Sophomore tailback Dominic Davis has been wearing a lot of hats this spring. Besides running the rock, Davis is seeing time at wide receiver and returning kicks and punts on special teams.
With new coaches and a new offensive system in place, Davis and the rest of the team have had their hands full over the past few weeks learning the playbook and implementing it on the field.
“I think I need to get in the playbook a little bit more, but I think athletically, I am where I need to be,” Davis said. “I’m comfortable with what I’m doing out there. Practice makes perfect, so I’ve just got to keep practicing hard and hopefully keep doing better everyday I’m out here.”
After watching 13 practices the offense appears to have a lot of similarities to the past couple of seasons, but for the players there is still a lot to learn.
“It is the same concepts, different signals and different names,” he said. “It’s pretty much a new offense as far as the language and the signals, but the concepts stayed the same. Separating the old from the new [is the hardest part about it]. That was pretty much the hardest part for me, but I think I’ll be fine come camp. The routes are the same, it’s just the way they’re called and the signals. Maybe ten to twenty percent of it stayed the same and the rest of the eighty changed.”
Technology has helped Davis get a quicker grasp on the plays, using iPads to hold the playbook instead of paper and binders.
“I’m a visual learner so when I see it I feel like I’ve got it,” Davis said. “I can always go back to the archive in my mind to refer to it. With me it’s all about seeing the play over and over.”
This spring Davis is getting a lot of work as a punt and kick returner, playing in the slot as a receiver and of course playing his normal role of running back.
“I’ve been all over,” he said. “Whatever they call me to do, I’ll be available. I just give it my all.”
New offensive coordinator Tee Martin helped Davis expand his horizons last season in the wide receiver meetings.
“Last year I was with Tee Martin heavily during the season, but then I went back with the running backs. I kind of got the knowledge of a lot of the receiver plays and concepts. He taught me how to run routes, get off releases, and pretty much how to think and act like a receiver. That was helpful.”
Davis is also looking to absorb all he can from new running backs coach Tommie Robinson.
“He is an amazing coach and he definitely knows what he’s talking about. I think that you’ll definitely see a big jump in our running backs’ ability as far as knowing the game, as well as blocking, running, and just being a complete back.
“[Tommy Robinson] keeps it real. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. At meetings, when he doesn’t feel like telling you what you did, he’ll call on a teammate and we have to critique our teammates, but we have to be pretty brutally honest. I think that and his drills, different drills, we always switch it up. We’re always doing something new. My favorite thing is pass-blocking, and then that gauntlet drill over there, where we have to run through the bags.
“I really do [expect big things from the running backs this year], because he’s a great coach.”
On the special teams side, John Baxter is another new face on the staff that Davis can learn from.
“[John Baxter] is one of the best too. I’ve been quite surprised with how much knowledge he has and how much he cares about special teams,” Davis said. “In high school, special teams wasn’t really a big deal, so it was always offense-defense, scoring, getting interceptions, and you never really looked at the small things until you get here, well at least for me, and now everything matters. You have to be a complete player whether it be on offense, defensive, or on special teams.”
“I wouldn’t say we had terrible special teams last year, but I just believe this year we’re really focused on technique and fundamentals. [Coach Robinson] preaches it, technique and fundamentals will win us games.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates on the Trojans spring football.
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