During the one-on-one drills, it’s always fun to sit back and watch senior cornerback Kevon Seymour going up against sophomore Juju Smith-Schuster. The two go back and forth with no one seeming to have a true upper hand.
Smith-Schuster has won the majority of the battles this week after Seymour banged up his knee last weekend. But that hasn’t stopped Seymour from competing day in and day out.
During Friday’s one-on-one matchup, Seymour did everything right and yet still couldn’t keep Smith-Schuster from making an incredible tip-drill grab. On a go route, Seymour was able to maintain leverage on Smith-Schuster and both went up for a virtual jump ball. Smith-Schuster only could get the backside portion of his right hand on the ball, but knocked the ball up in the air — often a dangerous proposition for an offensive player.
While the ball floated in the air, Smith-Schuster turned his body and began to box out Seymour as if he was waiting for a basketball rebound to come off the rim. Unlike in basketball, Seymour took advantage of being able to shove Smith-Schuster in the back. Now instead of the ball coming down in front of him, the ball was over the head of Smith-Schuster. But he made an adjustment, sticking one of his large mitts up to try to grab it.
Seeing that he’s not going to be able to get to the ball to deflect it away, Seymour grabs hold of both Smith-Schuster’s shoulders and tries to yank him down like Seymour was dunking him in a pool, but JuJu’s incredible lower body strength allows him to make the catch and even keeps him from going down before the whistle was eventually blown.
- Top Skill Player Thursday: Adoree Jackson
It’s hard not to write about Adoree’ Jackson every day that he is on offense. In fact, I’ve yet to accomplish that feat. Jackson is just too damn impressive not to talk about him every time he drops your jaw, which just happens to be every day. Once again, he put up four or five touchdowns — running a couple in with ease, making another couple look easy even though they were the type of plays that you say that would have been a great play when someone else gets their hands on a ball but can’t actually come down with it.
For example, on the play on the left, Leon McQuay III does everything but get his hands on the ball and Chris Hawkins is flying over to try to lay the wood. However, Jackson snags the ball away from McQuay and slides between both defenders for the touchdown that no one on the team other than maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster could have made.
Jackson also returned a kickoff against the scout team, caught a couple of deep balls over defenders, including one over Jonathan Lockett that seemed like Jackson hung in the air waiting for the ball to arrive. He caught the ball as he was falling backwards.
- Top Backup Friday: Greg Townsend
With Claude Pelon out, senior defensive lineman Greg Townsend has received an opportunity to step in with the first-team defensive line and he’s making the most of it. Townsend has been the best defensive lineman this week. He has given the offensive linemen fits with his combination of strength and a bevy of moves.
Toa Lobendahn noted Townsend as one defensive lineman that has stood out this week: “I think GT has been doing good. He’s been stepping up and playing well.”
On Friday, Townsend had a sack and possibly a second one that the coaching staff didn’t blow the whistle on, instead allowing the play to continue. The talent has often flashed with Townsend in the past, but he hasn’t been able to consistently produce results. Now, it seems were starting to see some results daily.
- Top Newcomer Friday: Taylor McNamara
Oklahoma transfer tight end Taylor McNamara missed Thursday’s practice due to graduate school orientation. However, the graduate school experience is a positive for McNamara and the Trojans. As a graduate transfer, McNamara is eligible to play immediate rather than having to sit out a year. And if he were somehow able to continue his meteoric ascension of production, he’ll be winning the Mackey Award by the end of the year.
That’s a very, very long shot, but McNamara has already come a really long way since the beginning of camp when he was so far down on the depth chart, it seemed walk-on freshman Caleb Wilson, who is still transitioning from being a quarterback most of his high school career, was further along in his development than McNamara. But the redshirt junior has quickly began to grasp the offense and has taken off this week in camp.
He had his best day as a Trojan on Friday. He snagged a ~20-yard catch over the middle on the very first play of the second team session. McNamara showed a familiarity with the defense and recognized where the hole in the zone would be to make the grab. But he made the biggest impact in the red zone and near the goal line. In the “Final Five” offense vs. defense challenge, McNamara was clutch for the offense during two-point conversion attempts. He caught the final two passes, including the one pictured here, to give the offense another win.
- Top Lineman Friday: Toa Lobendahn
True sophomore starting offensive linemen Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama have each been nicked up this fall. Talamaivao just returned to practice from a hamstring injury that kept him out more than a week. Mama left Friday’s practice with an undisclosed upper body injury that we can only speculate on since head coach Steve Sarkisian did not speak to the media. (The training staff was working on his right arm and neck area and he did not return.)
But the Uce Crew still has one starting offensive lineman going strong. Toa Lobendahn continues to be Mr. Versatility on the offensive line, bouncing between a number of positions and learning the tendencies of a bevy of different teammates. Even though he continues to have to be prepared to play two or three different spots on the line, at any given time, Lobendahn has been rock solid.