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.
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
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.