rd down is a huge point of emphasis for the Trojans in hopes of defeating the Cardinal

NCAA Football: Utah State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“The Word is Finish and finish cleanly very assignment sound and physical.”

Clay Helton hopes to learn the lessons from last season when in both games against Stanford, USC held a lead later in the game only to be unable to close the game out and finish against Stanford with a victory. A huge part of finishing is getting off the field on defense on 3rd down. Helton spent a large chunk of Wednesday’s practice on 3rd down situations.

Kick Coverage:

Containing Christian McCaffrey is obviously a huge key to a USC victory. Because McCaffrey is also one of the best kick returners in the nation it was important for the Trojans to place a special emphasis on kick coverage in practice on Wednesday. Helton has said this game could be decided by 5 or 6 plays and he does not want a huge return for a Stanford touchdown to be one of them.

Chess Match:

Stanford can line up Christian McCaffrey as both a runner and a receiver. The Stanford offense also has a kill system in which they tend to call two plays in the huddle, line up, and then kill one of the plays after seeing how the defense lines up. Generally, this allows the Stanford offense a greater opportunity to get the play they want on every snap. Specifically, this allows the Cardinal offense a greater opportunity to get the look and the matchup they want for Christian McCaffrey.

Helton has also repeatedly praised USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s ability to take away the opposing offense’s greatest strength. As a result Helton believes that there will be an interesting chess match between Pendergast and the Cardinal offensive coordinator with Christian McCaffrey. This is a stark departure from USC’s defense last year when the Trojan DC reportedly did not even know who was supposed to be covering Christian McCaffrey.

Injury updates:

Marvell Tell has been cleared by the doctors after a bout with dizziness and he will be able to play on Saturday. Zach Banner missed practice time earlier in the week with a stomach bug, he has returned to practice. Noah Jefferson is still out with a shoulder injury and will probably not see action against Stanford.

You can watch the full presser below:

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