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2019 Arizona Wednesday: Notes

Oct 16, 2019

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USC will have to slow down Arizona with a new-look defense on Saturday due to injuries to several key players.

  • Starting cornerbacks Isaac Taylor-Stuart (ankle) and Olaijah Griffin (back) missed practice again today, as did starting nickel Greg Johnson (shoulder) and starting inside linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV (ankle).
  • If Taylor-Stuart and Griffin are both out, two true freshmen will start at corner on Saturday. Chris Steele has plenty of playing time under his belt this season, but his fellow starter will likely be Dorian Hewett or Jayden Williams. "It's just an opportunity for all of us to go out there and show what we're capable of," said Steele. "We're all excited about the opportunity we have … I'm real confident in my teammates."
  • USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was complimentary of Hewett, who signed with USC as a safety but has since transitioned to corner. "I think he's got really good football awareness," said Pendergast of Hewett. "He's a guy that was really well-coached in high school … We've been happy with he progress he's made."
  • Should Williams see an expanded role, he's ready for the opportunity. "I'm just ready to get in and shine," he said. "I've been waiting for this moment. I've been waiting for it since I was born."
  • Though he's as young as the others, Steele has taken a leadership role this week to prepare his teammates to step into the fire. "I've been letting Jayden and Dorian know that once they get out there, they need to just play their game," Steele said. "When you're going against the scout team receivers out here, play against them like you're going against Arizona's top receivers."
  • With Johnson out, true freshman Max Williams took reps at nickel during Wednesday's practice. Williams has only played in one game this season (at Washington), but took valuable lessons away from the game. "I got adjusted to the speed of the game, being able to get the calls and formations," he said. "Just getting a little experience under my feet."
  • Though Williams is young, he's got the tools to dissect Arizona's offense, as he was high school teammates with Wildcat QB Khalil Tate at Serra. "He was a senior when I was a freshman," Williams explained. "We was real cool. I used to ride in his car before the games, get something to eat and all that. I feel like he's my big bro."
  • Pendergast called Williams a "very instinctive" player. "He's a guy, you tell him something once and he gets it," said Pendergast. "The nickel position is a unique spot because you've got to do so many different things … I think he's got a unique skill set to be able to trigger in a short area, and he's physical."
  • If Gaoteote IV can't go on Saturday, Kana'i Mauga is the likely replacement. Mauga says Gaoteote has been instrumental in helping him prepare this week. "He's told me, 'It all starts in the film room Monday through Thursday,'" Mauga explained.
  • Though Gaoteote is a leader on the defense, Pendergast has like what he's seen from Mauga. "I think he's done some really good things," he said. "In the limited amount of reps that he's gotten in games, I thought he's executed his assignments ... [Mauga and Gaoteote] are similar, skill set-wise. They're both guys that thrive on being covered up and then kind of running and hitting guys."