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Meet Frank Martin II

usc-spring-game-2017-mcgillen-2343.jpgName: Frank Martin II

Position: OL

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Size: 6-foot-5, 310 pounds

Age: 19

High School (Hometown): Mater Dei HS (West Covina, CA)

Game: Martin is a big body who currently projects as an offensive guard, but the Trojans like to train their linemen at several spots, so he worked at tackle as well last year. He is expected to start this season as a reserve, competing for playing time behind the veteran guards.

Prep Career: He made 2015 Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, USA Today All-California first team, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, All-CIF Pac 5 Division, Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket All-CIF, Los Angeles Times All-Area first team, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-Trinity League first team as a senior offensive lineman at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana.

Martin on why he chose USC: "[I wanted a school with] prestigious academics and football tradition, and [the] opportunity to showcase my skills at the highest level no matter where they might be."

Fun Fact: Martin went to high school with three current USC teammates: CB Jonathan Lockett, DL Connor Rossow and LB Grant Moore.

Here is Martin on who has mentored him at USC, growing up watching Trojan football and more:

To Whom It May Concern

USC_Football_Arizona_McGillen_DSC_2939110815 (1).jpgNext week, JuJu Smith-Schuster and group of fellow Trojans will learn their fate at the 2017 NFL Draft.

In preparation, Smith-Schuster penned a resume and a cover letter in The Players' Tribune to explain why he thinks teams should draft him. His cover letter focuses less on his stats -- though 3,092 career yards are certainly impressive -- and more on his passion for football and competition.

Twenty-year-old Smith-Schuster pointed to his performance in USC's 2015 game vs. Arizona as an example of his love for the game. The wideout hauled in eight balls for 138 yards and a touchdown,  all with a metal plate inserted into his right hand, having broken it in USC's game the week before.

"When you know something is going to hurt and you not only do it anyway, but you do it at full speed and don't miss a beat -- that's the definition of toughness, in my opinion," said Smith-Schuster of his mindset that night.

Read Smith-Schuster's full NFL Draft Cover Letter here.

Meet Vavae Malepeai

usc-football-spring-2017-mcgillen-6542.jpgName: Vavae Malepeai

Position: RB

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Size: 6-foot-0, 190 pounds

Age: 19

High School (Hometown): Mililani HS (Aiea, HI)

Game: Malepeai quickly opened eyes during Fall Camp before suffering a collarbone injury which ended his chances of playing as a true freshman. In year two, he is ready to compete for carries behind Ronald Jones II. He is a stocky, young tailback who runs with reckless abandon and could play an important role as the Trojans look to replace Justin Davis.

Prep Career: He made 2015 Prep Star All-West Region, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year, KHON2/Cover2 Hawaii High School Weekly Marcus Mariota Award State Player of the Year, USA Today All-Hawaii Offensive Player of the Year and All-Oahu Interscholastic Association Blue Offensive Player of the Year as a senior running back at Mililani High. He ran for 1,952 yards on 234 carries (8.3 avg) with 29 TDs in 2015.

Malepeai on the veteran leaders at tailback: "Even though older guys like [Ronald Jones II] and [Aca'Cedric Ware] are injured right now, they take the time to actually watch what we're doing on the field. So when I come to the sideline, they do a great job of taking that leadership role and informing me what I did wrong, what I did great."

Fun Fact: Malepeai originally gave a verbal commitment to attend Oregon, where his uncles, Silila (1990-94), Pulou (1993-95) and Tasi (1994-96), played football. 

Here is Malepeai on why he chose USC, fighting through adversity and more:


McGillen Gallery: 2017 Spring Game

On Saturday, USC Football capped off a month of spring practice with its annual Spring Game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Trojans fans had the opportunity to see USC's younger players show their stuff, check out USC's Rose Bowl championship rings and more.

