Talking offense . . . and offensive line

Tuesday a time for looking back at the good and not-so-good from the Arkansas State game.

Clay Helton liked the work of his boss, Steve Sarkisian, in his first non-playcalling role in a game in his seven seasons now as a college head coach.

"He was a head coach," Helton said. "It was so smooth . . . you didn't see any substitution errors," and with Tee Martin his eyes in the press box and Sark whispering suggestions into his ear on the sideline, it went exactly the way Helton hoped it would go.

"Credit Sark for that . . . he let me get into the flow of the game," Helton said, a flow that any playcaller has to develop.

One thing a playcaller must do for a no-huddle team is not take time to think about the last play, Helton said. You've got to be a couple of plays ahead. Unless, of course, the play goes all the way and the extra point team is next up.

That's why Helton enjoyed the "explosive" plays that Tre Madden and Ronald Jones II scored on from 65 and 44 yards out. Madden's run, "a great run," Helton called it, forced him to wait until Madden made that last cut to beat the one man with a chance.

But the quick hitter for Jones, Helton said, he knew he wouldn't have to call the next play when the freshman was about "three feet past the line of scrimmage," he said. He saw "the safety take a bad angle" and he knew it was over. Jones would be scoring.

Staying with the running backs, Sark said of the returned-to-action Justin Davis: "This is big for him," he said of this week's practices after his painful rib cartilage injury that's sidelined him for more than two weeks. It's no longer a physical issue, he said, but there's having been away from football for that time. That's what has to come back.

Connelly calls it

You weren't going to hear much negative from O-line coach Bob Connelly about his guys despite how USC gave up five sacks the first half against Arkansas State. "I iked all of them," Connelly said, "at certain times."

And no, that running the two-deep guys were doing after practice wasn't punishment. It was, Sark said, recognition of the way they ran just 64 plays on offense Saturday and that didn't do much for their conditioning.

Although he's not about to say they're anywhere near where they need to be. Improvement areas? How about these: "Protection . . . pad level . . . assignments . . . better finish, both run and pass."

But that wasn't the end of it for Connelly. "I'm real proud of their effort."

And while Connelly wasn't saying it, Sark and Helton did: Those five sacks were not all on the O-line. A couple could go to Cody for holding on to the ball too long, they said and another to a back missing the pick up. So that leaves maybe two on the O-line and one of those was on a true freshman.

And it did look like there was less mixing and matching with the five front-line guys, from left: Chad Wheeler at tackle, Damien Mama, Max Tuerk, Toa Lobendahn and Zach Banner.

"That's our starting five," Sark said. "In practice it's easier . . . " to parcel out equal playing time. "You have set rotations." But in games, and in competition for those spots, Sark said, "you'll see Viane [Talamaivao], you'll see Chuma [Edoga]."

And hopefully, still see plenty of competition for those spots.

McNamara makes it up

It wasn't all that easy as it started out, Taylor McNamara said. After getting his release from Oklahoma where he graduated in three years but started just one game catching one pass, the San Diegan sent out the word "to every Pac-12 school."

When Helton called him back in the middle of winter and said USC was having some issues at tight end and was very interested in him, "that made it a pretty easy decision," McNamara said.

"They're both championship programs," he said of the similarities between USC and Oklahoma. But then there's the weather -- "and the offense," which has already delivered him a touchdown pass in his first game.

"[Coach] Helton said they needed a guy pretty badly," McNamara said. "It's not very often with a program like this."

But after missing this summer ["I was still working on getting enrolled," he said], so he didn't get off to a great start. "I'd say at the beginning, it was hard to play fast when I was still learning the offense."


Much quieter start for Tuesday's full-pads workout to start Idaho week. Later Sark will say he wants to see more zip and pep Wednesday and Thursday . . . DT/DE Claude Pelon has a good practice on his return, Sark says . . . both Adoree' Jackson and Steven Mitchell out in full pads and engaged almost fully through the session with Mitchell doing everything -- just a small wrap on that left wrist. Doesn't look like it's bothering him . . . First team run drill has Aca'Cedric first, RJII second followed by Justin . . . Dominic Davis next then Toland with Tre Madden opening 11 on 11 with a couple of power runs . . . Quinton Powell back at the SAM LB spot and active in there . . . Looks like Porter Gustin, Pelon and Kenny Bigelow out there with the ones . . . Lamar only rehab guy not in team with those cracked ribs as he works with a rehab trainer . . . Lots of team punt and FG. Still missing too many inside 40 yards. Three today missed from there . . . Great 11 on 11 matchup to start between Juju Smith-Schuster and Kevon Seymour. Kevon gets first. JuJu goes away from him for a catch on next play . . . later JuJu really not happy with Isaac Whitney after getting lit up by Su'a Cravens on a quick screen when Isaac doesn't get to Su'a and JuJu jacks Isaac's shoulder pads with both hands to remind him . . . Osa Masina getting lots of work with ones with Anthony Sarao with the twos . . . no work again for Jordan Simmons.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Tuesday's workout, check out TUESDAY IDAHO WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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