USC Football

Emotions run high during USC’s final spring practice

April 13, 2019

11-on-11 scrimmaging was progressing as it usually does for USC at their 15th and final spring practice. But then, an altercation broke out between Michael Pittman, Briton Allen, Austin Jackson and other Trojans. After players cleared, Clay Helton stopped practice and had the entire team complete a series of up downs. Helton went on to address the team midfield and scold them for losing control of their emotions.

Post-practice, Helton put everything into context. “That was probably the best learning lesson that we could possibly have in camp because we just played all day,” he said. “And when you put guys in a competitive atmosphere and like I told them there at the end, that was the last learning lesson of this entire camp.”

Helton described how USC’s response to those kinds of situations will determine whether the 2019 Trojans will be a team more focused on winning, or caring about the perceptions of others.

“Anytime that you have emotion, the energy level goes up and it’s ok to have emotion, but have intelligent emotion,” he said. “There’s going to be guys that push and shove and you can’t push back. They understand that it costs everybody when you make that decision and you let emotion get the best of you.”

Overall, USC spent the majority of Saturday’s practice playing live football. As was true with the rest of their spring practices, Pac-12 officials were on site to make live calls and give USC coaches real time information about what to correct. Helton thinks having officials throughout the spring made USC a more disciplined team.

“I love where their mentality is at right now, we understand that just because you have SC on your chest doesn’t mean you’re going to win,” he said. Helton added, “You have to earn it and you have to work and compete to earn it and that’s what they’ve done in this camp. Now the challenge is to carry over what we learned in this training camp over to the summer.”

USC is set to onboard nearly 20 new players over the course of the summer and Helton is focused on integrating the Trojans’ new culture into their skillsets. As for USC’s returning players, Helton plans to sit down with his staff and discuss next season’s depth chart. He’ll ask the staff where individual players stand and how the depth chart would shake out if USC had to play this week.

“I’m going to tell each and every person, understand,” he said. “Alright, It’s about who can compete the best in the moment and I’ll announce the 2-deep on that Friday and the best ones will walk out there first.”

With the spring now finished, Helton believes USC’s defensive front contains multiple players that stood out the most during the past 15 practices. He thinks junior defensive lineman Brandon Pili improved the most on the defensive line and was one of the Trojans’ top players this spring. “We challenged [Pili] coming off of last season that we feel he could really be a better player than what he was last year and he took it to heart this camp,” Helton said. “I think he’s the most improved.”

Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jay Tufele has also been “wreaking havoc” in the backfield from the interior, according to Helton. Offensively, the running backs shined throughout spring. “I’ve loved the passing game but our backs right now and our offensive line, we’re able to physically run the ball,” he said. The Trojans maxed out allowed tackle days by NCAA rule and Helton said Vavae Malepeai, Markese Stepp, Stephen Carr and Quincy Jountti impressed when given opportunities.

Tags: Football
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