Outside linebackers show early promise
With just over two weeks remaining until the annual Spring Game at the Coliseum, the football team took to Howard Jones Field Thursday for another spring ball practice. After Thursday’s practice (the Trojans’ eighth of the spring), USC has now passed the midway point of spring football workouts.
The defense put up a strong performance, as it generated several turnovers during both red zone and 7-on-7 drills.
SETTING THE EDGE
Last season, junior outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and sophomore outside linebacker Porter Gustin crashed the edges defensively for USC. The pair of edge rushers were a force for the Trojans in 2016, and they are striving to wreak even more havoc on opposing offenses in 2017.
“I think [Nwosu and I] are looking great,” said Gustin, who led USC with 13 tackles for a loss last season. “We’ve played a lot of games together, and I think we’re getting even more comfortable to start off the spring.”
Gustin, who sat out several practices to open up the spring due to hand surgery, noted that his hand has recovered well. He reported that he is “pleasantly surprised that it is not even aching a little bit.”
Nwosu, who had three sacks in 2016, has adopted a leadership role with the USC defense entering his senior season.
“I didn’t realize how great of a leader he’d be for us,” head coach Clay Helton said. “You can really feel him coming on as the ‘lead-dog’ for our defense.”
Nwosu displayed an ability to break into the offensive backfield on multiple occasions this spring. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at nearly 240 pounds, Nwosu provides a dangerous mix of speed and size for offensive tackles as he rushes the edges.
BEYOND THEIR YEARS
One of the standouts from USC’s team scrimmage this past Saturday was freshman defensive tackle and early enrollee Marlon Tuipulotu. During the scrimmage, Tuipulotu received a healthy dosage of plays with the first-string defense. He delivered by doing a consistent job of congesting the line of scrimmage and shutting up running lanes.
The first-team reps have kept coming for Tuipulotu over the past week of practice.
In addition to Tuipulotu, Helton has also been impressed by another early enrollee, freshman lineman Andrew Vorhees. He has made a solid impression so far, practicing at the tackle slot for the Trojans this spring. The coaches will look to try out Vorhees at the guard position as well this spring, according to Helton.
“I did not anticipate [Tuipulotu and Vorhees] to be so far advanced at this age,” Helton said. “[They] should both be in high school right now. Both kids are doing a good job.”
The Trojans’ scrimmage, which was scheduled to take place this Saturday, will be delayed until the following weekend on April 8. This is due to the amount of injuries which some of USC’s priority players are currently battling. Helton hopes that giving these players another week will allow them to participate in the scrimmage next Saturday.
Some players who did not participate in Thursday’s practice due to injury included redshirt junior center Nico Falah, sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith and sophomore running back Ronald Jones II.
The team will hold its next full-pad practice this Saturday at Howard Jones Field. The practice is open to the public and will begin at 10 a.m.