With just a few days to go before the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this Saturday, the Trojans went to work at Howard Jones Field dealing with some lingering injuries on the offensive end.
Junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett, redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe and junior tight end Tyler Petite all were limited in Tuesday’s practice due to recent injuries. As a result, many young pass catchers got a chance to prove themselves.
Redshirt freshman tight end Cary Angeline saw extended minutes with the first team offense, making a nice touchdown grab during the full-speed scrimmage. Junior Jalen Greene, a converted quarterback, played the majority of snaps at first-string wide receiver, lining up alongside either sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. or freshman Tyler Vaughns, who are both battling for a spot in the starting lineup.
“Those two guys are going at it,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold said. “They’ve been going at it the past few weeks, and it’s been awesome to see. Tyler [Vaughns] has really improved his route-running and [Pittman] has really improved as well. They’re going to compete all the way up until the season starts.”
The Running Game
With injuries to the offensive line and running back corps throughout spring ball, most attention has been paid to Darnold and the passing game. On Tuesday, however, junior running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Ronald Jones II were both back at full strength and looked sharp.
“I’m pretty sure everyone knows we can run the ball,” Ware said. “Our offensive line has continued to improve. They’re young guys who just had to get going, but I know everyone knows we can run the ball.”
In the spring game, they will look to re-assert that the run game is an integral part of the Trojans’ offense.
“We’re a run-first football team,” head coach Clay Helton said. “We got effective work [this spring]. I wish we had more numbers out here, but it is what it is, and we’ve made the most of it.”
With Athletic Director Lynn Swann, NFL Draft prospect JuJu Smith-Schuster and legendary USC and Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest all present at practice, the Trojans were treated to a star-studded audience. Earlier in the day, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was on campus training with several teammates.
“I’ve been trying to [talk to Wilson], but he always comes when we’re in class or no one’s in the weight room,” Darnold said. “He tries to kind of avoid everyone … but I’m trying to this week before he leaves for camp. He’s one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league right now.”
Spring Game Format
Helton said Saturday’s spring game will focus more on in-game situations rather than simulating an actual game, due to the recent injuries the team has suffered.
“We’re going to have to be able to play some situational football, very practice-like,” Helton said. “It will be live in a lot of the periods, [with] tackling to be able to see some young kids play in certain situations, but right now we’re just too limited to play a real live game.”
USC’s spring game is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday.