The Coliseum was hopping with excitement as the Trojans took the field for the culmination of the spring in front of 22,788 fans. While it wasn't a true Spring Game, the offense took on the defense in controlled team competition portions. USC's offense got the better of the defense, winning 37-23.
There wasn't much in the way of a rushing attack with the Trojans not tackling, so it was the skill players on the outside that were able to stand out more than the interior players.
Here are the seven players that stood out the most on Saturday:
JuJu Smith has been anointed the next great USC receiver already. And he's definitely shown flashes, but he hadn't really put it all together this spring. Hampered by a thumb injury, he's struggled to catch the ball consistently and there's various small parts of his game that wide receivers coach Tee Martin has been pushing him to work over.
On Saturday, Smith had his best practice of the spring because he made all the plays and made them look pretty easy. He finished with a game-high nine catches for a game-high 152 yards and a touchdown. On his touchdown, though he said he hadn't planned it, he took off and dunked the football over the goal post.
"Just coming out here and finishing strong was just awesome," he said. "I was just having fun. If Adoree' [Jackson] can do a flip in the bowl game, can I at least do something? I saw the goal post. Easy dunk."
Smith is a guy that likes the lights and playing in front of the crowd. Maybe that's all it really takes for him to lock in, but Martin was impressed with some other parts of his game today.
"I told JuJu after practice today, ‘I saw you grow up in front of my eyes today.’ There’s some things that he had been working on and we had been making an emphasis on this spring. We finally saw it happen in a game-type situation and that was big to see. I think he feels better because he can now feel it. It’s that moment as a player sometimes where it doesn’t feel great, I don’t have it quite yet and then suddenly, ‘I got it.’ He had one of those moments today, so I’m excited for him and looking forward to his growth as we get ready to play next year."
Martin said it was the entire package. Smith's route running, catching ability and releases all took a step forward today.
"That maturity and composure of a veteran started to set in today," Martin said. "He ran a couple of routes we had been working on and it was perfect. He looked over and I was like, ‘Yea. That’s it.’ It was good to see him have success at something he’s been working so hard to get better at."
Generously listed at 5-foot-8, Jalen Jones is easy to overlook...literally. Even in the defensive backs huddle, which is the smallest and slimmest of any of the position groups, other DBs are head and shoulders taller than him. But that doesn't mean he can't make an impact on the practice field. Jones had the only interception of the afternoon, cutting in on a Ricky Town pass for the turnover that he returned 25 yards.
"He’s just an instinctive guy," defensive backs coach Keith Heyward said. "You look at him and you think, 'Oh my, he’s small. Someone’s going to push him to the ground or run over him and hurt him.' But he’s really smart. He’s instinctive. He’s a little undisciplined with his eyes sometime. And he knows that. He’d be the first to admit that. He just does a great job of breaking on balls and the ball just finds him or he finds the ball. Either way, he's right there."
It's official. Max Browne has arrived and now everyone should know about it. He's looked solid all spring and he's progressively improved each week. Browne looked sharp on Saturday, making some tough throws and finishing with 251 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover, on 24-for-37 passing.
You always have to give the walk-ons some love, especially when they get in the end zone twice. Guys like Christian Tober enable the Trojans to have four quarterbacks getting reps every day because they provide the bodies that continue running routes over and over for the gunslingers. Tober finished with two catches on the day -- both four-yard touchdown receptions.
At the same time that it takes a lot to stand out as a kicker, it also isn't difficult if you nail one really long field goal like Matt Boermeester did on Saturday. On his first kick of the day, he crushed a 52-yard field goal that probably had the majority of the non-USCfootball.com member fans in the stands wondering who in the world is the left-footed kicker. The leg definitely isn't in question for "Blue Shirt" Boermeester. A little more consistency could give the Trojans a lethal long-range weapon.
Su'a Cravens dubbed cornerback Kevon Seymour the star of the spring...and who are we to argue with a potential All-American? Seymour tied for the team-high with five tackles.
Mitchell showed the masses what he's been showing all spring -- explosiveness.
"I was able to show the crowd that I’m here. I’m ready to play," Mitchell said. "It being my first spring, just to come out here and show everybody what I can do. It’s a great feeling."
Mitchell's biggest play saw him beat Chris Hawkins and have a clear path for the end zone. The play was blown dead at the 12-yard line after a 60-yard gain with Adoree' Jackson closing in on Mitchell and the refs not wanting a tackle to be risked. Smith said that Mitchell would have been caught by Jackson, but Mitchell claimed he would have made it to the painted turf, even if he had to dive in.
Mitchell finished with seven catches for 90 yards by USC's official tally. It was a continuation of a true breakout spring.
He was really consistent. Consistently making plays. Consistently being explosive," Martin said. "He didn’t make a lot of mistakes. He answered the call. He saw where Nelson [Agholor] and George Farmer left early for the NFL and knew that there was a void that needed to be filled and knew that he could play. He’s been around. He’s confident and I like where he’s at right now."