Following a scrimmage on Howard Jones Field Saturday, the Trojans were back to regular practice on Tuesday. In the early weeks of camp, the USC defense stood out with its speed and forced turnovers. But on Tuesday, the offense took center stage.
“Offensively, it’s probably been our best practice of spring thus far,” head coach Clay Helton said.
The Trojans have holes to fill at the wide receiver position. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, De’Quan Hampton and Isaac Whitney leaving, younger players now have an opportunity to step up, and they impressed their head coach with a strong practice.
“I was really proud of the young wide receivers,” Helton said. “The light really clicked on for them today.”
After redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold struggled the first few weeks with interceptions, quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton stressed that timing develops over time, and at this point in the spring, mistakes are understandable.
“You’ve got to talk things over about what the quarterback sees, what the receiver sees,” Helton said. “It’s timing more than anything. The receiver has to understand what the quarterback’s thinking, where he’s going to go and the timing of all of that.”
While spring practice has been a transition phase, Darnold appears to be getting more comfortable with the younger targets. When asked who has stood out the most to him in spring practice thus far, Darnold did not single anyone out.
“All the receivers have been standing out the most to me,” Darnold said.
While Darnold already has chemistry with junior wideout Deontay Burnett and his tight ends, redshirt sophomore Daniel Imatorbhebhe and junior Tyler Petite, the likes of sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. and redshirt freshmen Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Vaughns look to make strides in the receiving game.
“We’re looking forward to keeping it going and keep rolling through spring,” Darnold said. “And then hopefully it continues into summer workouts.”
Pittman impressed in practice on Tuesday, consistently making plays and catching several of Darnold’s passes in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. One of the more experienced wideouts, Pittman drew praise from his coaches.
“[Michael] had a good scrimmage on Saturday,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. “He made some, what I like to say, ‘Big boy plays’ … and today he was really strong [and] played physical.”
Jones has also continued to impress coaches with his playmaking ability. In the 7-on-7 portion of practice, Jones made an impressive touchdown catch over junior safety Marvell Tell III.
With so many pass catchers turning heads, Helton praised Darnold’s work.
“He’s really playing against the defense, and he’s not focused on one particular guy,” Helton said. “He’s really mixing the ball around nicely, and he did that again today.”
While it will take time for chemistry to develop in the passing game, Darnold will rely on his talented supporting cast to power the Trojans through the upcoming campaign — one with championship aspirations.