2021 USC Football Fall Camp Report #2: Offensive Position Battles
Aug 7, 2021
Here are the notes after a late afternoon practice under the hot sun at USC:
- The USC offense returns some familiar names like All-Pac-12 QB Kedon Slovis and superstar WR Drake London, but the Trojans also have some holes to fill, particularly at wideout and left tackle with the departures of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns and Alijah Vera-Tucker. "We've got a lot of new faces out there," said OC Graham Harrell. "And a lot of talented new faces and that's a good problem to have."
- Among the new names, Memphis transfer WR Tahj Washington has opened eyes early with his lightning quick feet. "What he does best is he plays fast all the time," Harrell said about Washington, who was the sixth leading receiver in the American Athletic Conference last season. "A lot of that has to do with he never hesitates. If he makes a mistake, he makes it full speed."
- The return of former five-star recruit Kyle Ford is also a boost to the receiver room. Ford's talent has always been undeniable, but he's dealt with a pair of knee injuries during his time at USC. "I feel blessed. I'm real thankful to be out here being healthy," Ford said. "I'm starting to feel like myself again. I'm feeling fast."
- For the last couple years, the backup wide receivers did not get much time behind Michael Pittman Jr., St. Brown, Vaughns and London, but the rotation is far from settled at this point. "Regardless of anything, I will always put myself in the opportunity to compete for a spot," said Ford. "I'm just really excited to be out here competing for a spot."
- USC returns its leading rusher from 2020 in Vavae Malepeai, but with Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp transferring out, the running back room is filled with new faces as well. Malepeai will certainly factor in, but Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow bring considerable production and experience from Texas and TCU, respectively, and Brandon Campbell is a highly rated freshman from Houston. Plus, Kenan Christon returns to the team after spending the spring with track and field. "Since last fall, the room that's changed the most is probably the running back room," Harrell said. "Competition makes everyone better."
- Behind Slovis, true freshmen Miller Moss and Jaxson Dart will vie for the backup QB job. While both are talented arms, Harrell is also seeing how they run the offense, "earning the respect of the guys and being a leader." He continued, "They've grown into that as much as anything."
- The hardest player to replace will be first round draft pick Alijah Vera-Tucker. He was a rock at left tackle last season after being a standout at LG in 2019. "I tried to take a lot of things from AVT," said Jonah Monheim, who is in the competition to replace Vera-Tucker. "He was a great guy all around. He was a great pro on and off the field. I think the biggest thing with him was the daily work ethic and consistency. He was the same guy every day. He was dominant every day. It was really impressive."
- Monheim is in the mix to earn a starting spot after growing in confidence over the last year. "I felt a jump in spring and I'm hoping to keep building on that right now," the redshirt freshman said. "I think it does come from mental processing, being in the scheme, understanding defensive schemes."
- USC does return four starters on the offensive line, but with so much depth and a new OL coach in Clay Maguire, the final five to line up in the opener are far from picked. "Our job is to find the best five and the combination of the best five, where they fit in," Harrell said. "Figure out what five are the best to play together and let them run."