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USC Football vs. Stanford Practice Report: Establishing the Run

Sep 7, 2021

The Trojans have their eyes set on Saturday's Pac-12 opener with Stanford at the Coliseum.

  • Head coach Clay Helton opened his press conference by expressing sadness over the death of Sam "Bam" Cunningham today, calling him "a legend in our game and a legend of a man."
  • Most of the injury news was positive today but DE Nick Figueroa and DL Jacob Lichtenstein are dealing with shoulder issues that held them out of practice.
  • If Figueroa cannot go on Saturday, expect his snaps to be split between Korey Foreman and Tuli Tuipulotu.
  • The USC offense could be boosted by the return of two playmakers as WR Gary Bryant Jr. and RB Darwin Barlow are nearing full health.
  • The Trojans had five plays of 20 yards or more on Saturday, but they struggled to get behind a conservative San Jose State defense, which is something that Bryant does very well. "He's got a special skill set. He's really quick and can run," OC Graham Harrell said about Bryant. "I think he can add explosion to it."
  • Rushing three and dropping eight is becoming a standard look for defenses opposing Harrell's Air Raid offense. "It seems that way," Harrell said with a smile. "We still have to find a way to create explosives."
  • Harrell explained that punishing teams with the run game and staying patient with the short passing game is the key to defeating the coverages USC has been seeing.
  • USC won the rushing battle, 160-69, over SJSU. "If we win the rush game each and every week, that's going to equal a lot of wins," Helton said.
  • Harrell also wants to see the receivers break tackles to turn short catches into long gains, which is a specialty of Drake London who continually refuses to go down. While other receivers might sacrifice a few yards after the catch to save their body from extra hits, London refuses to relent and Harrell has no plans to tell him to take it easy. "I just think that's the way Drake plays. I don't ever want to turn him into someone he's not," Harrell said. "That's just his style of play."
  • After London and Tahj Washington, the tight ends drew the bulk of the targets from Kedon Slovis, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to Erik Krommenhoek. "Those tight ends, we've got some good ones, so it makes it fun to use them," Harrell said about deploying two tight ends consistently on Saturday. "You can get in some sets with them and it makes you more versatile."
  • Externally, the offensive line was USC's biggest question mark coming into the season, but they were solid in week one, especially in the run game. "We've got to get better on the edges at tackle in pass pro," OL coach Clay Maguire critiqued. "I thought we did some good things as a starting point, but obviously there's a lot of room to grow."
  • While Stanford is coming off an ugly season-opening loss to Kansas State, USC is not taking the Cardinal lightly. "We know we are going to get their best effort this week," Maguire said. "We know their coach is going to rally them and get them going."