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USC Football

A Pair Of Takes: Standout Spring Game Performers

April 21, 2021


Josh An

In a scrimmage setting like last Saturday, you want your best players to shine. Rising junior receiver Drake London did just that. In his first televised setting playing on the outside, I thought he looked very comfortable and smooth as a route runner while also using his great physicality to his advantage.

He’s going to be a matchup nightmare this season for most defensive backs and his stock will continue to rise as he gets more reps on the outside. More importantly, defenses will be forced to scheme against him, potentially opening up more opportunities for other USC receivers as well as the running game.

On the defensive side, there was a myriad of defensive lineman and outside linebackers to choose from. Drake Jackson had a dominant series and I thought even true freshman Jay Toia showed off impressive strength for a young player. But, Tuli Tuipulotu really stood out to me as well. Turns out, he stood out to USC C Brett Neilon too. This what Neilon had to say about Tuipulotu on Tuesday: “I think he’s going to have a big season for us. He works extremely hard and he plays with relentless effort.” Here’s just one example of the talented defensive lineman breaking through for a TFL:

Marc Kulkin

On Saturday, USC held the Spring Football Showcase, and there were a handful of players who stood out.  Some more than others, depending on who you were looking out for.  I could speak to more than just one guy per side of the ball, but I wanted to highlight a couple of veterans for their play on Saturday.  

Stats don't mean a whole heck of a lot during the spring, but they're used to gauge on-the-field production.  So if a QB is throwing more INT's than completions, then there better be a reasonable explanation and even more context.  What does mean a lot during the spring is developing the right attitude and strengthening your weaknesses.--Especially if the 2021 season could potentially be your last one wearing the Cardinal & Gold.

Josh mentioned the "other" Drake.  USC has two studs with that name, and I'm speaking about Drake Jackson.

It's hard finding a weakness with Jackson's game when he's rushing the passer or seeking out the ball carrier out of the backfield.  But last year, he was moved to the OLB position, where pass coverage is also a part of the job description, and as anticipated, there was a learning curve.  Playing LB with your eyes is just as important as playing with violent hands, and on Saturday, Drake showed pretty much his whole arsenal.

There was a sequence during the game where Drake knocked down a pass at the LOS, recorded a sack, and popped a running back for either no-gain or a loss.

More than just improving his physical skills, Jackson is also becoming a team leader, and when you're one of the best players leading by example, the younger players want to follow right behind.  Drake's skills speak for themself, but now the young man also speaks up and leads as a coach on the field.

I might be pushing Jackson out the door prematurely; however, unless something happens, Drake's next jersey will have an NFL logo stitched on it in 2022.   

Stephen Carr, on the other hand, is an RS senior.

Carr was USC's highest-rated running back on the roster when he arrived in 2017, and for those who put stock into that stuff, he still is.--Carr made the 2017 All-Pac-12 honorable mention squad.  Since his breakout freshman season, though, it's been a roller coaster of ups and downs with more injuries than highlights, unfortunately.

Besides the injury bug, other obstacles which have retarded Carr's development include new coaches and a new scheme that's not known for being running back-friendly.  And while the Air-Raid will never be known for producing 1000-yard rushers, Carr does possess a very particular set of skills.  Skills that make Stephen a nightmare for people on defense.--these are Skills he's acquired over his career.   

Until the running game solution is figured out, Stephen can show why he was considered one of the most sought-after running backs coming out of high school by using those particular skills.  He has power, speed, great vision, and even better hands catching the ball. As you can see here in this short clip, Carr can be the guy everyone was anticipating when he arrived.

Stephen's ability to look and run like a running back in the open space as a receiver is what has stood out even with the few highlights the running backs have provided.  With the emphasis focused on short-yardage running this spring, Carr is also getting back into the power back mode, which has caught my attention.

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A Pair Of Takes: Standout Spring Game Performers

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