With the USC Trojans football team in full pads for the fifth day of fall camp, running backs coach Johnny Nansen finally saw a glimpse of his prized freshmen in the open field.
And on the fifth day of USC
fall camp practice, the Trojan freshman
tailbacks saw daylight.
While senior running back Tre Madden
broke two big runs during team
scrimmaging Tuesday, freshman tailbacks Aca’Cedric Ware and Ronald Jones
finally saw the open field Wednesday.
With Wednesday being the first day of full pads for the Trojans, the
freshmen trio of Ware, Jones and Dominic Davis
took a majority of the
snaps. Tuesday Jones ran behind the first team offensive line for the
Wednesday was the first time the Cedar Hill (Texas) native found
daylight in the open field.
“Ronald is a break away back that we haven’t had in… years,” said
running backs coach Johnny Nansen. “It’s nice to have the option of a
guy you can bring in there and he can break a big one at any time.”
It’s an option that illustrates the depth USC is developing at all
position post the NCAA sanctions levied on the program in 2011. But
with only two scholarship tailbacks returning, Nansen is riding the
freshmen early with no thoughts of red shirting any one of the three.
“They’ve got to play,” said Nansen. “That’s why they’re in there with
the ones. We have to challenge them and counting on those guys coming
in and helping us.
“Not only with the offense, but on specula teams. They’re all so gifted
we need that.”
Quarterback Max Browne
has spent time with each running back and broke
them down accordingly.
“Over the years I think they’ll compliment each other real well,” said
Brown. “With Ronald, he probably the best down hill runner, but I
hesitate to call him a power guy because he’s still so good in open
space and super quick.
“Aca’Cedric reminds me of a young Justin Davis
because he’s a one cut
and go type of runner. He’s also been good out there in space catching
“I saw a quote where someone called Dominic Davis a little Darren Sproles
type back. I don’t know if he likes that comparison, but he’s
effective on third down and we’ve gotten the ball to him out of the
backfield a lot already.
“Not to downgrade his ability to run the ball. We saw in PRP’s that he
can beat you in open space.”
Two nuances of the running back position that are often overlooked are
pass blocking and receiving. Thus far, each freshmen running back has
had his struggles catching the football during various portions of
“Yeah, there have been some off the chest tip balls that are never
good,” said Browne. “Thats a huge part of our offense and something
we’ve talked about working on with the young guys.
“Pass blocking is also a big deal. Shoot, the guy that can block is
probably the guy who will see the field first. That’s the nature of the
beast. I mean, you can also put in special packages for a running back,
but if you can block, that develops an element of trust in the pass
Browne was reluctant to name a running back ahead of the curve when it
comes to the intangibles of playing the position, but senior tailback
Tre Madden was less diplomatic about the progression of each player.
“Dominic Davis is shifty, and probably the best guy coming out of the
back field,” said Madden. “He reminds me of Darren Sproles.
“Ronald Jones is a freak athlete. He has amazing burst coming out of
the back field and can make a play at any moment. Cedric is the best
pass protector and a great runner. He can also catch, so he gives us a
little bit of everything. USC is in good hands the next few years.”
Nansen echoed the same sentiments as Madden in describing each running
back in the freshman class.
“Ronald and Dominic are your break away guys, as you saw on that run
with Ronald,” said Nansen. “Ced is like Buck Allen. Good pass pro, more
reliable and a very, very smart kid. He runs just like Buck and kind of
reminded me of Buck when I first saw him.
“Dominic is special, and you can use him in the backfield. You can use
him to create some mismatches, but he’s a tough runner. There’s a lot
of roles we’re trying to develop once they start learning the plays.”
With Justin Davis out with a minor hamstring injury and the team saving
Madden’s legs, Nansen will continue to let the freshmen loose.
“There is no depth chart,” said Nansen. “We look for whoever is the
next guy to step up and do the job. It’s a log season, and like I told
the kids, you never know when you’ll get a chance to compete with the
“That’s how it is going to be in a game. The way we go, I think that
will help our older guys later in the year too so we can finish games.”
New and Notes from Practice:
Tuesday, freshman cornerback
Iman Marshall was kicked off of kick return island. Wednesday,
Aca'cedric Ware was a kick return casualty. Isaiah Langley, Dominic
Davis, Ronald Jones and Isaac Whitney all returned kicks while Ykili Ross and Deontay Burnett ran back punts. This was the first day of camp
where Jones did not misjudge or drops a kick.
Iman Marshall got time with the
first unit kick off team. That's a good indicator that the coaches
expect Marshall to play a lot this season.
Of course, lining up with the
first unit, Marshall bolted out of his stance down the field and ends
up off sides by about 5-yards.
