The USC Trojans held their first full team scrimmage Monday, and with no injuries to report, the night was all about performance.
Three freshmen on the defensive side of the football made major contributions to the scrimmage. Both defensive backs Iman Marshall and Marvell Tell took reps with the first team defense.
Both players had interceptions off Cody Kessler errant passes, which brought a smile to defensive back coach Keith Heyward’s face.
“I told them as a group that I was very encouraged and pleased with how they played,” said Heyward. “Most of the practice was live except the seven-on-seven.
“We got a chance to see guys finish plays and tackle well. We got our hands on passes with Isaiah Langley in addition to Iman and Marvell’s interceptions. From what I observed, guys did their jobs.
“Now, there are still some things we have to do better. We can still tackle better and some guys have to get the checks at the line down. But overall, I feel encouraged from what we did tonight for practice 10.”
Marshall, who came into camp the highest rated recruit among the freshman class, filled in for Kevon Seymour Monday.
“He’s smart, he’s physical and he’s ready to play at this level,” said Heyward. “He has to focus in on the alignments, the details, the checks and just finishing plays, but he’s what we expected.
“He made that pick and that was a great play by him. He’s coming along.”
Tell didn’t come into camp with quite the reputation Marshall had as a five-star recruit, but the 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety spent even more time with the first team defense this past week.
Monday, Tell recorded his second interception of fall camp.
“He has great length, stride and tackles really well,” said Heyward. “Marvell is also smart too, so he’s picked up the scheme pretty fast.
“I think he is going to be a heck of a player. He has Leon (McQuay’s) size and covers really well. That’s what we needed in that group. I’m really excited we have him because he’s a different change up for us. His length and the way he covers ground, he’s doing a good job for us.”
While cornerback Isaiah Langley hasn’t made any first team buzz, Monday was his best performance of camp according to Heyward.
“It was definitely his best practice and the offense challenged him,” said Heyward. “They went after him on some third downs, but he made some plays on the far sideline and broke up a couple of passes.
“They took him deep and he won some battles he was losing earlier in camp. That’s encouraging for him and I think he can just settle down now. He can focus on learning his technique and executing it.”
Executioner, terminator… freshman linebacker Porter Gustin looks the part of a newcomer ready to contribute this season for USC. While the freshman defensive backs were picking off passes, Gustin pressuring the pocket and making sacks.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Salem Hill (Utah) native had three sacks Monday.
“He’s continuing to develop,” said USC linebacker coach Sirmon. “He’s doing some things that are good and some things we need to clean up.
“He really has to clean up his technique in the run game and also understand some of the leverage things that come in pass rushing.
“Right now he’s pretty good at going forward, but there’s a lot more to that position than that. We’ll continue to develop him and use him in different ways that helps us.”
Gustin, who has played rush end in camp, joined Scott Felix on the field in several sub-packages Monday.
“Having them both in there gives us some flexibility because they can both rush the passer pretty well,” said Sirmon. “It also gives us some flexibility with our base package because we’re not exclusive based on personnel in the game.”
At this point, Sirmon has made no determination whether Gustin or any of his other freshmen linebackers will redshirt.
“We’ve been fortunate because the freshmen have been able to get a lot of reps,” said Sirmon. “Sometimes these guys just get overwhelmed with the volume of work, but Coach Sark has done a good job of keeping their reps at a level where they won't get overwhelmed and tired.”
Practice news and notes:
- Freshmen defensive ends Rasheem Green and Noah Jefferson remain out with injuries, although each is doing cardio work in rehab and defensive line coach Chris Wilson says they should be ready to go soon.
- Freshman safety Marvell Tell, linebacker Cameron Smith and cornerback Iman Marshall all got first unit reps to start the scrimmage Monday. After the scrimmage, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward said he was very pleased with their play. Marshall is "ready to contribute" and is "everything we thought he'd be" while Tell has been a pleasant surprise at safety. Heyward said Monday that his length is something they don't have at the safety position and Tell's tackling in the open field was key Monday. Both Tell and Marshall had interceptions on Cody Kessler in the scrimmage. Tell now has two interceptions in camp.
- Marshall's interception would have been returned for a score, but as he high stepped down the sideline, it appeared he lost the ball out of bounce. It was hard to see what exactly happened, but the ball did not appear to make it over the end zone.
- Freshman rush end Porter Gustin had three sacks Monday. Gustin abused left tackle Roy Hemsley off the edge with his speed almost every rep. Gustin would go on to get some first units looks as well, but a majority of his pressures came against second and third team offensive linemen. Linebacker coach Peter Sirmon had a coy smile about Gustin's performance, but said he still has to evolve technically and not just use the speed rush every snap. With that said, Gustin is getting better and better with each practice.
- Freshman nose guard Jacob Daniell had one of his better practices of camp. At 6-foot-4, 315-pounds, Daniel had a couple of quarterback pressures and half a sack. He also was a road block on the goal line, stuffing the offense's run game on two different occasions. Daniel even teamed up with Jordan Simmons at defensive end Monday. Check out today's Newcomer Notebook for more from Chris Wilson on Daniel. Defensive end Kevin Scott also had a pressure and a near sack Monday in what was one of his better practices.
- Oklahoma transfer Taylor McNamara was trust into the first unit Monday. McNamara has been somewhat underwhelming in practice, but had a solid performance Monday. McNamara was credited with two receptions for short yardage in the scrimmage.
- Freshman Sam Darnold had a good performance Monday as the team's third string quarterback. Darnold hit Robby Kolanz on a couple of strike across the middle of the field and then went deep to David Mellstrom for about 45-yards. Darnold capped off the drive with a floating touchdown pass to Daniel Imatorbhebhe in the back of the end zone. Darnold also had an 8-yard run for a touchdown on a read option play that was called back.
- Keith Heyward said that Monday's scrimmage was Isaiah Langley best practice to date as a Trojan. Langley was picked on several times against De'Quan Hampton vertically. While some of the passes didn't have ideal placement, Langley was still in good position to defend each. Langley's biggest issues seem to come against the walk-on receivers who attack his footwork underneath the coverage.
- Wide receiver Isaac Whitney struggled catching the ball Monday. Whitney started out camp strong catching the football, but he has dropped a number of passes the past few practices.
- Of the freshmen tailbacks, Ronald Jones had the best night Monday. Jones rocketed around the right side of the line for a good 16-yard gain Monday. Jones also had a 14-yard gain on a cutback run to the left. The offense tried to get Jones a score down near the goal line, but the defensive line stuffed him on two attempts. The goal line run blocking Monday will be a talking point for Steve Sarkisian in film.
- Freshman Ykili Ross had a quiet scrimmage, although he gets a mention for a good open field tackle against Soma Vainuku. The big fullback caught the ball flexed out wide and Ross flew in and took his legs out cleanly. Most freshman defensive backs would whiff on that one-on-one match up because Vainuku is a load to bring down.
- USC committed safety C.J. Pollard was in attendance for the Trojans' scrimmage Monday. Westlake (Calif.) wide out Theo Howard was trying to make it down, but word is he had practice Monday night.