2021 USC Football Fall Camp Report #5: Offensive Line Taking Shape
Aug 11, 2021
USC conducted its fifth practice of fall camp on Wednesday, closing out the NCAA-mandated acclimatization period.
- Tomorrow the Trojans will wear full pads for the first time during fall camp. "It'll show us a lot more," said USC head coach Clay Helton. "Usually in these first couple days, you really get to notice the skill, and now, with full pads getting on, it's going to be nice to really gauge the running backs, gauge the offensive and defensive line and really see the guys in the trenches."
- Helton said the players are itching to put on full pads. "It's been nice here to have a little bit of chippiness," he explained. You always hope you have to pull them back, you don't have to push them forward. There's been some really competitive atmosphere out there. I think the guys are looking forward to getting out here with full pads on."
- USC defensive lineman Drake Jackson returned to practice on Wednesday after going through health and safety protocols. Wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. (hamstring), running back Darwin Barlow (hamstring) and running back Keaontay Ingram (ankle) did not practice today, but Helton said their injuries are minor. Tight end Malcolm Epps left practice early with turf toe. Helton confirmed that transfer wide receiver Jake Smith is out for the 2021 season with a foot injury.
- Helton noted that the offensive line is coming into shape, with Jalen McKenzie, Courtland Ford and Jonah Monheim all rotating at left tackle lately. "We're really trying to find the best five and where they fit," Helton said. "I'll credit Jonah, I think he's really coming on. His athleticism and his strength that he has put on with Coach [Robert] Stiner over the summer has really shined through. The light's kind of clicked on for him."
- Helton commended McKenzie for "getting his body under control and showing his athleticism" since undergoing knee surgery.
- On the interior offensive line, Helton highlighted Liam Jimmons, Liam Douglass, Andrew Vorhees and Justin Dedich, who has previously served as the backup center. "These live practices will help us a lot in those evaluations," Helton said of that group.
- Helton also likes what he's seen from less experienced offensive linemen like Maximus Gibbs, Mason Murphy, Jason Rodriguez and Caadyn Stephen. "We're deep at the position right now, which is really nice," Helton said. "We've got a true three-deep. We've got four seniors that are up top right now, but we're able to grow some young guys."
- Helton said that pass protection is the No. 1 thing he's looking for from his offensive linemen this camp. "We're a 55-to-60-percent pass team," he explained. "Pass protection is going to be key in that and being able to keep Kedon [Slovis] upright. He's had two injuries over the past two years. As long as he's standing upright and healthy, we're in a good situation."
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