Newcomer Notebook

The talk of winning a national championship echoed as the Trojans emerged from the tunnel at the John McKay Center for the first practice of the 2015 off season. But before USC can win a title, several newcomers will have to make an immediate impact.

While the first day of spring football 2015 wasn’t action packed with contact and big plays, it wasn’t without tempo.

The Trojans field several newcomers for spring, including Riverside City College transfer wide receiver Isaac Whitney. With only six scholarship wide outs suited up for the spring, Whitney got plenty of second team reps on his first day as a Trojan.

USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin recruited Whitney and was excited to see the 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior hit the field. Although Tuesday was a trial by fire.

“He looked like most of the receivers we have here on their first day of training camp,” laughed Martin. “It’s good that he’s here as a midyear.

“I think our tempo is something everyone has to get use to. If you’re a first day guy in this tempo it’s going to overwhelm you a little. With the signals and lining up right, that’s where he’ll have to improve.

“But I thought from an attitude standpoint, an effort standpoint and a skill set standpoint, he’s everything we thought he was. We anticipate him getting better as time goes on and he gets use to the tempo. Right now, he's adjusting to how we operate as an offense.”

While Whitney didn't catch every pass thrown his way Tuesday, he was often setting himself in the right position to be open. And even when he struggled to get lined up properly, his maturity showed through.

“Even when he didn’t get things right, he didn’t get down about it and fret,” said Martin. “He never lost his composure with everything going as fast as it was. That’s where his maturity level is an asset.

“He got up there next play and kept going. He’s mentally tough, but he’s still learning. As mature as he is, Isaac is still a puppy in the system. We have 14 more practices and he’s going to get a lot of reps.

“It’s early, but I think he’s going to be really good. Right now though, he’s just a first day guy.”

Former Trojan wide out Nelson Agholor watched practice from the sidelines Tuesday. Agholor, who is prepping for his NFL Pro Day, wore No. 15 while at USC. It’s the number Isaac Whitney now wears.

“We started looking around and tried to figure out what numbers were available,” said Martin. “You realize that not a lot are available, and we already had some guys with doubled up numbers.

“When Nelson left early, we knew it would be some offensive skill guy who would take that number. It just ended up working out where he got that number. There’s nothing really to it.”

Newcomer news and notes from practice:

  • With Howard Jones Field being re-sodded, several players made the mistake of still running across McClintock Avenue for warm ups.

  • Offensive line coach Bob Connelly had some interesting comments about not playing true freshmen at offensive line. Connelly said Tuesday his philosophy is to redshirt offensive linemen before playing them. It’s a philosophy most offensive line coaches have, although stating it absolutely makes it hard to land the elite prospects nationally who want a chance to play immediately.

  • On the offensive line, true freshman Chuma Edoga started out playing right tackle, while true freshman Roy Hemsley play left tackle.

  • Edoga was tremendous Tuesday. Winning the majority of his one-on-one drills, Edoga went 2-0 in back-to-back reps against Claude Pelon. Edoga’s pass protection in team drills was just as impressive. Although Edoga is only about 6-foot-3, his wingspan an exceptional base in pass blocking.

  • Roy Hemsley was a little more hit and miss with his pass protection Tuesday. While he certainly has the look of a big left tackle, Hemsley will need the summer to build his body into shape and continue to find his footwork with extra weight. Hemsley played last season right at 300-pounds and is probably closer to 315 right now. Himself stated at the end of the season he would like to play around 290-pounds.

  • Junior wide out Isaac Whitney definitely looks the part of an immediate contributor for USC. While Whitney got his signals crossed a few times at the line of scrimmage, he caught the ball the ball away from his body and consistently worked his way open. Whitney caught roughly five passes in team drills. Of course, that’s not saying much as there were an exorbitant amount of drops Tuesday by the wide receivers.

  • Whitney did not take part in any kick return drills and he is not expected to play a major role on special teams as a returner.

  • Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith anchored the middle of the third team defense Tuesday. With no pads on, Smith was stuck playing t-shirt All-American. Smith did show some physicality in a few run fit drills and he went through the motions of taking on blocks from Soma Vainuku.

  • Freshman quarterback Ricky Town threw some good passes Tuesday in skeleton drills. Although Town didn’t get many reps in scrimmage, he kept his passes down and in good placement with his receivers. With such a quick release, there were times last season when Town had his passes get away from him and sail high. Tuesday, he kept the nose of the football down and did a good job stepping into his passes.

  • With a couple of dropped interceptions in team scrimmage Tuesday at the safety spot, in-coming freshmen Ykili Ross and Marvell Tell will have a chance to really push for early playing time. Extra possessions are crucial for the uptempo offense, and if a player like Ross can help USC gain change of possession, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward is going to be pressed to play him early.

  • USC’s two advance scholarship recruits, wide receiver Deontay Burnett and offensive tackle Clayton Johnston, were on campus to watch the Trojans practice Tuesday at Cromwell Field.

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