Helton focused on two major things in Wednesday’s practice. The first was Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins has impressed Helton with his ability to create both run and pass opportunities for the Sun Devils by moving the pocket but keeping his eyes down the field. Wilkins is a dangerous football player so disrupting him or at least keeping him contained will be critical to success for the Trojans.
USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has prioritized putting pressure on the quarterback in part because Wilkins is so dangerous and also to help the defense get off the field quicker. The Trojans defense was run down and tired at the end of the Utah game which allowed the Utes to move the ball down the field consistently in the 4th quarter for the victory.
This week’s opponent ASU runs an uptempo offense and is capable of running 80+ plays per game. They’ve also made several late game comebacks this season suggesting that the Sun Devils can exhaust a defense. Pendergast has brought a sense of urgency to practice this week for the USC defense to get pressure on the quarterback, disrupt their tempo, and get the Trojans defense off the field on third downs. If they cannot do that USC could once again really struggle late.
Clancy Pendergast has also not used much of the depth chart on defense. In the Utah game Pendergast made more substitutions than he normally does, but Pendergast and Helton have discussed rotating more frequently particularly against the upcoming slate of uptempo offenses on the Trojans schedule starting with Arizona State Saturday night.
On the other side of the ball Helton knows that Arizona State likes to bring pressure and he fully expects the Sun Devils to try and get after Sam Darnold who is making only the second start of his career. While Todd Graham and ASU have dialed back the pressure this season compared to previous seasons, Darnold will still need to have poise in the pocket and find a way to create plays under pressure likely either by moving the pocket while keeping his eyes down field, or running the ball.
Zach Banner was once again not on the field for practice as he is dealing with and ankle injury. Helton is hopeful for Banner returning on Thursday.
Jack Jones on Tuesday was 50/50 at best to play on Saturday. On Wednesday he had shown improvement and Helton thinks he has a real chance to play on Saturday.
Khaliel Rodgers had a minor wrist injury but Helton says he’ll be fine.
Dominic Davis also had a minor knee injury but he too should be fine.
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