Check out team photographer John McGillen's photos:

Spring Show

Trojans Put On A Spring Show

2017 USC Spring Game Preview

2017 USC Spring Game on Saturday

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at Noon PT on Pac-12 Network

USC-FOOTBALL-SPRING-BALL-040617-MCGILLEN-5290lr.JPGTrojans to Watch: Second-Year Wide Receivers

USC is forced to replace a lot of production at the receiver position after the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, Isaac Whitney and De'Quan Hampton, who will all be in attendance on Saturday to collect their Rose Bowl rings. While the Trojans still have Rose Bowl hero Deontay Burnett and versatile veteran Jalen Greene, a new crop of pass catchers will be on full display, including sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. (pictured) and redshirt freshmen Tyler Vaughns, Velus Jones Jr., and Josh Imatorbhebhe. The exciting quartet has shown tremendous improvement over the five weeks of spring football, building chemistry with QB Sam Darnold. The Spring Game provides a nice showcase for the young receivers to put their talents on full display.

3 Keys

Last Men Standing

The USC roster has been ravaged by injuries this spring, so head coach Clay Helton explained that Saturday's exhibition will look more like a practice than a game. The Trojans simply don't have enough bodies to divide into two teams and go at it. However, there are several competitive portions on the schedule, providing the healthy players a chance to make an impression on their coaches and the fans. Keep an eye on several position battles as young Trojans like DL Marlon Tuipulotu, ILB John Houston Jr., CB Jack Jones, RB Vavae Malepeai, DB Jamel Cook, TE Cary Angeline, OL Roy Hemsley and others are making a strong push for playing time.

The Interludes

The crowd will be treated to three in-game ceremonies, headlined by the return of the NFL-bound seniors and juniors from last season's Rose Bowl champions. Along with a first look at the rosy rings, the Trojan Family will also be introduced to the 2017 recruiting class, which was ranked in the national top five. Plus, the record-setting USC men's basketball team will be saluted on the field. Finally, fans will get a chance to line up for autographs after the game as all Trojans will be signing at tables.

Just a Taste

This is your last chance to enjoy Trojan football for several months, so don't miss out. The new season kicks off on Saturday, September 2, when USC hosts Western Michigan. The 2017 home schedule is loaded with big games, including Texas, Stanford, Utah and UCLA. Click here for ticket information. The Trojans have high hopes for this season with the return of Rose Bowl MVP Sam Darnold, rushing leader Ronald Jones II, leading tackler Cam Smith, sack leader Rasheem Green and much more.

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2017 Spring Practice #14: Notes

The Trojans wrapped their final practice of the spring in anticipation of Saturday's Coliseum showcase.
  • In addition to the long term injuries, here are the rest of the players that will not participate in the USC Spring Game: DL Kenny Bigelow, DB Isaiah Langley, OLB Porter Gustin, OL Andrew Voorhees, TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe, TE Tyler Petite, WR Deontay Burnett, WR Keyshawn "Pie" Young and OL Chuma Edoga, per head coach Clay Helton.
  • Because of the limited numbers, the Spring Game will be more of a "situational practice," Helton explained. "No score will be kept."
  • Saturday will still be competitive as every practice is. Today, the defense exploded when CB Ajene Harris picked off QB Sam Darnold in the end zone to finish off the day. "It felt really good, the team is just finishing up the last practice, last period of the practice, so it just was a good win for our defense right there," said Harris who trotted the length of the end zone with the football until his teammates mobbed him.
  • Harris has a spot locked down after his impressive play at the end of last season. Sophomore CB Jack Jones is trying to do the same. Helton said that Jones has been "exceptional" and expanded, "He's always had confidence, but you can see him being very assignment sound now." While he will have a lot of competition for the spot opposite Iman Marshall, Jones appears to have the edge coming out of spring. "We're going to have to count on him next year."
  • As each year passes, the leaders change. Last year at this time, DL Rasheem Green was an unproven commodity, but now he returns as the team's sack leader. "I just try to lead by how hard I work, by playing well and not messing up on my plays," Green said. "It is important that we don't just play with effort and intensity for two or three plays, but all the plays that we're on the field for."
  • Helton has made mention of it many times, but staff continuity could play huge dividends this year. "I just think it's the communication," said Harris about the difference. "It's our second year with the same defense, the same defensive coordinator, the same DB coach. So, our confidence is pretty up with the play calls and just the players around us, we're all comfortable and we're all hungry. We all come out here with a swagger and we're just ready to play."
  • The Trojans have not shied away from playoff expectations this spring, but Helton explained that it will take more consistency for this group to reach those lofty heights. The team needs to "start fast and play clean football right [from] the get go," said the head coach. Last year, the Trojans looked like a playoff team by the end, but "September is equally as important," said Helton, and USC lost three games in the season's first month. USC will have a difficult opening schedule again with Western Michigan, Stanford, Texas, Cal and Washington State all before October.
  • Here is Helton's entire press conference:



