On Tuesday, No. 17 USC began preparation for its Pac-12 clash with quarterback Khalil Tate and No. 22 Arizona in what will be another key battle for the Pac-12 South Division race.
Trojans prepare for Tate
This Saturday, USC faces one of the most unique and dynamic players in the nation in Tate. The Los Angeles native, who played at the same high school as junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett and redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Greene (among several other Trojans), has taken the college football world by storm in the last four weeks.
Arizona is 4-0 since Tate took over as starting quarterback against Colorado. He rushed for a record-breaking 327 yards in that game and has not looked back.
“He’s doing a phenomenal job both being a weapon in the running game averaging about 150 yards a game right now,” head coach Clay Helton said. “But also, I’m impressed with his progress as a thrower over the last year.”
In preparing for such a dynamic dual threat quarterback, USC used freshman wide receiver Randal Grimes as a scout-team quarterback on Tuesday. Grimes was an accomplished signal caller in high school, leading his team to a Nevada state championship from under center.
While he will not be facing off directly against Tate on Saturday, redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold is looking forward to what will be a duel between two of the Pac-12’s preeminent quarterbacks.
“I think it’s something to look forward to,” Darnold said. “It’s fun to be able to play someone that electric. It’ll definitely test me mentally, if he breaks off a huge run — how am I going to bounce back, and vice versa.”
Stephen Carr nearing return
The Trojans have been without freshman running back Stephen Carr for four games, since he suffered a foot injury against Washington State. On Tuesday, Carr made significant progress toward his return, as he participated in full speed drills at practice.
“I was out here cutting, spinning, jumping, all of that,” Carr said. “I could do everything that I could before.”
Carr took off in an explosive start to his collegiate career rushing for 309 yards on 5.9 yards per carry before going down with the foot injury. Over the first four games of the season, Carr and junior running back Ronald Jones II looked like they would emerge as one of the most exciting running back tandems in all of college football.
“This is my first time ever being injured,” Carr said. “It’s always good watching my homies go out there and succeed and make plays and all that. But on my end, it’s tough knowing that I could be out there making plays too helping the team and benefiting the team in some type of way.”
While Carr was optimistic that he could play this weekend, Helton offered a more reserved response.
“One: let’s see his pain level tomorrow,” Helton said. “Two: [getting into] football shape also has to happen. He got a lot of great work today and looked really good … but we’ll see where he is at the end of the week.”
After returning to the field against Arizona State, junior outside linebacker Porter Gustin is back on the shelf. On Tuesday, Helton ruled him out for Arizona, saying that he failed to receive medical clearance for his lingering toe injury. Gustin has been plagued by injuries for the majority of this season after initially undergoing surgery for a broken toe in Week 3.
In addition to Gustin, junior cornerback Iman Marshall (knee) and redshirt junior wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. (shoulder) were both held out with lingering injuries. In good news considering the team’s laundry list of ailments, Helton announced that freshman redshirt running back Vavae Malepeai did not suffer structural damage to his knee after going down on Saturday.