Quarterbacks turn up the heat at Tuesday’s practice

The end of Spring Camp looms closer as the Trojan football team begins its last week of practice before the summer. The team has one practice left before Saturday’s final session at Cromwell Field.

QB Battle

Junior wide receiver Michael Pittman,Jr. showed flashes of brilliance in 2017, recording 404 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Sunny Dong | Daily Trojan

Quarterbacks redshirt sophomore Matt Fink and redshirt freshman Jack Sears bounced back Saturday from their tough outing last weekend and impressed with strong performances. Both were more decisive and accurate with the ball, connecting on some deep throws that had been absent the previous weekend as well as doing a better job taking care of the football.

“With all three quarterbacks, the ball moved,” head coach Clay Helton said. “They didn’t make critical errors, they took command, and had great timing, decision making and accuracy.”

With top quarterback recruit J.T. Daniels set to join the fray under center in the summer, the two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster will look to make their last pushes to prove themselves this week before the five-star recruit’s arrival.

Practice Notes

Redshirt freshman cornerback Greg Johnson had a solid day, breaking up a couple of passes from each quarterback and looking poised in downfield coverage for much of the day.

Sophomore safety Bubba Bolden also impressed, getting a would-be sack as well as performing well in coverage. Senior cornerback Imam Marshall continued his strong spring, remaining sound in his coverages and almost picking off a short route that would’ve gone back for 6 had he caught it in a game. 

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tyler Vaughns kept performing as he has all spring, exhibiting his trademark hands and route running. Sophomore receiver Velus Jones also looked strong catching the ball, continuing what appears to be a breakout spring for him. Early in the spring, Helton said he wanted a receiver to step up behind Vaughns and Michael Pittman, Jr. and Jones is looking to fill that role.

“I know the playbook way more than I did before,” Jones said. “I’ve been learning never to make the same mistake twice. Knowing the system more, now I’m able to do what I wanted to do.”

If his performance carries over through the summer and into the fall, Jones could very well secure an important spot in the receiving rotation.

Injury updates

Sophomore offensive tackle Austin Jackson missed practice Tuesday to deal with a mild case of tendonitis in his foot. Helton believes the issue to be minor and expects him to recover in time for Thursday’s practice. Jackson has impressed for much of the spring as he competes for the starting left tackle spot with redshirt junior Clayton Johnston.

Sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Pili practiced today after missing time this spring due to a back issue. Pili will look to solidify his spot on the defensive line rotation heading into the summer.

Helton offered an update on sophomore running back Stephen Carr’s condition, as he looks to return from the back surgery that has kept him out for all of spring.

“Stephen’s doing really good, kind of ahead of schedule to be honest with you from what the trainers and doctors are saying,” Helton said. “Right now, he’s on pace to be full speed for training camp.”

This summer will be huge for Carr, as he will have the opportunity to fill the starting running back role vacated by Ronald Jones’ departure to the NFL.