It's been a long time coming.
Not for his whole career here but even this year when it looked like senior linebacker Quinton Powell, reunited with his freshman defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, was going to get hs playmaking 205 pounds back on the field.
And then he didn't. And now he has, starting with last week's Arizona State game.
"It was awesome," the flying Floridian from Deltona said. "Every third down. And it'll be the same thing this week."
He says he has just two responsibilities -- playing corners and blitzing." Asked what exactly that "playing corners" consisted of, he said that's a trade secret Clancy ordered up last week to take down an ASU team averaging more than 48 points a game. Now here comes 4-1 Colorado (2-0 in the Pac-12), another ranked team averaging more than 43 points a game.
And now it's a different story for Powell. "I'm out there . . . and I'm having fun," he says of getting to use his disruptive special teams, open-field skills in the regular defensive sets against the kinds of high-octane offenses the Pac-12 plays these days.
It's also a depth thing after USC ran out of gas at Utah in the fourth quarter. "This is the first time I've gotten to do this since high school when I got to do everything," Quinton said.
"But the big thing is getting to be out on the field and with my brothers. That sense of being a part of these guys, to be developing something special which I think this defense is, is a great feeling. This is going to be a very good defense. We're finally doing what we did all spring, flying around and making plays."
One sign of that development, Quinton says, is something he can't remember seeing before. "Everybody, even third-team guys, is coming in and watching film," he says of this week's Colorado game. That was echoed by nose tackle Stevie Tu'kolovatu, who said he "went and looked at their films to see how Colorado was scoring all those points."
"They've changed . . . big time," Stevie said. "This is a different Colorado. I think everybody's aware."
New nickel starter Jonathan Lockett is well aware. In his third start, the junior from Mater Dei will be matched up against an old high school rival, St. John Bosco's Shay Fields, a onetime USC commit with Lockett who he lined up against in high school and when they were freshmen. He's looking forward to it.
"I think I surprised a lot of people," he said when asked to take over for Leon McQuay when McQuay was moved to safety for Chris Hawkins, "but I didn't surprise myself."
Not even on that early over-the-shoulder interception at the USC 5 after the Trojans had given up the ball inside their own 40 early by failing on a controversial fourth-down conversion attempt.
And he won't surprise Fields. "We have a cool relationship," he says of the Colorado deep threat who can also catch it short and go with it.
As ro missing out on a player of Fields' talents, Clay Helton pretty much said you can't get everybody. Said he recalls a study one year that documented 123 players from Fresno south who signed with the Pac-12. Said Fields and Nelson Spruce, CU's previous big-time receiving threat, were examples of that.
USC must do what it did against ASU, Clay said, to slow down the Buffs. "We have to be aggressive in all three phases of the game . . . as with all the high-powered offenses in our conference." Not only do they run the RPOs (run-pass options) as well as anybody, "if you come up, they throw it deep and they're as good as anybody at trick plays . . . they ran four against Michigan."
The one place that gives him a sense that this is going in the right direction, Clay said, was the improvement in the pass rush against ASU.
"Not just the three sacks but the quarterback hits and hurries . . . and two of those came off four-man rushes." Josh Fatu quick-twitched one and Uchenna Nwosu got another while flushing the quarterback three times. That's what it's going to take.
Asked whether he was worried that with USC's all-time 10-0 record against Colorado, the law of averages might catch up, Clay said: "I'm not worried about what happened in the past or will happen in the future, just this year." And this game.
It's looking more and more like OT Zach Banner is a longer and longer longshot to make it back Saturday. He sat out practice after getting a PRP injection and Chuma Edoga and Jordan Simmons have been working there as well as Chris Brown moving out some from guard . . . TE Taylor McNamara didn't do much with his lower back strain but he was out there in gear and "he's getting close," Clay said . . . S Ykili Ross still out with a sprained shoulder, at best 50-50 for this week's game . . . Special teamer Jabari Ruffin still on concussion protocol and out of pads . . . and FR S Jamel Cook practiced for the second straight day and is aiming for a return next week . . . For more play-by-play on today's practice, check out WEDNESDAY COLORADO WEEK GHOST NOTES.
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