Meet Velus Jones Jr.

usc-football-spring-BALL-04012017-mcgillen-3430.jpgName: Velus Jones Jr.

Position: WR

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Size: 6-foot-0, 185 pounds

Age: 19

High School (Hometown): Saraland HS (Saraland, AL)

Game: Jones is an explosive athlete who is at his best with the ball in his hands. Instead of lining up on the outside every time like a traditional wide receiver, Jones is a flexible weapon who could be utilized as a downfield pass catcher, but also as a runner from the backfield.

Prep Career: Jones made 2015 Prep Star All-Southeast Region, USA Today All-Alabama first team, AL.com Super All-State first team, Alabama Sportswriters Association All-State Class 6A first team and All-Coastal Alabama first team as a senior wide receiver at Saraland High. He had 48 receptions for 945 yards (19.7 avg) with 10 TDs in 2015, plus 172 rushing yards with 2 TDs and 2 touchdowns on special teams.

Helton on Jones: "He's kind of that Percy Harvin-type, the ability to run great routes, explosive plays in the pass game, but then be able to hand him the ball on the outside perimeter and do some special things. He's a guy that I think a redshirt year really helped."

Fun Fact: From 1880 to 2015, fewer than five people per year have been born with the first name Velus.

Here is Jones on Alabama's love of football, his passion for science-fiction movies and more:



Meet Matt Fink

USC-FOOTBALL-SPRING-BALL-040617-MCGILLEN-0675lr.JPGName: Matt Fink

Position: QB

Class: Redshirt Freshman

Size: 6-foot-3, 195 pounds

Age: 19

High School (Hometown): Glendora HS (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

Game: Fink worked mostly with the scout team as a true freshman, learning behind Sam Darnold and Max Browne. Now, he is competing with early enrollee Jack Sears for the backup job behind Darnold. Fink has noticeably improved his arm strength and accuracy in his short time as a Trojan. He fits the mold of the new USC signal-caller in that he has the arm talent to sling it from the pocket but the legs to extend the play.

Prep Career: He made 2015 Prep Star All-American, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Cal-Hi Sports All-State Medium Schools first team, All-CIF Central Division, San Gabriel Valley Tribune All-Area first team and All-Palomares League Player of the Year as a senior dual-threat quarterback at Glendora High. He completed 87-of-174 passes (50.0%) for 1,258 yards with 15 TDs and 5 interceptions in 2015, and rushed for 1,106 yards on 180 carries (6.1 avg) with 17 TDs.

Helton on Fink's performance during the spring scrimmage: "Matt Fink came along. I thought he did some good things today. He's really progressed. I was proud for him today."

Fun Fact: Fink was also the punter in high school, averaging 36.8 yards on 37 punts as a senior.

Here is Fink on his relationship with Darnold, his musical interests and more:


McGillen Gallery: Spring Practice At The Coliseum

For the first time this spring, USC football made its way to the Coliseum for practice.

Check out team photographer John McGillen's photos from yesterday's session:

Meet Deland McCullough

Following the departure of Tommie Robinson, USC football hired Deland McCullough as running backs coach/run game coordinator.

McCullough spent the past six years in the same position at Indiana, developing three future NFL RBs in Stephen Houston, Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard, with another potentially heading to the league this year.

The Ohio native inherits a strong running game at Troy, led by junior RB Ronald Jones II, who rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 TD last season.

