Practice Report: USC Football Faces Test in Wazzu's Mobile QB Cameron Ward
Last week it was Arizona State's Emory Jones; this week it's Washington State's Cameron Ward. No. 6 USC's defense will face another difficult challenge on Saturday, battling its second consecutive mobile quarterback in the Coliseum.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch shared Wednesday why it's such a tall task.
"The quarterback extending plays, they can make a bad play a good play real quick," Grinch explained. "They can punish you for having good coverage. They can punish you for doing things right, which is the worst situation you could possibly be in defensively."
So how can the Trojans' prepare for the unscripted nature of a mobile quarterback?
"There's not a magic answer for it," Grinch said bluntly. "One of the things is making sure when you get a chance to get them down, you got to find a way to and you got to make sure as best you can. If you're not specifically in coverage, it's all hands on deck."
The irony was not lost on Grinch when explaining the grievances that arise when defending a signal caller who can extend plays with his legs. His words likely echoed what defensive coordinators say each week when preparing for USC's own quarterback, Caleb Williams.
"That's why everybody loves having a scrambling quarterback, and we certainly love having ours," Grinch said with a smile.
Notes from USC's Wednesday practice of Washington State Week
Grinch was asked about the status of linebacker Shane Lee heading into Saturday's matchup. "We'll play him if he's available," Grinch said simply.
Cornerback Mekhi Blackmon shared how USC's defensive backs can counter Ward's mobility:
"You have to match, have great eyes and continue to guard your man," Blackmon said. "You never know what's going to happen. Receivers tend to change their route and stuff when you're when a player is going on for longer and longer. So just having good eyes and attaching to your man as soon as possible is probably the challenge."
Washington State's defense is known for its pressure, ranking third nationally in tackles for loss. Quarterback Caleb Williams weighed in on whether that pressure could force him to make quicker decisions:
"No. That's one thing that you don't want to do as a quarterback, you don't want to feel rushed," Williams said. "You don't want to let somebody make you feel rushed. You don't want any of that. So you go through your progressions, if you feel something, you get up in the pocket, you get out. You get up and you deliver. You get out and run, or whatever the case may be. But no, I'm not going to let anyone speed up my progression and my receivers, anything like that."
Wednesday's media availability