Los Angeles, CA — After a disappointing 5-7 season in 2018, the USC Trojans needed to showcase that their 2019 season was going to be better. The team invited fans to come out and watch their scrimmage at their annual Fall Showcase at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
However, this was not the Trojan team fans were accustomed to. USC put on display their new-look offense that featured wide offensive line splits, plenty of passes and a no-huddle tempo.
After a roller-coaster of an off-season, the Trojans brought in new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who once led a high-powered offense as a quarterback for Texas Tech. He served as the offensive coordinator at the University of North Texas the past three seasons and thanks to his Air Raid offense, the Mean Green finished with an average of 35 points per game the last two years, the highest in program history.
USC head coach Clay Helton, hopes that Harrell can have a similar impact on the Trojans offense in 2019 after failing to retain Cliff Kingsbury this off-season, who left for the Arizona Cardinals.
The festivities kicked off Saturday with a performance by USC’s marching band and cheerleaders performing the school’s fight song. Afterwards, the PA announcer recognized the anniversaries of the 1969, 1994 and the 2009 USC teams down on the field.
After the ceremony, the Trojans football team took the field in front of 10,000 fans on a beautiful 78 degree day in Southern California. The offensive players wore red uniforms and the defensive players wore white to differentiate the units.
The first play of the day was an six-yard pass from sophomore quarterback JT Daniels to wide receiver Tyler Vaughn. It was the first of many quick passes of the day, something Harrell’s offense will feature plenty of.
The first touchdown of the day came by the way of the second unit when quarterback Matt Fink connected with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 47-yard touchdown. The offense scored a total of seven touchdowns Saturday afternoon with St. Brown on the receiving end of two of them.
Harrell’s offense displayed their ability to stretch the field through the air with nine completions over 20 or more yards. That number could have been higher had it not been for the relentless pressure by the defensive line. Led by senior Christian Rector, the defensive line won the battle of the trenches and forced the quarterbacks into uncomfortable throws.
“I thought our pass rushers did an exceptional job today getting after the quarterback,” Helton said after practice. “There were a few times where if the quarterback held the ball any longer it would have been a sack so that’s promising.”
USC’s defense kept the run-game in check too, forcing the offense to become one-dimensional. Although it was only a practice, the front seven of the defense got the better of the offensive line on Saturday.
“I think it [the run game] was just okay today,” Helton commented. “I wish we could have gotten more out of them today but it is still a work in progress.”
The youth on the offensive line and in the secondary are the biggest areas of concern for the Trojans entering the season. Both units had underwhelming performances on Saturday along with the running backs unit but the quarterbacks and wide receivers shined in the scrimmage.
None of the quarterbacks turned the ball over and all four made smart decisions knowing when to check it down or when to take their shot down the field.
“You didn’t see any forced balls and each one of them looked very poised,” Helton said. “They gave our receivers opportunities to make plays in one-on-one coverage and a lot of times the receivers made great catches.”
Despite Daniels taking the most reps with the starting offense, Helton refused to name his starter after Saturday’s showcase. He stated that he and Harrell would make a decision on Monday after going over the tape.
Helton’s unit has a lot of pressure to succeed entering the 2019 season and can’t afford another sub eight-win season. The Trojans kick off their season on Aug. 31st as they host the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Los Angeles Coliseum.