Meet Deland McCullough:

2017 Spring Practice #11: Notes

The Trojans practiced in the Coliseum for the first time this spring.
  • Here is the injury report per head coach Clay Helton: WR Deontay Burnett (dinged his head), OL Viane Talamaivao (elbow surgery went well), OL Andrew Voorhees (back) and CB Iman Marshall (shoulder sprain).
  • Coliseum-Spring.jpegHelton picked up the dirt from the Coliseum floor and reminded his team about the history of the stadium, and they rewarded him with one of the most energetic practices of the spring. "The competitive nature that our kids played with today makes you a happy football coach," he said afterward. "Every time that we walk into this special, special place, there's an attitude that we bring with it. I'm so happy that they brought that today."
  • Practice really heated up during the red zone drills with wide receivers and defensive backs going one-on-one. Michael Pittman Jr. did an "absolutely tremendous job" in his battle with CB Jack Jones during that session, said Helton.
  • The pass rush drills were equally competitive as the defensive front is "getting honed in with their pressures," according to Helton, who was "impressed with the aggressiveness." But, the head coach also complimented his quarterback, Sam Darnold, for getting the ball out quickly under duress.
  • OLB Oluwole Betiku picked up at least one sack in practice. He is a "hard man to block," Helton said, because he is now adding fundamentals and technique to his tremendous athleticism and physique. "At first when I came, I didn't really embrace [learning the playbook] or like it. But now I love it," Betiku said.
  • The USC defense emphasizes individual film study now more than ever because of the influence of Michael Hutchings, last year's senior captain, Helton said. "You have to know your opponent," said OLB Uchenna Nwosu. "You have to study your opponent. You have to know what type of sets he's going to give you."
  • Nwosu could end up being a senior captain this season as he's emerged as a respected voice in the locker room. "Of course, that is my ultimate goal to become an All-American who wouldn't want that, but the guys see me as a leader, trying to play hard for them and if I come off like an All-American to them then that's what I am looking for," he said.
  • Betiku uses his free time to study film and be around his position coach Johnny Nansen. "Whenever I have a little break in classes, I'll go meet [Nansen]," he said. "Sometimes I'll go alone and he just teaches me about life, teaches me about football, shares experiences, shows me NFL film, and guys that play my position."
  • The Coliseum (pictured) is under construction as the two video boards on the Peristyle come down. Two new video boards will soon go up in the upper corners of the stadium on that side in place of the bleacher seats.
  • Here is Helton's press conference in full:

2017 Spring Practice #10: Notes

With spring football more than halfway over, the Trojans focused on tempo and backed up situations in practice on Tuesday.
  • usc-football-spring-2017-mcgillen-6542.jpgUSC head coach Clay Helton announced that senior guard Viane Talamaivao underwent elbow surgery today after a slight tear to the bicep, but noted that he expects Talamaivao to be ready for camp and the 2017 season opener.
  • Helton said he's trying to make the best of one of his veterans' injury. "It hurts us a little bit offensively when you have that kind of experience out, but it's a great opportunity for some young guys to get out there and get extra reps," Helton said. "I look at Andrew Vorhees and Roy Hemsley getting those types of reps with the 1s -- those are valuable."
  • Helton stressed the importance of training linemen at multiple positions on the heels of Talamaivao's injury news. Vorhees, Hemsley and Chris Brown have all practiced at both tackle and guard during spring ball. "By multi-training your guys, I think you make yourself a better asset," Helton said. "Not only for this league, but the next league also."
  • Behind the offensive line, redshirt freshman Vavae Malepeai (pictured) has been getting increased reps in the absence of injured vets Ronald Jones II and Aca'Cedric Ware. "Even though older guys like Rojo and Ced are injured right now, they take the time to actually watch what we're doing on the field," said Malepeai. "So when I come to the sideline they do a great job of taking that leadership role and informing me on what I did wrong, what I did great.
  • While learning from his teammates, Malepeai is also adjusting to a new running backs coach in Deland McCullough. The redshirt freshman described McCullough as "intense" at times, "but then again there's times where he takes the drill and slows it down so we can understand why we're doing it," Malepeai said. "He really takes care of us."
  • Fellow redshirt freshman Velus Jones Jr. has also seen his playing time increase this spring. The wideout said his chemistry with QB Sam Darnold is "getting to the top" despite the defense catching on to the offense's plays during spring ball.
  • While Jones and redshirt freshman wideout Tyler Vaughns were impressive as usual, offensive coordinator Tee Martin dubbed today Michael Pittman's best practice, punctuated by Pittman hauling in a high ball in a third down situation.
  • Thursday's practice will take place at the LA Memorial Coliseum for the first time this spring.
  • Here is Helton's full press conference:

