Saturday unveiled the Trojans 2015 recruiting class in action for the team's first fall camp practice. Linebacker coach Peter Sirmon had one expectation for his newly minted group of four and five-star freshmen. "Our only expectation is that they work their butts off."
The first day of fall practice is always full of superlatives and coach
speak, but coming off their first full recruiting class in four years,
the fruits of the Trojans coaching staff labor are beginning to show up
on the field.
That is particularly true of the linebacker position, where USC
four freshmen rated among the nation’s top 200 recruits coming out of
high school. Inside linebacker, Cameron Smith
, arrived on campus last
January, so his extended time with the second team defense was not a
“It was very fortunate to get Cam here midyear because you can see how
much further he is along,” said linebacker coach Peter Sirmon. “There’s
a comfort level with what we’re asking him to do.
“From being in the meeting room to the weight room, he’s advanced. He
also has good instincts and learns fast. He’s making strides, although
he came in pretty impressively the way he picked things up.
“I don’t know if there is one thing he’s progressed at more than an
other. He just has to get use to pushing through having practice every
day and not having a day off like he did in high school.”
The grind of fall camp is daunting, but necessary. While Smith has been
on campus since January, fellow freshman Osa Masina
, John Houston
just arrived on campus two months ago.
Masina was rated a five-star outside linebacker out of Brighton High
School in (Utah), but is playing WILL linebacker for the Trojans.
“We install the defense and discuss the different techniques we’re
using, but he has to just experience what it’s like to play inside,”
said Sirmon. “It’s the reps that he’s going to get that determine his
“There are some eye control things you do differently inside than
outside, but he’s good at football and pick it up quick. Today he
looked like a freshman on his first day.”
John Houston played inside linebacker for Serra High School, but is now
playing behind Su’a Cravens at the SAM or field linebacker position.
“I think that’s where his skill set is best to help our team,” said
Sirmon. “He’s athletic and he runs well. I like his range at that spot.
“Same thing as with Osa, he has to change how he sees the field. He’s
outside in now instead of inside out. He’ll get a lot of reps and
opportunities and be fine.”
Cravens has mentored Houston all summer long and was impressed with
what he saw from the 6-foot-3, 220-pound freshman.
“John is more athletic than he knows,” said Cravens. “He showed
glimpses of that today, and because he’s a great athlete, he can play
up to the talent.
“There was one play where the running back had in space by about
five-yards, and he closed the gap quick. At the same time, he can get
undisciplined with his hips and technique. He lunged at a few tackles
today, but that’s just being a freshman and learning.
“I think he’s going to be a great player — I can see it. He has the
work ethic and he takes to coaching well.”
In fact, Houston had a sack Saturday, but also overran a bootleg pass
when blitzing off the edge. It’s a play Cravens has made a living off
of as a Trojan.
“This is the first day of fall practice, but he came over and we
talked,” said Houston. “He just have to keep his weight off his toes.
But for a freshman and this being his first day, he played pretty well.
“This group (of freshmen) are confident. They’re all moving around and
they’re all playing hard. So far so good. The freshmen on defense look
good and a couple of those freshmen running backs look good too.”
One freshman running back, Dominic Davis
, grabbed the linebackers
“Dominic is fast… Dominic is really fast,” said Cravens. “He’s going to
be able to play a bunch of spots for us.
“He can play in the slot, but he’s fast enough to split out wide a just
let him go. He surprised me with how fast he is.”
Porter Gustin is playing rush end for the Trojans, earning his first
interception jumping the curl route on a deflected pass at the line of
“He did a nice job of playing the route from high to low,” said Sirmon.
“He didn’t look great running the ball (laugh), but we’ll bust his
chops about that in film.
“He’s a big, strong guy that will continue to develop. We think these
guys will be important addition to the program. I stay pretty even-keel
about the first day, second day. You have to let them grow.
