After a week of spring break, the Trojans resumed football in the rain on Tuesday. The story of the day was USC’s defense, which forced a number of turnovers in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.
McCullough’s First Few Weeks
After the departure of former running backs coach Tommie Robinson to LSU, the Trojans tapped Indiana’s Deland McCullough to be his replacement.
“We brought him in for an interview, and he just blew us away,” head coach Clay Helton said.
During his time at Indiana, McCullough played a role in the development of future NFL players Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. When looking to replace Robinson, McCullough’s track record of success jumped off of the page. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin said McCullough “won us over in half a day.”
“One thing I was looking for in the interview process was running backs coaches that had a great history of taking care of the football,” Martin said. “That’s the thing that he’s bringing to the table, and you can already see it in our guys.”
McCullough inherits a talented backfield, with junior running back Ronald Jones II leading the group.
“[McCullough] is giving us tools and ideas that I’ve never even thought about,” Jones said.
Helton echoed the others’ praise of McCullough.
“He never takes a play off,” he said. “I like his diligence. I like his attention to detail, and I can see the guys already progressing from it. Especially Ronald Jones — right off the bat he’s doing things that weren’t showing up last year.”
USC’s offense would certainly welcome even further improvement from Jones, who averaged 6.1 yards per rush in 2016 and finished the season with 12 touchdowns.
Helton has used spring football to try out different guys at new positions. One of the players in the shuffle is sophomore Keyshawn “Pie” Young, who spent last season at cornerback but had his first day on offense on Tuesday.
“[After] losing four wide receivers, we really wanted to be able take a look at him on the offensive side,” Helton said. “What’s shown up just in this initial practice is really natural route running, really natural ball skills. He can do things after the catch, and we’re excited about him.”
USC will continue experimenting throughout the spring. Sophomore cornerback Jack Jones is also set to get time on offense, though he impressed defensively on Tuesday, picking off redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold.
Frustration prevailed as the Trojans practiced through the drizzle, with a scuffle breaking out between redshirt senior safety Chris Hawkins, junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga and others. Helton was unimpressed by the extracurricular activities and made his players do up-downs.
“We got a little extra competitive,” Helton said. “I just reminded them that we are a team of brothers. If we get too much extra pushing and shoving and make a poor decision, that could cost a penalty in a game.”
The head coach is stressing discipline this spring, especially after some key personal fouls hurt the Trojans in 2016.
“We have to make great decisions and when those decisions aren’t made, you’d better handle it immediately,” Helton said. “They got the point.”