USC football held practice at Howard Jones Field on Wednesday, desperate for momentum after dropping two of its first three games. The Trojans suffered a loss at Stanford last weekend, prompting a quarterback change from head coach Clay Helton, and they look to get their season back on track with a win at Utah on Friday.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson went through some offensive drills after practice. Helton said they were routine and didn’t mention anything about getting his junior more involved on offense, but he did praise Jackson’s impact on that side of the ball.
“He’s one of the most football-smart guys I have ever been associated with. [He’s] so instinctive, it literally takes a walkthrough meeting and he’s ready to go,” Helton said. “We always carry six to eight plays for him.”
Helton emphasized, however, that Jackson and the rest of the Trojan defense had to make strides after an inconsistent start to the campaign. USC has been susceptible to giving up the big play in recent weeks, a tendency Helton was keen to eliminate.
Although there is much work still to be done, Helton was optimistic, pointing to another group of players that has made similar adjustments in the season’s early going.
“You’ve seen the offensive line getting better with each week, and that’s what our whole team needs to do,” he said. “It comes through reps, experience, and meetings.”
Helton also admitted he carries the responsibility of effecting change and correcting mistakes in the program.
“It starts with me,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in guys doing the right thing, and I look forward to those corrections being made this week—and in a hurry. We need them to.”
Helton provided updates for a number of injured Trojans, including redshirt senior tight end Taylor McNamara, whose foot injury was confirmed as a bruise after x-rays were negative.
Offensive tackle Chuma Edoga sat out practice with a stomach virus, and the sophomore required three bags of fluid from an IV. Helton said he hoped to have his lineman back by Thursday’s morning walkthrough.
Redshirt sophomore Malik Dorton was called a “game-time decision,” as the defensive tackle continued to nurse a hip issue. Freshman tailback Vavae Malepeai also practiced for the first time since breaking his scapula in late August. Helton estimated Malepeai was still about two weeks away from contact drills but called the freshman’s return “really, really good news.”
Junior John Plattenburg was also back in practice after losing over a month to a concussion. Helton was impressed by how well his safety was recovering but admitted the coaching staff had to be “extra protective” easing him into action. Next week’s game against Arizona State was mentioned as a possible return date.
Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson was away from the team dealing with personal issues, and Helton said the sophomore would be back on campus on Friday. Jefferson will not travel to Utah but was ruled out of the game regardless thanks to a lingering shoulder problem.
The team flies out for Salt Lake City on Thursday with rain in the game-time forecast, and USC will take on the Utes at 6 p.m. on Friday.
“We’ve prepared [for rain] for three days,” Helton said. “We’re looking forward to getting to Utah and competing against them.”