“We continue to coach them up and define the culture that we expect and
we want to build on. We rely some on the older guys, but ultimately I
have to be the leader of the linebackers. I have to define the
expectations of the group and make sure everyone is headed in the right
News and Note from Practice:
The freshmen, even the blueshirts, were out for the first day of fall
practices Saturday. That included tight end transfers, Taylor McNamara
and Daniel Imatorbhebhe. Both participated in the practices, although
in more limited fashion than some of the freshmen.
Freshman linebacker Porter Gustin was hampered by a sore knee during
summer workouts, but Sirmon said he is 100-percent now.
All of the freshmen linebackers, except Cameron Smith, started out
playing with the third team defense Saturday. That defensive unit
included, Osa Masina at WILL, Rueben Peters at MIKE, Porter Gustin at
rush end and John Houtson at SAM. Smith played with the second team
unit, eventually joined by Gustin during later practice periods.
Although he isn't a newcomer to the team, Jalen Greene is a newcomer to the wide receiver position this fall. Greene
was one of the day’s top wide receivers. He caught several bubble
screens off of motion and flashed his speed. Steven Mitchell will play
a big factor for the USC offense this season with his short area
quickness, but Greene could be a great compliment to the Trojans size
at wide out with top end speed.
Junior College transfer wide receiver De'Quan Hampton saw extended reps with the second team offense Saturday. In
fact, Hampton hit the field in team scrimmaging before midyear
graduate, Isaac Whitney. Hampton has tight end size and it’s clear USC
would like to exploit that in the run and passing game.
Speaking of junior college transfers, Isaac Whitney has
shown improvement this off season. He still has to become more
consistent catching the ball, but he is running his routes with much
more confidence. He had camp's first touchdown beating the safety don
Freshman Iman Marshall had a good all-around day of
practice. Marshall really went at it with Hampton and walk-on Aaron Minor several times. Marshall was one of the most vocal players of the
freshman. The majority of Saturday’s passes went at fellow
freshman cornerback Isaiah Langley.
Dominic Davis received the most reps of the freshmen
running backs Saturday. Davis was used as a runner and a receiver out
of the backfield. Davis has clear game breaking speed, but he does have
the tendency to want to run wide on every play. Davis also was put on
his backside by linebacker Jabari Ruffin running a route across the
middle Saturday. Welcome to USC rookie.
Freshman running back Ronald Jones got off to a slow
start returning punts. He dropped two punts and had trouble tracking
the ball in the air. Jones did, however, have the nicest run of the day
cutting back and juking a defender in the gap for a solid 10-yard run
in the last team scrimmage period.
Freshman running back Aca'cedric Ware was solid
today, although did not see many runs late in practice. He was also
complimented on his vision by the older veterans, including Cody
Freshman safety Marvell Tell probably had the most
freshman-like day Saturday. Tell was burned deep a couple times in
various periods. He got caught totally flat footed against Steven
Mitchell in seven-on-seven from a miscommunication with Marshall in
Freshman safety Ykili Ross got his first
interception as a Trojan. Ross was solid all day and picked the pass
off as it was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Ross also had two other
deflected passes on the day.
Freshman defensive end Rasheem Green, coming off knee surgery last
year, participated in all facets of practices without a brace. Green,
Noah Henderson, Christian Rector and Kevin Scott all played defensive
end Saturday, while Jacob Daniel played nose guard. Rector had a near
quarterback sack on Cody Kessler toward the end of practice. USC's depth and size on the defensive line from spring to now is very noticeable.
Freshman wide receiver Deontay Burnett may be a blueshirt, but he
continues to look like a great add to the roster coming off of summer
player run practices. Burnett had two good receptions in team scrimmage
plucking the ball out of the air.
Bishop Amat receivers Trevon Sidney and Tyler Vaughns both
attended practice. Mater Dei offensive lineman Frank Martin and
Calabasas junior wide out Keyshawn Johnson Jr. were also in attendance with his father.