Trojan Tribune: Michael Hutchings

Written by Michael Hutchings, USC football senior captain

USC_Football_Notre_Dame_Coliseum_2016_McGillen_6454.jpgI have always been real.

My parents were like that with me as a child. They wanted me to be realistic with myself and set realistic goals.

After college football, I knew that my NFL chances were slim to none, so I just played my odds and decided to pursue another profession that motivates me. I would be more of a free agent type, which would put me behind. I just figured I'd get ahead by starting my commercial real estate career in investment sales at 21-years-old instead of waiting until I was 23 or 24.

Once I made that decision, accepting a job offer in the middle of my senior season, it freed me up. I was good. I was relaxed. I had my plan set for after school, and I just played. I was playing with zero pressure. I was just playing football and having fun because I knew it was my last few games playing football.

It could not have worked out any better. My final college tackle was 3rd-and-4 in the Rose Bowl, stopping Saquon Barkley in the backfield, and forcing a punt that led to the game-tying drive. To go out as a captain, win the Rose Bowl and just the season we had, it was a dream.

USC_Football_Rose_Bowl_2017_PSU_McGillen_3544.jpgI want to stay around USC and stay involved still with the athletic program, with football. I really used the game as a platform. I want to relay that message to everyone that goes through here. There's 85-90% of us that don't go to the NFL. Let's use it as a platform to still be successful even if you don't fulfill your ultimate dream of playing professionally. Let's still be successful in the business world.

That's definitely why you choose USC and that's what they preach to you during recruiting. I did not really see it until I was proactive going on an internship hunt and going on a job hunt. That's when I met so many people that were powerful in Los Angeles that were connected to USC. Once you start meeting different people, they want to introduce you to more USC alums and it becomes a cycle. That's what happened with me. JK McKay set me up with my internship sophomore year and ever since then, I have been meeting people in the real estate industry that were connected to USC.

Business leaders gravitate towards student-athletes, not because of the prestige of it, but because of the work load that we take on. We have transferable skills that allow you to go into the work force. We are used to structure. We are used to the daily grind of being challenged. As my gap got smaller for my NFL chance, I had to widen my range of transferable skills for the business world, including showing leadership as a captain.

I think being personable was the main reason that I was chosen by my teammates. I formed a relationship with pretty much every guy in the locker room. I could have a conversation with any of my teammates and know a little bit about them. That relates to any field you are in. It's just relationships. I take pride in having good relationships and keeping strong bridges with anybody around me.

The veterans before me, like Hayes Pullard and Devon Kennard, showed me the way. I kind of just did what those guys passed down to me. The goal is to continue the fountain of youth so everybody understands how this works. You want guys to look back and say, 'This guy really helped me a lot.' Whether it is something small or something huge, on the field or off the field, I just want them to be able to take one thing from me.

USC_Football_Rose_Bowl_2017_PSU_McGillen_4866.jpgI will miss the locker room. You are with the guys 12 hours a day. I enjoyed the work leading up to your test every Saturday. Every week, you had something to look forward to as far as a new challenge. Hopefully, I have something like that as far as a new challenge in my new job, but the weekly test was fun for me.

What I won't miss are the 5 a.m. wake-up calls and morning team runs throughout the summer, but I think that's what helped shape me. I would go to team runs at 6 a.m., go to my internship and then come back for 7-on-7 sessions in the evening.

I am somebody that if you are going to do something, be all in. I am motivated by the people that come behind me. I want to set an example for them. That's what really drives me.