Freshmen Osa Masina, Ykili Ross,
Marvell Tell and junior Isaac Whitney lined up for second team kick off.
Third team kick off unit was
John Houston, Aca'Cedric Ware, De'Quan Hampton and Ronald Jones. This
speaks to the newly found depth USC has because of the 2015 class.
While Isaac Whitney was backing
Juju Smith last spring, Whitney is now backing up Darreus Rogers, while
DeQuan 'Hampton is backing up Juju Smith.
In the first team 11-on-11
period, Marvell Tell saw extensive time with the first team defense.
Tell got a lot of first team reps Tuesday, but he played almost
exclusively with the first group Wednesday. Cameron Smith was the only
other freshman with the first group during this period.
On offense, freshman running
back Ronald Jones got the first carry with the first unit offense.
Jones would only run for 10-yards on a few carries, but it was apparent
early the offensive line started getting more push this practice. It
started late Tuesday with Tre Madden and continued Wednesday with Jones
and Ware finding more running room.
Clayton Johnston got more reps
Wednesday with the third team playing left tackle.
Both freshmen quarterbacks
struggled in seven-on-seven Wednesday after a solid showing Tuesday.
Freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe got his first catch of camp on a playaction pass into the
The team took part in a Pride
Drill at the goal line of Kennedy Field Wednesday. Isaac Whitney went
against Kevon Seymour and got body slammed first rep. Whitney went
right back at Seymour and managed to slip over the goal line on his
De'Quan Hampton drew Adoree Jackson head-to-head in Pride Drills and ran him over fairly easily.
Freshmen defensive end Rasheem Green and Noah Jefferson remain out with injuries. Green actually
looked a bit more gimpy walking around the practice field Wednesday
During the second session of
scrimmaging, safety Marvell Tell and running back Ronald Jones once
again went with the first group. Jones got the first carry for the
offense and then two more back-to-back plays for limited gains.
Freshman running back Aca'Cedric
Ware got the next carry and broke a big run up the middle for 16-yards.
Ware stayed in with the second team and ran for another 8-yards. Ware's
third carry of the period goes for 4-yards and the USC running game
looked in a rhythm for the first time since camp started. Ware is
patient and he has great peripheral vision for cutting back against the
Running backs coach Johnny Nansen would go onto say that Ware is very
smart and is probably ahead of the freshman group learning the
playbook. Both Nansen and Tre Madden say Ware is the best pass blocker
of the newcomers as well. Nansen says he is the closest thing to Buck
Allen USC has at running back right now. Ware is the only freshmen
without a fumble in camp.
Freshman Dominic Davis followed
Ware with second team carries and was immediately welcomed to the line
up with a crushing tackle by linebacker John Houston. Davis' next carry
ends the same way with a close line tackle.
Freshman tight end Tyler Petite
has a couple of good catches during the ensuing seven-on-seven period.
Petite catches two passes for about 30-yards.
In this period, Iman Marshall
had some good back and forth battles with George Katrib. Marshall had a
great pass break up on Katrib and the Katrib came back on caught a pass
on him down the side line.
Freshman cornerback Isaiah
Langley had a fantastic diving pass break up on Juju Smith on a post
corner route, but Langley's nemesis, Robby Kolanz, beat him badly again
during seven-on-seven. Langley shows flashes against first team
competition, but has struggled staying with the walk-on receivers.
As the final scrimmage period
gets under way, Ronald Jones flashes his 10.37 100-meter speed down the
right sideline as he breaks off tackle. The whole team buzzed as Jones
exploded past the first wave on the defense. Jones gained 20-25-yards
on the run, but it was the first time he has gotten into the open field
during camp. Johnny Nansen remarks, "Nobody has seen that kind of game
breaking speed around here for a while." Jones led the team in carries
with Madden limited and Justin Davis out.
Linebacker Osa Masina stripped
tight end Connors Spears, which John Houston recovered. Masina was
definitely more active Wednesday and had a good showing in Pride Drills
earlier in practice.
Freshman quarterback Ricky Town
comes in with the third team offense and promptly throws two straight
interceptions to walk-on cornerback Jalen Jones. Both passes were throw
to the same side of the field and roughly the same area.
While Town has had interception woes, freshman Sam Darnold has had snap
and hand up issues in several practices.
Rush end Porter Gustin was an
enforcer Wednesday going at it with just about every blocker he faced.
Gustin definitely plays to the whistle, which Daniel Imatorbhebhe
found out Wednesday. Gustin almost drove him into the coaches standing
behind the offense twice in 11-on-11.
After getting first team right tackle reps Sunday and Monday, Chuma
Edoga was back to playing with the second unit for most of his reps
Tuesday and Wednesday.