The USC football team rebounded solidly from its first loss of the season, beating Oregon State at home 38-10 on Saturday. Now, the Trojans turn their focus to Utah, which was undefeated and ranked No. 18 in the country until a 23-20 loss to Stanford last week.
Head coach Clay Helton said that redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is getting closer to returning to play, and that the goal was to have him back against Notre Dame next week. Imatorbhebhe, who hasn’t played since the Week 1 victory over Western Michigan, caught four of his 17 receptions for touchdowns last year. His return could help the team’s red zone woes, which Helton said would be a focus in Thursday’s practice.
“He’s a little bit ahead of schedule, he’s feeling good right now,” Helton said. “We’ll listen to him and see where his body is. He’s got a lot of game experience, is a tremendous run blocker and you saw him as a threat in the passing game last year.”
After practicing Tuesday, junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett was kept out of practice Wednesday with a sore shoulder and toe. Burnett has caught 41 passes for 527 yards and six touchdowns this season, which are all team highs.
Junior offensive lineman Chuma Edoga returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since sustaining an ankle injury two weeks ago versus Washington State. Sophomore linebacker Jordan Iosefa and redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Greene are still in concussion protocol after colliding during pregame warmups against Washington State.
Preparing For Utah
Wednesday’s practice saw a few areas of focus in response to the match-up with the Utes. Helton said that Utah’s punt return game is “tremendous,” so the team spent extra time on special teams coverage. Utah ranks No. 11 in the country in punt return yards per game at 15.8.
In addition, Helton said that the team ran one-on-one drills in preparation for Utah’s blitz packages, as well as to continue the Trojans’ defensive success up front. The starters went up against each other at the end of practice as a way of preparing for Utah’s pass rush.
“We needed the best look,” Helton said. “Iron sharpens iron. It’s a very good Utah defense that applies a lot of pressure on third down and in the red zone, so I wanted the tackles to see great edge rush from [senior linebacker] Uchenna [Nwosu] and others on our defense,”
Utah ranks No. 21 in the nation in total defense through six weeks, giving up just 314 yards per game.
The Trojans head into the game not knowing who Utah’s starting quarterback will be between injured starter Tyler Huntley and backups Troy Williams and Cooper Bateman. Williams, Utah’s starter last season, was intercepted twice in last week’s loss to Stanford while filling in for Huntley, which makes the Utes’ quarterback competition uncertain for this week.