I am going to have some fun and travel Southeast Asia after the semester and then begin my new job in July. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead for me and my teammates. You will see me. I'll be around. I cannot wait to watch this team and program continue to grow and succeed.

Proud to be a Trojan for life. Fight On!

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2017 Spring Practice #9: Clay Helton

Written by Alexa Palermo

USC took the field on a warm Saturday morning for their ninth spring practice. The Trojans focused on red zone situations in front of a large crowd of coaches.

Watch USC head coach Clay Helton's full press conference after Saturday's practice:

2017 Spring Practice #8: Notes

The Trojans hit the halfway point of spring football on a sunny Thursday evening.
  • The defense was "dominant" today, according to head coach Clay Helton, winning all the competitive periods.
  • usc-football-spring-2017-mcgillen-6466.jpgLast spring, Helton's greatest concern was youth and lack of depth on his defensive line. The problem was exacerbated by the loss of Kenny Bigelow to a season-ending knee injury. But now, Bigelow is back and he's got company up front, turning the Trojans' defensive line into an expected strength of the team. "It was terrible sitting out again," said Bigelow about last year. "But at the same time, I watched a lot of guys grow up. Guys have transcended themselves, transformed themselves completely, and matured right in front of my eyes. That's something I'm glad I got to see."
  • Bigelow has dealt with nothing but adversity since coming to USC as a highly-touted prospect, but the hope is that his patience will pay off this season. "I'm just so proud of him," said Helton about Bigelow. "He can be a dominant player when he wants to be."
  • On the other end of the spectrum, true freshman Marlon Tuipulotu is starting up front as Bigelow works his way back into contact drills. The spring enrollee has opened his head coach's eyes quickly. "Just one of the more football instinctive kids that I've seen. He's really picked up the defense really quickly," said Helton about Tuipulotu. "You never want to totally count on freshmen but to have him step out like he has, man, he really is an asset to us."
  • DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu was the clear leader of the defensive front last year, and with his departure, OLB Uchenna Nwosu (pictured) is filling the void. "He's really capturing this bunch," Helton said about the senior. "He's the lead dog. He's the king of the lions."
  • Special teams has several holes to fill after losing kicker Matt Boermeester and return specialist Adoree' Jackson, but John Baxter will not make any decisions until the fall. With kickers, he uses spring football to focus on individual improvement. "In the spring I kind of look at it like you'd take a golfer out to the range and you're just working on his swing and his swing mechanics and those kinds of things," said Baxter. "Then, when we go to the fall, then we need to assimilate more into team."
  • As for replacing Jackson, perhaps the greatest return man in USC history, Baxter has narrowed it down to three or four unnamed candidates. "Really simple, when they catch the ball on a kick, if they act like a deer in headlights, they're out," he explained his tryout process. "If they're oblivious to the pressure of people coming at them, they're in."
  • While Jackson was a master at kick and punt returns, the skill sets are different, so the role might be split this season. "Kickoff returner is really a guy that just hits the gas, doesn't break stride, doesn't cut, he just runs it up in the hole. A lot like a tailback," Baxter explained. "Whereas a punt returner is a guy that kind of glides and slides then puts his foot in the ground to take the first seam he sees."
  • Due to all the injuries, Helton has decided to push the next scrimmage back and Saturday will be a regular padded practice. In addition to the names that have showed up on previous injury reports, LB Tayler Katoa suffered a knee injury which will need an MRI for further diagnosis. OL Viane Talamaivao (elbow) and S C.J. Pollard (ankle) are also out.
  • Here is the full press conference from Helton:


Start Your Engines

Today, USC head football coach Clay Helton was named the Grand Marshal of the 43rd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

On April 9, Helton will attend the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers' meeting and take a pre-race lap in an Indy car with driving legend Mario Andretti before uttering the famous phrase, "Drivers, start your engines!"

"I am honored and thrilled to serve as Grand Marshal of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, representing our football team and the Trojan family," Helton said. "It will be exciting to get an up-close look at the incredibly skilled drivers and their support teams, and the cars they drive, as well as seeing all that goes into making the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach such an iconic sporting event."

Prior Grand Marshals include boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya, filmmaker George Lucas and actor Patrick Stewart.

