'How about that' . . . what a day

When a couple of things you just do not expect close out the last spring practice.

Mark this day down. We got an apology. And a thank you with a handshake. Proves you just never know. Crazy things happen.

But on this, the 14th day of spring ball, Clay Helton opened by making it clear he always wanted to make it clear. And he always would approach things that way. And that when he’d talked to us Tuesday about his decision-making process on the quarterback competition, he may not have communicated what was actually going to happen in his mind after Saturday’s scrimmage.

It probably won’t happen then, he said. “I apologize,” Clay said for giving that impression. Now he might make the decision “if there’s a huge difference,” after the scrimmage, he said, but he’s thinking there won’t be. And this will go up to fall camp.

”And not just for the quarterbacks,” Clay said. There are the guys coming back from injuries and the 13 new recruits who will be coming in then. No hurry for them either.

”For me, the decision Saturday is do we have a quarterback – or do we push it to the fall?” The question was a fair one, Clay said. His answer, his wife told him after hearing and reading the Tuesday coverage, didn’t seem to square with what he was really thinking. So he clarified it – and took the hit. Although there really wasn’t one.

When someone says he’s always going to be straight with you, always going to tell you what he’s thinking, and then apologizes for any miscommunication when it’s not clear, there’s no one who could take offense to that.

And this was right after Lynn Swann, on the day he was introduced as AD, and after addressing the team and watching them in a final padless scrimmage, on his way heading out the Goux Gate with Pres. Max Nikias, changed his exit route.

And swung by the media corral and for those he’d met and talked to Thursday morning at his press conference, he came up, looked them in the eye, shook their hand and thanked them for coming. How about that, as Mel Allen would say.

Spring game controlled by Helton, depth

Clay made it clear that Saturday’s scrimmage will be controlled by him because of depth issues, most notably on the defensive line. He’ll put the Trojans in all sorts of situational tests, like having to wedge the ball out from their own 2, or get it in from the 20 in the Red Zone.

But no game-action where the offense “might go on a 14-play drive,” Clay said, and you’d end up with an injury on defense on the last play. Clay also detailed players with health issues that were up in the air as far as their Saturday status.

Asked exactly how the Spring Game format would work, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said it was up to Clay to determine all the details although he thought they hadn’t really been finalized yet. “We have another day to work on it,” he said.

As to the injury issues, safety John Plattenburg's ankle is two to three weeks away, Clay said. They’ve MRI’ed it, gone with the PRP therapy and as hard as Platt has tried to get back, it’s just not happening. “It just needs rest,” Clay said. So he’s out. So also, it appears, is corner Jonathan Lockett, although he gets another shot at the concussion protocol Friday.

Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson, after several good practices with his back feeling fine will be able to go for maybe a quarter of Saturday’s Spring Game. Inside linebackers Osa Masina and John Houston have been looking good and should be ready for 50 percent to 75 percent of the scrimmage. And freshman O-lineman Clayton Johnston finally passed his concussion protocol and was back practicing Thursday and will be able to play.

Quick hitters here

Perfect day, bright, sunny, no pads Thursday in just helmets, shorts and jerseys as the Trojans set up summer workouts and then the Spring Game (3 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Networks) at the Coliseum . . . No high school players and coaches here . . . Matt Boermeester had his best day kicking with at least five live field goals from what looked to be 47 yards out.

*** For more details on Thursday’s practice, check out Thursday Spring Day 14 Ghost Notes.

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

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