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2021 USC Football Mock Game Week Tuesday: Texas Tailbacks Keaontay Ingram, Darwin Barlow Return

Aug 24, 2021

The Trojans are getting healthier as they gear up for the opener against San Jose State on September 4.

  • In the one bad piece of injury news, LB Jordan Iosefa, who was a team captain in 2019, is "taking a step back" and fulfilling more of a player-coach role after multiple knee surgeries sidelined him the last two seasons. Helton left the door open for a possible return later this season, but whether or not he plays, the head coach values Iosefa in the locker room. "He's going to have an unbelievable career coaching," Helton said.
  • Helton reported that 119 USC players have been vaccinated and all are compliant with the university's policy. While the vaccine has lessened the restrictions placed on the Trojans compared to last season, the virus is far from defeated and could very well have a major impact on this campaign. "This thing is a reality and it has hit people, whether it's been unvaccinated or vaccinated," Helton said. "We'll deal with it just like we dealt with it last year."
  • The coaching staff has prepared for scenarios in which a coach or coordinator is forced to miss a game by swapping roles at different times during the spring and camp.
  • The return of Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow, two tailbacks expected to play a big role this season, was a welcome sight on Howard Jones Field. "28 and 22 had fresh legs," Helton said, referring to Ingram and Barlow. "It was really nice to rest Vavae [Malepeai] and be able to see those two big horses run."
  • Ingram looked like the front runner to win the starting tailback job coming out of a strong spring, and now healthy, he is back in position to have a huge impact in week one. While he missed both scrimmages, Ingram does not feel rusty. "I feel great. I am ready to go," he declared.
  • The Texas transfer has a ton of experience under his belt, carrying the ball 339 times as a Longhorn, so he is not in any way awed by the prospect of playing for USC. "Football is very universal," he said. "Regardless of the scheme and regardless of how it looks, football is still football at the end of the day."
  • And while he is excited to run out of the tunnel on September 4, he does not anticipate pregame jitters, saying, "I love the game. I really do try to pour my heart and soul into it. I don't try to make the situation bigger than what it really is. I have got 10 guys out there counting on me, so being nervous or hesitant is something I can't put in my game."
  • Barlow is an experienced player as well despite still being classified as a freshman. He ran the ball 95 times over two seasons for TCU, so while missing most of camp was not ideal, the coaches still have a pretty good idea about what he can do. Barlow is more focused on the team goal of winning the Pac-12 than individual accolades, saying, "We are all going to get our share. We are all going to eat together. Being a part of a team, that's what comes with it."
  • Barlow considered USC out of high school, but ultimately decided it was too far and stayed closer to home, but once he hit the portal, USC was immediately on his mind because of his relationship with Helton and RB coach Mike Jinks.
  • Ingram and Barlow are both expected to spark USC's running game, but the big men upfront are still the key. Courtland Ford has appeared to solidify the left tackle position while Jonah Monheim and Jalen McKenzie continue to battle for the right tackle spot. "No matter how it shakes out, I see them both contributing each and every game," Helton said.
  • The head coach plans to "define roles" for each player by the end of the week, but also emphasized that all positions are evaluated on a week-to-week basis based on health and production.