Click here for tickets to the event.

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Trojan Spotlight: WR Deontay Burnett

For Deontay Troy Burnett, attending USC on a football scholarship was always a dream. But the Serra High School product flew under USC's radar until just before Signing Day in 2015, when he got a call that changed his life.

Burnett accepted a blueshirt scholarship, came to USC and immediately got to work. After a freshman season during which he caught 10 passes for 161 yards, Burnett broke out in 2016.

When veteran wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. went down with an ACL tear in October, Burnett was forced to step into a starting role. He wound up with 56 receptions for 622 yards and 7 TD, including a record-tying 3 TD in USC's come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory.

Following the departure of Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, USC's wide receiving corps is relatively inexperienced, and this spring, Burnett is leading the pack.

Dream Come True

In yesterday's edition of USC's student-run newspaper, The Daily Trojan, sports editor Julia Poe detailed USC QB Sam Darnold's evolution from a young Trojan fan to a Rose Bowl hero.

Darnold grew up in San Clemente, CA, collecting USC football jerseys and excelling in T-Ball and track & field before taking on basketball and football.

Poe traveled to Darnold's hometown and spoke with him, his parents and his high school coach, who all describe the redshirt sophomore as calm and soft-spoken, despite possessing the type of talent that might go to some people's heads.

His even keel has played out on the football field in USC's favor many times, from his fumble-turned touchdown against Colorado to a game-tying dime in his record-setting Rose Bowl victory.

Click here to read the full feature on Darnold!

2017 Spring Practice #7: Notes

After Saturday's scrimmage, USC football hit the practice field again on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.
  • Head coach Clay Helton announced that LB Cam Smith sat with a stiff neck today. RB Ronald Jones II (toe), RB Aca'Cedric Ware (foot), WR/DB Keyshawn "Pie" Young (groin), TE Tyler Petite (shoulder) and RB Dominic Davis (concussion) also missed practice.
  • Helton called today's practice the best so far for the Trojan offense, praising USC's young receivers in particular for their performances.
  • Helton noted that he was impressed with the chemistry between Velus Jones and QB Sam Darnold, and with Darnold's ability to spread the ball out and not rely solely on his veteran receivers. "Usually, you get a little bit nervous that he would always look for Deontay [Burnett] or always look for Daniel [Imatorbhebhe], and he's really mixing the ball around nice," Helton said.
  • usc-football-spring-2017-mcgillen-6985.jpgDarnold noted that at every practice this spring, he's working towards building chemistry with the newer players on offense. He recalled a play during Saturday's scrimmage when RB Vavae Malepeai didn't turn around in time for a ball that went over his head, and used it to explain QB coach Tyson Helton's concept of "talking with the ball" in order to get on the same page. "It's just speaking to them with the ball," Darnold said. "If they're not around and the ball's over their head, it's kind of talking to them, like, 'Hey, get your head around. The ball's coming."
  • After the departure of three starters from the 2016 team, Darnold is also working towards getting more comfortable with the new offensive line. He joked that he's glad he doesn't have to throw over Zach Banner's 6-foot-8 frame anymore -- today, Chris Brown (a mere 6-foot-5) practiced at right tackle, after spending the first few weeks of camp at left guard.
  • Brown, who started the first game of last season at left guard, said he's comfortable on the left and right side, but that the transition between guard and tackle was more difficult, "just because you go from these big strong guys [at guard] to the fast guys that try to beat you off the edge [at tackle]."
  • Helton acknowledged that the staff had planned to switch up the offensive line at the midway point of spring ball, hence moving Brown to right tackle and Roy Hemsley to left guard today. Helton said they will remain at those positions for the remainder of spring ball, after which the staff will evaluate who fits best at which spot.
  • Chuma Edoga (pictured) looks ripe to earn the starting left tackle spot. Helton called Edoga athletic, but acknowledged that "he's always been a talented player with flashes of brilliance -- now we need a consistent 80 plays out of him. Not 30, not 40 -- 80, especially when you're at that left tackle position."
  • Here is Helton's full press conference:

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