Utah makes it a 'homestate' game at USC

Trojan freshmen Porter Gustin and Osa Masina have some extra incentive Saturday when the high-flying Utes come to the Coliseum.

They are part of a small, elite group. After this season, there will have been just five Trojan football lettermen from the state of Utah -- ever. Two of them are here and freshman linebackers now -- Osa Masina and Porter Gustin.

"It's huge," Gustin says of the visit of the unbeaten Utes (6-0, 3-0 in the Pac-12) to the Coliseum Saturday (4:30 p.m., Fox). "It's a chance to get back on track and get a win, it's the homestate team and they're really physical."

And that means "you have to practice physical," Gustin says. "It's been the most physical we've been all year."

There's a reason that the Salem Hills High graduate from near Provo has the "physical" part up high and the "homestate" part down his list.

"I actually only lived in Utah the last two years," Gustin said after moving from Idaho. "Only one or two from my high school go to the U of U."

But there will be plenty of Gustins down for the game, Porter said: "The whole family, 15 to 20," he said.

It's a different story for Masina. "I don't know if it's a big deal," he said and then ticked off the reasons why it might be for him. "I know a lot of their guys," he said, including one especially well. "My brother (Uaea, a sophomore linebacker) plays for them."

But no talking this week. "It's a dead week," Osa says. He's not even sure they'll talk on the field. "But afterward, for sure."

And no, he says, despite the way the high-flying Utes are going right now, he has no second thoughts about leaving his Salt Lake City home for USC.

"I don't look back," Osa says after considering Utah. "I love the boys I've got here. I'm going to ride it out with them." There's something else, he said. "I really wanted to go out of state.

And now the state of Utah is coming to him. "We think it's going to come down to who's more physical." Which is why "all our practices have been hitting, hitting, banging."

But there's something more. This team has to play consistent assignment football the way they did on seven possessions for 36 minutes giving up just three points at Notre Dame.

"A lot of the time it was one missed assignment," he said of those two 90-yard scoring drives USC allowed in the fourth quarter. "You can't play with 10 guys. It's got to be all 11."

Clay calls it

Figuring out what to do with "hands on contact" is a big part of USC's attempt this week to not keep shooting itself in the foot with penalties, Clay Helton said as he illustrated with his own hands what they must do.

Hands up, hands out, let go, disengage, Helton showed how he wants USC players to react. "We got outside our bodies," he said with their hands holding on. Can't do that.

"We're really focusing on hand placement on contact," Helton said of the three key penalties at Notre Dame. But that's not all that comes in threes.

There are three keys to beating Utah, Helton said: Stop the run, establish the run and eliminate mistakes. Hard not to like the sound of that.

Adoree' on starting . . . and ND

After wearing a cardinal jersey and working on offense for a second straight day with USC down four wide receivers, Adoree' Jackson had a pretty commen-sense look at which side of the ball he might be starting on Saturday.

"Probably returning the kickoff," he said for a USC team that always gets to return the kickoff -- at least this season. "Weird, isn't it," he said.

"But if we start out on offense, I'll probably start on offense," he said. "if we start on defense, I'll probably start there."

So to recap: Adoree' is starting somewhere -- or maybe everywhere. But after two days back on offense, he talked about the difference in practice.

"I think you do more running on offense. Defense is mostly reacting. But I think you spend more energy on defense."

Which turned the conversation to the Notre Dame game and his problems with speedster Will Fuller. Said it wasn't the scheme that allowed Fuller to fly by him as he lined up seven/eight yards off the line of scrimmage in soft zone coverage.

"That doesn't matter to me," Adoree' said of whether he plays tight man and redirects receivers or goes zone . . . "You have to transition your hips with a burst and I didn't do that . . . he's a 10.5 guy, I'm 9.9 . . . it's hard to catch him when he has a step . . . like me when I had a step on the ball I caught . . . they don't catch you."

Reps for Ronald

The best thing about all the reps freshman tailback Ronald Jones II is getting this week, he says, it's "helping me to read defenses better."

It's one of a number of things he's working on in a rookie season that's getting him more playing time than he could have hoped as he leads USC in rushing with 380 yards on 44 carries -- an 8.6-yard average.

"Catching the ball over my head, flat routes," he said, ticking off the things he didn't get to do in high school when all he did was run the ball.

With his head coach saying his one big regret for the Notre Dame game was not running Jones more, Ronald said no one has told him directly to expect more opportunities this week. But then he added: "Who doesn't want more touches?"

WEDNESDAY QUICK HITS: The Last two players from Utah to suit up for the Trojans were offensive lineman John Martinez (2010-2013) from Murray and running back Stanley Havili (2006-2010) from Salt Lake City . . . It's a long way back for the first Utah native at USC -- Joe Davis (1940-1942) from Bountiful . . . No pads for Steven Mitchell (ankle) or Darreus Rogers (hamstring) again with them being listed as no better than 50-50 to play Saturday but actually looking like longer shots than that . . . Isaac Whitney at practice in a sling for his broken collarbones . . . Taylor McNamara back from missing a day with the flu and practicing fully at tight end . . . John Plattenburg and Michael Hutchings still out with the flu bug that's been going through the team . . . No Claude Pelon (knee) . . . Scott Felix seems over his minor knee issue . . .

CHECK THIS OUT: For Wednesday's practice report, check out WEDNESDAY UTES WEEK GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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