There have been several questions this spring with the USC Trojan Football team. Who is going to play along the offensive line? Will the young wide receiver core be able to produce like Juju Smith-Schuster? Who will start opposite of Iman Marshall? Can Quarterback Sam Darnold continue his meteoric rise and evolve into a full-fledged Heisman trophy candidate? We won’t get any of those answers until the fall, but today we got a hint at what the answers will be.
USC differed from the traditional Spring Game setting, opting for a more traditional style practice. Perhaps a smart move by Head Coach Clay Helton, considering the state of the O-line, to try and minimize the potential for injuries. Coach Helton mentioned before the open practice, that one of his main focuses this spring was developing and prepare the Wide Receiver corps.
The WRs looked solid in what was a limited 7 on 7 passing exercise. Michael Pittman Jr. and Jalen Green seemed to be poised to be the top receivers going into the summer and fall practices. However, the WR tabbed for a possible breakout performance this fall is redshirt freshmen Tyler Vaughns - nicknamed, big smooth. Redshirt fresh Josh Imatorbhebhe also looks to a be a big-time contributor as well.
The offensive line was also one of the focuses for the spring Coach Helton mentioned before the practice started and has been one of the largest concerns for the Trojans. There was limited showing from the offensive line but when they took the field in the first team session. Chris Brown, Roy Hemsley, Austin Jordan and Clayton Johnston flanked Nico Falah along the offensive line. Falah and Brown will probably be starters going into fall camp, along with Chuma Edoga, who was kept out of practice today. The questions will be can Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivo get healthy in time to solidify what could be a strong offensive line for the Trojans.
The Defense, which looks to be a strong unit for the Trojans as well this coming fall had some questions as well. With Adoree Jackson off to the NFL, who would fill in next to Iman Marshall? The answer so far looks to be Ajene Harris, Jack Jones will compete as well. They both have a tall task ahead of him, with Marshall the undisputed number 1 corner, Harris and Jones then become the target men. However, if they handle the pressure and does well USC should have a solid secondary. Another point of interest was who would fill the gap in the middle left by Stevie Tu'Ikolovatu, from the team run session it looks like the future is going to be Marlon Tuipulotu, a true freshman. Tuipulotu did a fantastic job holding the middle against the starting offensive line in the team run portion of the practice and if he can eat blocks, junior Cameron Smith is going to be a Bednarik award finalist.
Then there was USC rising star and Vegas’ Heisman favorite, Sam Darnold. The redshirt sophomore looked solid in limited work during a relaxed 7 on 7 drill and later in the team exercises. Darnold showed flashes of both the good and bad of a talented gunslinger QB. He threw an interception during the 7 on 7 drill when trusting his arm to make a throw into tight coverage, which Ykili Ross smoothly intercepted. However, he made an incredible throw rolling to his right and hitting Velus Jones jr. on a corner route later in the team session. Sam Darnold looks to be on track, as the rapport with the young receivers grow there is no doubt Darnold could make a serious run at the Heisman trophy.
The big performer today for me was Michael Pittman Jr. who is one of the young receivers that Darnold will be counting on come spring. Pittman Jr. made catches all over the field and with his size and speed an undeniable presence when he was on the field. It also seemed that Darnold was looking for Pittman as well, that combination could be a nightmare for Pac-12 secondaries. True Freshman QB Jack Sears also impressed me as well, looking to be the most accurate and best decision maker among the young signal callers. The defense as a whole, looks immensely talented as they flew around the field making plays. This year the Spring Game was just a taste, but now I’m fired up for fall camp. Let’s pray for a healthy summer and fall camp, because the future for the Trojans is bright.
Only 139 days to go until the season kicks off!
In the meantime,