USC emphasizes defense with Utah on horizon

first_imgPutting on the brakes · During practice this week, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and the USC defense has put a lot of focus into slowing down the Utah offense, which leads all Pac-12 teams in red zone efficiency. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanWith the Trojans hosting No. 3 Utah on Saturday, USC could have one final chance to save their season. Interim head coach Clay Helton appreciated the focus and toughness throughout practice on Wednesday, especially with the defense.Helton made a point to focus on turnovers in practice.“I think it’s going to be an unbelievable key in the game,” Helton said. “[It’s] something we really stressed in practice.”Helton emphasized that the team is looking to carry the momentum it builds in practice into Saturday’s game.Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox made a point that Saturday’s game against the Utes will be a physical one.“They’re a physical, physical team,” Wilcox said. “It’s going to be a brawl.”Reflecting on the team’s performance against Notre Dame, Wilcox wanted the defense to focus on cleaning up multiple aspects of their game, like having better technique in terms of finishing on the ball.“We have to execute overall,” Wilcox said. “Execution is a result of your preparation through the week.”On both the offense and the defense, freshmen are continuing to make an impact on the field.“These freshmen are really providing a spark for us,” Helton said. “We’re young but we’re extremely talented.”Freshman cornerback Iman Marshall has impressed many, especially Wilcox, with his ability to adapt so quickly to the speed and physicality of the college game.“He’s extremely competitive,” Wilcox said. “It’s what enabled him to play early.”Helton also talked about how Marshall could have a bigger impact on defense so that sophomore Adoree’ Jackson can get more playing time on offense.On the defense, linebacker Cameron Smith has been garnering national attention. Smith leads the team with 53 tackles and is grabbing attention for the Dick Butkus Award, which is awarded to the nation’s best linebacker.Offensively, tailback Ronald Jones II has been a standout for the Trojans with his ability to complement USC’s committee of running backs this season.“I’m actually playing more than I thought I was,” Jones said. “I’m really happy where I’m at.”Helton mentioned after the Notre Dame game that his one regret was not getting the ball into Jones’s hands more often. For Jones, he doesn’t look at the game as his playing time and his snap count, but how the team performs as a whole.“I just want to win at the end of the day,” Jones said.Though he has been performing well, he knows that there are aspects of his game that he needs to work on such as  his over-the-head catching, flat routes and pass protection.Jones joked that he was able to block well in high school because the majority of his opponents  were the same size as him.“I knew blocking [it] was going to be a challenge,” Jones said about improving new aspects of his game.Looking ahead to Utah, Helton has three keys for the team to focus on: stopping the run, running the ball and protecting the ball. He knows that it will be hard to contain Utah senior running back Devontae Booker, saying he’s the type of guy who will keep driving even after the defense makes initial contact.“[He’s the] most physical runner in our conference,” Helton said. “His leg drive on contact is incredible.”Helton also worked on limiting the number of penalties on the offense.“Hand placement is really important for us,” Helton said.Helton explained how the team’s key to limiting offensive penalties is becoming aware of their hand placement upon contact on the offensive line.Even though they’re facing an undefeated Utah, the Trojans are still optimistic about their ability to battle on Saturday.“It’ll be a great challenge for us,” Wilcox said. “But our guys will be excited to play.”The Trojans will hold one more practice on Thursday before returning to the Coliseum on Saturday to take on the undefeated Utes.last_img

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