USC focuses on fundamentals just days ahead of season opener

The team’s Wednesday practice was characterized by sharpness and a strong attention to detail.

Kedon Slovis

With the USC Trojans’ football season kicking off in a mere three days, head coach Clay Helton began finalizing preparations for the Week 1 matchup in Wednesday’s practice. USC did not practice in full pads, but the players nonetheless got some crucial work in to be fully ready for a 1-0 San Jose State team.

Offensively, the Trojans put a great deal of emphasis on timing in the passing game during this practice. Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis was given a few reps to continue developing his timing and chemistry with the receiver corps.

The continued work seems to be paying off for the starting quarterback, as he seemed both accurate and decisive throwing the football Wednesday afternoon. The timing and rhythm of the offense is going to be a key factor to USC’s success this season, so the current look of the offense can only be described as encouraging.

On the other side of the football, the team’s focus was all about the fundamentals.

“It’s just overall execution and playing really, really hard and physical,” Orlando said. “The Xs and Os are on us as a staff, putting these guys in the best position to be successful, but you’ve got to get off a block and make a tackle. That to me has been better just because we’ve had the time to train it.”

Without any live full contact reps, the unit covered a great deal of ground, preparing everything from pre-snap communication to making explosive plays in the secondary.

Playmaking was a hallmark of the Trojans’ defense last season. The team finished with nine interceptions in just six games, the most picks per game in the conference. However, with their interceptions leader a year ago, Talanoa Hufanga, now in the NFL, USC is anxious to see who that next big playmaker will be in the secondary.

The team hopes redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao may be able to fill that void in an increased role this season. Pola-Mao led the team with three fumble recoveries and five pass break-ups in 2020.

When asked about the difference between the time the Trojans have had this summer as opposed to 2020, Orlando responded, “Well it’s different. We’ve had time to train. Coach Stiner and his staff have done a really good job, so we’re stronger and faster from that standpoint. We’re starting to get into the monotony of preparing for somebody.”

One final area of interest for Saturday’s game will be the debut of the five-star pass rusher Korey Foreman. The freshman defensive lineman was rated the nation’s top high school football player a year ago and was the pinnacle of USC’s recruiting class this offseason. Because of how highly touted he was in high school and the great impression he has left on the coaches this summer, Trojan fans may get a chance to see the future of their defense as early as Saturday.

On Foreman’s potential role in the defense this week, Orlando revealed, “He’s gonna be in the game, we’re gonna roll him in and he’ll play quite a bit. Obviously he’s a dynamic guy so he’ll play.”

Just two practices stand between the Trojans and their first game action in eight months, and it is clear that the coaches and players are more than ready to get the 2021 season underway at the Coliseum.