As recapped earlier, this had the feeling of a televised practice as opposed to a spring game, which included ring ceremonies, fan contests, and appearances from former Trojans. While there is still ample time for things to change, we got a little look at what the USC Trojans will look like come September (besides the massive amount of injured players missing). Here are a few standouts from the game.
WR (RS.FR) Tyler Vaughns
With the departure of USC’s top receivers in Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rodgers, the Trojans offense is now left looking for a spark from younger players. One whose arrival has been anticipated is Tyler Vaughns, and boy did he perform Saturday. His day included a couple 15+ yard receptions for first downs (one without his shoe on) and an amazing 20 yard touchdown catch, fading away in the back corner of the endzone. He displayed great route running, hands, and big playmaking ability throughout the day and was a handful for the Trojan secondary. His performance put many Trojan fans at ease with the previous question marks at wide receiver.
WR (SO) Velus Jones
Jones, who had been praised by coaches throughout the spring on his speed and playmaking ability, displayed it once again today. He tiptoed the line for a nice 15+ yard catch earlier in the scrimmage, and then followed it up later with a 34 yard run on a reverse. It was clear his speed will play a big asset this season and he showed why head coach Clay Helton has previously compared him to Percy Harvin.
QB (SO) Sam Darnold
I know it might seem easy to put Darnold in as a standout, but he truly deserves it. While none of his numbers jumped off the statsheet today, he took small strides that gave me confidence for this season. We all know Darnold has incredible talent and he can perform at a high level, but nobody is perfect. That’s why seeing him take better care of the football today, as opposed to his turnover problem earlier this spring, and watching him build a solid connection and relationship with his new receivers seemed like a huge step up in his game. These small improvements will be the difference late November in a tight game.
Although the Trojan offensive line is in disarray (replacing 3 starters from last year with 3 injuries already this year), the USC defensive line deserves credit for their game today. While it was hard to pinpoint a specific standout (besides Christian Rector’s sack), they worked as a unit to limit the rushing attack all day. The defense as a whole proved to be very stingy and had the upperhand for majority of the day.
While these four come to mind first when discussing top-notch performances, there were still good performances all around the coliseum today. If the WR’s can produce all year like they did today, the offensive line can stay healthy, and the defense continue to have the upperhand, the Trojans are poised for another successful season.