Football will find answers in mock game

Freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown shows off his athletic talent in practice before the season opener against UNLV. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

Less than a week and a half away from their opener against UNLV, the Trojans have been rounding into game form over the last few practices. The practices this week have been noticeably more intense, with jarring hits and frequent confrontations throughout both days, and the team seems to be itching for the chance to play live football. Thursday was a slow day, as practice was closed to the media. However, head coach Clay Helton addressed the press afterward.

Mock game prep

The team has been preparing for its mock game Saturday, which Helton says it will treat as an away game. The coaches plan to run about 40 to 45 plays, many of them against a simulation of UNLV’s scheme. After the game, the coaches will begin putting together their two-deep depth chart, which will be released by Sunday.

Don’t expect the starting quarterback to be revealed then, however; Helton made it clear that the depth charts will not give away the decision at QB1, which will be announced later. Helton has continuously maintained that the three-man race is still ongoing and that there’s no clear frontrunner, but all indications point to freshman JT Daniels being the man for the job.

St. Brown’s role

Helton further clarified the coaching staff’s plans for freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, after weeks of speculation about where he’d be lining up, with veterans redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughns and junior Michael Pittman Jr. expected to hold down the starting spots out wide. St. Brown had been used almost exclusively as an outside receiver throughout most of camp, until yesterday when he took some reps from the slot with the first team with Vaughns and Pittman out wide. Helton explained that they plan to move St. Brown across the formation early in the season, and that he will play both in the slot and outside in different personnel combinations alongside the two veteran incumbent starters and the other receivers on the roster.

He went on to clarify that St. Brown would play in the slot from the first game, but that he’d be outside 75 percent of the time. St. Brown has had an exceptional camp — he’s been ready to play Division I football from the second he stepped on the field for training camp. It’ll be worth paying attention to how many touches the Trojans can get him in games.

Injury Update

Redshirt senior center Toa Lobendahn, sophomore left tackle Austin Jackson and junior linebacker Jordan Iosefa were held out for what Helton described as “preventative measures” in order to help take some wear and tear off their previous injuries.

Senior right tackle Chuma Edoga has been battling a hip issue that caused him to miss a few practices last week. Although he’s been practicing, he seems to still be fighting through the injury, as Helton noted that they’d have to monitor that injury throughout the season. Redshirt junior Ykili Ross was absent from practice on Thursday after his outburst in the middle of a drill on Wednesday. Helton said Ross is taking personal time off, and that he’ll provide further updates on his situation come Monday.