Ready to step in for JuJu just in case

Deontay Burnett and De'quan Hampton are ready to step up just in case JuJu Smith-Schuster can't answer the bell Saturday thanks to USC's developmental Monday practices the last three weeks.

They started it the day, ironically, Steve Sarkisian was fired.

Monday of Notre Dame week, Clay Helton added new 45-minute "developmental practices" which helped explain how after Tuesday's workout, USC had already had "two really great days of practice" this week according to Helton.

Turns out that while the veterans and starters are lifting on Mondays and getting over their bumps and bruises, up-and-comers Deontay Burnett, De'Quan Hampton and Uchenna Nwosu are getting extra coaching.

Same for Cole Smith, Clayton Johnston and Roy Hemsley.

Makes sense, Helton says. "Monday practices are legal . . . and if you take all 13-14 Mondays, that's an extra spring practice."

But that's for later. Now the proof of the extra practices' effectiveness could be seen Saturday at Cal in the play of Burnett, Hampton and Nwosu.

"In my mind I'm ready," Hampton said of his time to step up with Juju Smith-Schuster coming back from hand surgery and Isaac Whitney out with a broken collarbone, "even if the ball isn't finding me yet.

"My comfort level is way better," he said after arriving in the summer. "I know the playbook now and can play way faster."

And the development work from Monday for Hampton carried over to Tuesday as De'quan came up after practice to Cody Kessler taking extra snaps from new center Khaliel Rodgers and asked Cody if he'd mind throwing him the ball. He wanted to work on some over-the-shoulder catches he's been having trouble with.

"Any time we can get extra work I'm for it," Cody said. And with JuJu's status up in the air, certainly this week, Kessler's top target may need to be replaced. Here's how Helton sees what Cody must do.

"Trust his guys," Helton said of Hampton and Burnett. "He [Hampton] was getting open. Now it's time to trust him."

Coming from Helton, that should work well for Cody, who had this to say about the coach he's been working with the last five years. "You know what you're going to get every day . . . he's a genuine guy, the same every day," and then Cody made sure to qualify that praise with this: "I'm not saying anything bad about anyone who came before."

As for Helton, he was just happy "to see JuJu out there" at the end of Tuesday's practice. He'd already seen pictures of the surgery sent him by JuJu while it was still going on and said maybe he'd just rather have not seen them. But it was "good to see his smiling face . . . obviously he's one of the elite players in college football."

Burnett was matter of fact about his career-high 82 yards on three explosive catches Saturday. "Just making plays when they come to me," he said. No big deal.

The big deal for the blueshirt signeee who was on his own this summer with his scholarship not kicking in until after the start of fall practice.

"That wasn't a big deal," he said. "I just wanted to play at USC . . . it was a blessing . . . I wanted to play so bad [at USC] . . . of course it feels good and it's why I came to USC. It's my dream school coming from Serra."

TUESDAY QUICK HITS: TE Tyler Petite back to 100 percent with his foot . . . WRs Steven Mitchell (ankle) and Darreus Rogers (hamstring) were both back after playing Saturday at Cal and working extremely hard . . . Out in a white defensive jersey, not in a black scout jersey, was freshman Ykili Ross who was working with the second D at safety . . . Claude Pelon was back in pads and running well on that left knee with an extra brace . . . Jordan Simmons out in pads and cleats and doing a little work for the first time in two months . . . nine NFL scouts here today . . . two big, athletic plays of the day were Deontay Burnett's one-handed fully extended catch in specialty one-on-one passing and Leon McQuay's live punt block and Quinton Powell's scoop and score off it . . . Adoree' Jackson was in a white defensive jersey all day . . . Jonathan Lockett took it easy with a sore groin but should be good to go by the end of the week.

CHECK THIS OUT: For Tuesday's practice report, check out TUESDAY U of A WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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


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