The USC football team returned to Howard Jones Field on Wednesday for their second practice since the start of the school year. Team roles began to become more defined as the team approaches its opening matchup against Western Michigan next Saturday — and the practice also featured a special guest.
Freshmen Take the Stage
The Trojan freshmen have been at the height of media interest this week, not only for their contributions to practice, but also because this is the first week they’ve been available for interviews.
Freshman defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu thanked the upperclassmen for helping ease his transition to college ball.
“They’re all helping out the young guys,” he said, naming in particular redshirt senior Kenny Bigelow Jr. and senior Josh Fatu. Along with his work as a mentor, Fatu is also standing out on the practice field as well, taking most of the first-team reps at nose tackle.
Freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele praised Talamaivao, redshirt junior Toa Lobendahn and redshirt junior Chris Brown.
“They’re amazing athletes, and going against them is like going against the best in the world,” Tufele said.
Though not technically a first-year player, redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns was raring to finally make his Trojan debut after spending 2016 confined to the practice field.
“I have a fire in me,” Vaughns said, before adding that he would “hopefully be starting” against Western Michigan.
Making Dreams Come True
Taylor Hammond, a 10-year-old who has been battling leukemia for four years, made an appearance at Wednesday’s practice as one of the wishes on his “life list.”
Taylor got to take part in a drill with the Trojans: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold threw him a pass, which Taylor ran to the end zone with defenders chasing after him, falling to the ground one by one in his wake.
Taylor’s father, Brian Hammond, was also in attendance and was passing out bracelets to players, fans and reporters, encouraging everyone to keep children like Taylor in their thoughts when they wear the bracelets. Taylor, his father and his brother were able to pose for the media to complete his true celebrity experience.
“[Taylor] is the definition of ‘Fight On,’” head coach Clay Helton said.
This week USC football continues its rigorous practice schedule leading up to their home opener against Western Michigan next Saturday. Notable absences included freshman offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and senior guard Viane Talamaivao, as they remained sidelined with hamstring and foot injuries, respectively.
Redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe remained limited in his involvement with a hip flexor injury that has had him playing tentatively for a couple of weeks. Helton has admitted he wants to proceed with caution to prevent the injury from getting any worse.