Shotgun Spratling |

In pads at the Coliseum . . . Just Sayin'

Lots of ways to look at this USC team after its first trip to the Coliseum -- in full pads -- and live on the Pac-12 Network with a crowd of 400 or so looking on.

Maybe we were expecting a bit too much. The combination of sharp, strong summer workouts with four full days of Fall Camp that had folks around the program smiling ran into a bit of reality Monday.

*** But reality can be a good thing. Especially when it hits you in the face. As it did right away Monday . . . Just Sayin'.

 *** There were the penalties. Hadn't seen this kind of lack of discipline in quite a while. Have to play through that. They did. But better if you don't have to play through all those flags obviously . . . Just Sayin'.

*** There was the early angled tackling drill signalling that it's full-pads time and you can take 'em down to the ground. Unfortunately the tacklers were the ones who ended up on the ground, not so much the ball-carriers . . . Just Sayin'.

*** "It woke us up," senior linebacker Michael Hutchings said of a start that might have had "too many emotions" mixed in. He had a point. By the time they got to the end of practice and lined up the offense four times on the 10-yard line and said "Stop 'em," three times the defense did. Haven't always seen that, not on a day that started out not so well . . . Just Sayin'.

*** It was good for us," was all defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had to say about the angled-tackling drill but Clay Helton's response was how "glad he was that Clancy is teaching tackling for us" . . . Just Sayin' .

*** "That's two good days the defense has put together," Michael said quickly leaving the subject of the tackle drill. "We're creating an attitude about ourselves" And they are . . . Just Sayin'.

  *** Really liked what Cameron Smith had to say on a day when the sophomore linebacker got to do some tackling, got to play in one series and noted how he "felt good, got a tackle and got a couple of hits to the head." Gotta' love linebackers . . . Just Sayin'. 

*** Have to feel good about what we're seeing from the Texas twosome of Ronald Jones and Aca'Cedric Ware. Ronald is really good just as you expected, but better hitting it up in there on power runs that he turns into open field big gainers. He's more physical than you'd guess. And Ced, he's becoming a hammer. Really runs hard. Now the mesh with the quarterbacks and the O-line has to get perfectly timed up. If not, Alabama and Stanford could be a mountain too high . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Wasn't crazy about the play-calls and seeing more bubble screens than tight end targets. That's not what we've seen in the PRPs and can't be the way this team goes. The one time they did look to the tight end, it was touchdown Daniel Imatrobhebhe. Really need to see more of that . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Too bad about the concussion protocol for John Plattenburg on the hardest hit of the night against James Toland. But that's the way John plays. And even if Khaliel Rodgers isn't back from his concussion yet, Clancy says he's not worried at all about Khaliel since he knows him from his last time here and as much as he loves the way Stevie Tu'ikolovatu has come on strong, with Josh Fatu, there's plenty to like there, Clancy says . . . Just Sayin'

*** And yes, Stevie has changed the look of this team. Between his maturity and his competitiveness and his desire at the age of 25, and married, to give himself a final season to remember, Stevie's arrival is a very good thing. They're just starting to figure out what they can do with him. "I'm just glad he's here," Clancy says . . . Just Sayin.

*** But does Clancy ever like safety Marvell Tell. "He's a knee bender not a waist-bender," Clancy said of the big sophomore who can play small despite his 6-foot-3 size "He gets better and better every day . . .  and his skill set is what they're looking for at the next level." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So is this team physical enough, Clancy was asked. "We're trying to get that right," he said . . . Just Sayin.

*** And finally, there are the quarterbacks. If it was close coming in here, it's closer now. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Sam Darnold's ability to pull a handoff back and take off with the ball, or scramble out of the pocket when there's nothing there, or make a leaping one-handed grab of a high snap and with almost the same motion, rocket the ball to the back of the end zone for a TD pass as he did to Darreus Rogers, has made it a lot closer . . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Not to say that Max Browne didn't scramble left, elude pressure and find a target 20 yards down the field. Or get that seam ball TD to the tight end. You get the feel if this team is solid, able to play mistake-free football and with the physical run game they're hoping for, the decision might be one way. But if this is a team that needs to keep coming up with a big play as it pulls something out of its bag of tricks, there's another answer . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But if there's anything the players and coaches learned about themselves this day, they say, it's how no matter how flat you start, you can fight your way through it. If you only will. If you have that attitude. If you truly believe that you know what it means to "Fight On" . . . Just Sayin'.   


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