Last season things spiraled downhill for the USC Trojans, especially on offense. Lack of execution and perhaps being under prepared or over-complicating the game plan, was the cause. Those few things combined led to a 5-7 record and the program’s first losing season since 2000. Before spring camp USC’s head coach Clay Helton preached about going back to the fundamentals while offensive coordinator Graham Harrell discussed on how keeping plays simple will help bring the most out of his players. We are two weeks into spring camp and the message has been the same and with positive results.
USC and its coaching staff broke everything down to build it back up and break old habits. The Trojans do not need to re-invent the wheel, which is something it has tried to do the last few years. When USC went through the installation of its offense, Harrell joked that the players didn’t believe how simple it truly was. The Trojans have reportedly looked a lot more fluid across the board.
The simplicity of spring camp is also benefiting the players. The offense is quicker and easier to pick up. The quarterbacks do not have to make long reads and the offensive line do not have to hold their blocks for a long period of time. Last season JT Daniels struggled in an offense that called for him to make a lot of decisions and plays early on in his development. Daniels threw for 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during his freshman season. Most of his success on offense came from quick hitting plays that didn’t allow for him to overthink, Harrell’s offense brings just that.
Despite the offense benefiting Daniels, he’s not a lock to start come week 1. The sophomore quarterback has faced some competition through the first two weeks of spring. Redshirt Sophomore Jack Sears has done a decent job in pushing for the starting job. Sears was efficient going 20-28 and throwing for over 200 yards and two touchdowns in his lone start against the Arizona State Sun Devils. A surprising name that has impressed coaches in camp is freshman Kedon Slovis. The true freshman has caught the attention of Harrell during the first week of camp, however Slovis has yet to dress for the second week due to an undisclosed injury.
The offensive line saw its share of issues also. Last season USC gave up a total 27 sacks and saw a share of snap issues that often killed offensive drives. Offensive line coach Tim Drevno is making an emphasis of correcting the snap problems and going back to fundamentals. Following the lines of what Helton and Harrell preached before camp.
The wide receivers will also benefit from keeping it simple. The Trojans are working to play towards the strength of different receivers instead of putting them in positions outside of their element. For Michael Pittman Jr., it’s giving him the 50/50 jump balls in the red zone to win. For Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown, its utilizing their play-making ability. One player who has impressed this spring, is sophomore Devon Williams. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver showed a short sample size of what he’s capable of in the Trojans’ victory over Oregon State last season. This year, he’ll likely have a larger role in the offense with his speed and height at the position.
Keeping things simple and executing is the way to go for the USC Trojans. After last season’s disappointment, the Trojans are looking to play towards everyone’s strength. So far the results are promising, but there’s still work to be done. The goal for the USC offense is to keep getting better and get as many reps as possible this spring. As camp progresses on, the offense will be tested in a live game setting.