USC football wrapped up its penultimate pre-Alabama practice on Wednesday. The day before the team flies to Arlington for Saturday’s season opener, head coach Clay Helton and the Trojans continued to refine their game plan to beat the Tide. But first:
Helton announced USC’s team captains for the year, as elected by the players. Redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne and redshirt senior tackle Zach Banner were nominated for the offense, and junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and senior linebacker Michael Hutchings were nominated on the defensive side.
“I’d love to congratulate those men,” Helton said. “They’ve done fine work over spring and summer to earn those positions.”
Helton also gave a few hints as to how the team would manage personnel on Saturday. The head coach was impressed by the fierce competition at left guard between redshirt sophomore Chris Brown and junior Damien Mama, and Helton said the pair would split playing time evenly between the two of them at the start of the season.
“We’ll sit down after tomorrow’s practice, visit with [offensive line] coach [Neil] Callaway and see who we’re going to start with,” Helton said.
One starter Helton was comfortable with naming, however, was sophomore lineman Chuma Edoga, as redshirt senior Chad Wheeler hasn’t recovered sufficiently from plantar fasciitis in his foot to occupy his usual spot at left tackle against Alabama. The duty to anchor the line and protect Browne’s blind side will instead go to 19-year-old Edoga, who drew two starts at right tackle last season.
Helton has expressed full confidence in his young linemen in the past, saying he had “no reservations” with rolling Edoga out against the Tide last week. As for Wheeler, Helton said he hoped to get “a couple series” out of the veteran. Redshirt freshman Ykili Ross and sophomore Marvell Tell were previously nursing injuries but practiced with no issues on Wednesday, and Helton confirmed they would both be featured against Alabama.
“Right now, we’re feeling pretty healthy going into this game,” Helton said.
Sophomore linebacker Osa Masina continued to practice despite being under criminal investigation for two separate incidents in Utah and Los Angeles. He will not travel with the team this weekend, and Helton would not comment on Masina’s practice participation, only saying that the team was following instructions from the University when handling its linebacker.
Finally, Helton said he anticipated a lesser role on offense this season for spark plug Adoree’ Jackson. Although the junior regularly logged double-digit snaps per game as a receiver in 2015, Helton said he planned to give Jackson five to six offensive plays each week.
“I don’t think it’ll be what you saw last year — sometimes he got 15 to 20 plays,” Helton said. “I think it’ll be fewer [to] allow him to be what he truly is, which is one of the best corners in college football and a dynamic returner.”
Jackson said the decreased role on offense would allow him to relax more and focus on defense, and he looked forward to chipping in when needed.
“But I don’t think I will be needed,” Jackson said. “I think those guys are going to do a great job.”