No. 1 RB Justin Davis
It was a good day for the running backs overall as the Trojans put more focus towards the running game, and it was Davis who showed a little something extra among the runners. Davis is the shiftiest of the group, but he also showed great vision and a willingness to cutback behind the line of scrimmage to change the flow of the play. Davis is much more than an elusive scatback though, as he broke tackles in the secondary and ran behind his pads in a tight quartered gauntlet drill.
No. 2 OT Zach Banner
This continues a theme of fall camp. Banner has been outstanding the first week of camp. The gauntlet drill referenced earlier is a stacked or layered group of 1v1. A runner lines up behind three layers of blockers and defenders: an offensive and defensive lineman, linebacker and tight end, and running back and safety. Banner showed he’s much more than a finesse tackle with long arms and good feet, he moved his defensive lineman making it easier for runners like Davis to set up the next layer of the Gauntlet. Banner remained undefeated in the reps I watched of him taking 1v1s in pass pro as well. Banner would be my choice for top performer of Fall Camp period.
No. 3 OLB Scott Starr / Felix
The defense hasn’t had a lot of luck making plays on Banner’s side of the field, but Felix, the linebacker formerly known as Starr, was active and disruptive working against the left side of the offensive line. His first step and relentlessness got him several would have been sacks in the scrimmage, instead he would simply one hand touch the yellow shirted quarterbacks.
No. 4 S Leon McQuay
McQuay looks like a free safety with his long, lean frame and fluid movement on the field, but he plays safety like a linebacker when it comes to run coverage. He’s an eraser in the defensive backfield. If a tight end or running back broke front seven containment, McQuay was there to put a stop to any further yardage from the ball carrier. Maybe more impressively, McQuay was also a factor knifing into the offensive backfield on short yardage plays. It’s not often that a safety climbs out from under the pile after stuffing a goal line play, but McQuay was making that sight commonplace.
No. 5 QB Cody Kessler
Kessler has been a mainstay among the top performers the last seven days. The starting quarterback makes the right reads and doesn’t put the ball in danger. He spreads the ball around making it harder to key on any one player, through Nelson Agholor still seems like the go to guy. The negative plays engineered by Kessler the last week can be counted on one hand.
No. 6 FB Soma Vainuku
Vainuku has gotten the edge off of left tackle on consecutive days, and seeing the 270 pound fullback running downfield is going to be a joy to watch for Trojan fans and a terrifying sight for defensive backs who may give up upwards of 100 pounds. Vainuku also had a long run going between the tackles during the scrimmage portion of drills. Normally we think of small, quick backs as change of pace backs, but Vainuku is a different kind of change of pace; he’s a sledge hammer.
No. 7 TE Randall Telfer
Telfer makes this list for his all around good play, but particularly because of his blocking. As stated the Trojans had their most physical practice of the early Fall Camp, focusing heavily on the running game, and Telfer was a weapon making his blocks. The sure handed receiver was solid in run and pass protection.
No. 8 DE Greg Townsend Jr.
The bad news was seeing Leonard Williams with his shoulder pads off at the last half of practice. The good news is that up until that point, Townsend Jr. was having his best practice of the Fall Camp. Townsend was quick off the line of scrimmage, and he was using his hands better to beat offensive linemen in the one on one blocking drills. Townsend’s elevation to first team helped underscore just how devastating injuries can be to this Trojan squad as the second team finished with true freshman Malik Dorton, Joey Augello, and Jeff Miller manning the second team.
No. 9 S John Plattenburg
The true freshman has been outstanding from his safety position. He was listed as cornerback prospect coming out of high school, and he has shown off his coverage ability dropping into the slot at times as well as breaking on balls over the middle. If there’s any fear in the freshman on the field, he sure doesn’t show it as he’s proven to be as physical as any of the defensive backs.
No. 10 WR Juju Smith
Without a doubt the most underappreciated aspect of receiver play is blocking. Smith is already a devastating blocker on screen passes, on kick off return, and downfield on longer running plays. Because he’s the size of a lot of linebackers already, he also is a weapon coming across the middle as he’s less fearful amongst the big eaters than many true freshmen receivers might be. Besides his blocking, Smith also had a short touchdown catch in goal drills as he had a short crossing route/ flat slant under traffic.
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