After 34 practices, 15 practices during the spring and 19 so far this August the Trojans’ offense still has a long way to go to resemble the well oiled machine that was led by Mark Sanchez in the Rose Bowl Jan 1, 2009. The final score of the scrimmage on Saturday was defense 2 and the offense 0. Zero is a pretty good description of USC’s offensive performance on Saturday.
Let’s go back to the beginning:
It’s been beautiful out at Howard Jones Field all summer. But Saturday it was 92 and humid. All that monsoon moisture that comes up from Mexico was there today and it felt like the tropics. Howard Jones was packed with people on both sides of the practice field and on the west side you could smell the barbeque getting ready for, “Salute to Troy.”
I was being broiled on the sideline in the summer heat.
At the beginning of the scrimmage standing next to QB Aaron Corp and it has to be hard for him not being able to participate. Corp tried to take a few snaps from center in a short morning practice, but he is still having trouble with a cracked fibula. Carroll said again that Aaron will not play or practice until he is ready.
WR Damian Williams was still out with a quad bruise and he was standing next to RB Allen Bradford who is banged up from the pounding he has taken this August.
USC’s first- team offense began with Jeff Byers at center and Zack Heberer at left guard. The offense made a nice gain on 1st down, but was called for a penalty, and the ball was moved back to the 10 yard line. In the first five plays there were two penalties and QB Matt Barkely tripped over C Jeff Byers feet.
It is all about the big men:
The offensive line opens holes and the defensive line closed them. The defense is usually ahead of the offense, because the offensive line takes a lot of practice together to get its timing down. It has to be a well oiled machine. One ping off and everything is off. USC was several pings off on Saturday.
Right guard Nick Howell and center Kristofer O’Dowd were hurt during the previous scrimmage. In 34 practice days counting spring and August, the first-team offensive line had only been together for a short time. Left guard Charles Brown was also out Saturday and replaced by Butch Lewis, who has had a fine August. Alex Parson did participate although his ankle is tender.
With a freshman quarterback USC needs its offensive line intact:
Someone like true freshman QB Matt Barkley needs time to look downfield, make the proper reads, and go through his checks. So each offensive lineman has to give him extra time, and Barkley isn’t getting the time he needs.
USC was able to get the offense moving on the 1st drive but stalled on about the defense’s 45 yard line and Jacob Harfman punted the ball inside the 2 yard line. Harfman has a big leg but is slow getting his punts off. He averaged about 40 yards a kick Saturday.
Mitch Mustain then handed off to Curtis McNeal and he was buried by linebacker Shane Horton for a safety. Mitch did have a few more open receivers than Barkley, but he was not sharp.
Tailback Joe McKnight had a nice carry for 22 yards. He’s had a spectacular spring. If he could learn how to keep the ball up and grip it properly when he’s carrying it, he can be great this year. USC split McKnight out several times Saturday but didn’t throw to him.
The only other play over 20 yards Saturday was a pass to David Ausberry toward the end of the scrimmage. Barkley followed that up by throwing a pass deep that was intercepted by safety Josh Pinkard on a leaping grab.
Pinkard and Jurrell Casey have produced the most turnovers during August. Josh is a great playmaker. Casey can knock, pick and grab the ball away from a back.
Former Trojan defensive end Omar Nazel was describing Jurrell Casey on the radio this past week. He said he has the hands of Mike Patterson, his speed, and the strength of Kenechi Udeze. He called Casey a future round one draft choice in the NFL.
Saturday’s scrimmage was an NFL secondary against a patchwork offensive line and a freshman quarterback. The result was a shutout. USC has 19 years playing experience in their secondary. Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto and secondary grad assistant Kris Richard live in coaching heaven.
Mitch Mustain and Garrett Green did little better against the second and third-team defenses despite the wide receivers getting more separation.
USC ran a total of 60 plays in the scrimmage and there were 8 penalties, multiple dropped passes, and missed open receivers. Yet Matt Barkley said, “I think I made a lot of progress. I felt calm and confident.”
I didn’t experience any of those emotions Saturday.
Brice Butler made several catches as did Daivd Ausberry and both had a good week. Stafon Johnson and Taylor Mays met head on the hit of the day. Ryan MaMahon had two big hits. CJ Gable played sparingly.
Maik Jackson played SDE in Armond Armstead’s place and had a nice day with 4 tackles and 2 sacks. Jackson ran a stunt on one play and had a clear path around left tackle Kevin Graf to sack Mustain. Graf had a good day, and I’m not sure the sack was his fault.
Malik Jackson can be great. He is not just a speed rusher. He had power. When he knows how to use that power, watch out. There is so much talent on the defensive line and as these young players get, "schooled up" and marry talent with knowledge they will be unbelievable.
Right now the young defensive linemen are still learning technique and their assignments, but very soon QB hell will be unleashed. There were six sacks on the day.
WLB Jordan Campbell had several tackles and a sack, and there is a great sound between him and the ball carrier when he hits them. WDE Devon Kennard was very active getting a sack and deflecting a pass.
The only real Magic I saw all day was Magic Johnson. He spoke to the players after practice.
The offensive line should come together early in the season, and Aaron Corp will be as good as new in a month. In a scrimmage players are coming in and out on every play, and USC has only used Stafon Johnson, CJ Gable, Joe McKnight, Ronald Johnson and WR Damian Williams sparingly all through the month of August.
I was listening to College Football Live Friday. Rod Gilmore said the USC offense was good enough to carry this new USC defense through the first few games of the year. What planet has he been on? The USC defense is good enough to carry the offense through the San Jose State game. Hopefully Aaron Corp will have his legs under him for a visit to the Horseshoe in Columbus.
Omar Nazel said on the radio last week that every game for USC is a national championship game. He’s right. It’s their opponents Super Bowl. He said, “We must match their intensity. We are the target, we are the prey. We have to fend off the invaders, and protect the kingdom.”
Let’s hope USC can get its offense in gear for the San Jose State game. And let’s hope that O’Dowd and Corp are back and ready for Ohio State.
Defensive end Malik Jackson had four tackle and two sacks on Saturday.