Trojans pass practice exam at Spring Showcase Game

One hundred twenty-three days after Kedon Slovis was sacked on the final play in the Pac-12 Championship Game against the Oregon Ducks, the USC Trojans took the field at the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in front of 5,000 fans in its 2021 Spring Showcase Game on Saturday, April 17. 

Spring football gives an outlook to where a team is progressing as we near the start of the season in September. It also provides an opportunity for players to showcase their skills to coaches and highlights areas of improvement.

This day proved to be no different for the Trojans. Those watching from the Coliseum and at home noticed very similar things that have plagued the team for seasons on end. With five turnovers, sloppy offensive line play, and a stagnant offense we’ve had our first look at the 2021 USC Football team. Here’s what we learned.

USC Spring Showcase Game. Photo by Melindaa Meijer/News4usonline
USC Spring Showcase Game. Photo by Melindaa Meijer/News4usonline

A look at the offense:

Junior shot-caller Kedon Slovis is back under center for the Trojans heading into 2021. However, the quarterback meeting room just got bigger with the additions of Jaxson Dart and local product Miller Moss, as well as Vanderbilt transfer Mo Hasan.

Moss took a good number of snaps, completing 7 of his 13 passes but it did not come without his hiccups throwing a pick to Chris Steele and botching a handoff to Texas transfer Keontay Ingram.

Jaxson Dart, a signing day pickup from Utah had a breakout day. He threw seven for 13 and finished with 99 yards, one touchdown and a pick. Dart showed solid accuracy, poise and strength.

USC head coach Clay Helton addressed the media after the scrimmage and talked about the performance he saw from his quarterbacks on the day.

USC Spring Showcase Game. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

“I didn’t see deer-in-the-headlights or big eyes,” Helton said. “They looked like they went out there and just played, which is what you want to see.”

A look at the defense:

Like many saw last season, the Trojan offensive line continued to see little improvement. The team’s defense, however, was a strong suit in the team’s success in 2020. The defensive line play came out to make a statement where they got stops on short-yard runs and pressured the quarterback into out-of-pocket passes.

USC Spring Showcase Game. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

Besides the defensive line, we also saw the linebacking corps, which was spearheaded by NFL-bound Talanoa Hufanga, impress the coaches on the afternoon.

“You didn’t see a ton of explosive runs in between the tackles,” Helton said. “I thought they played physical, I thought they played with that relentless effort and they chased the ball.”

Overall Outlook:

Looking at the 2021 squad as a whole, there’s a lot of room for improvement. There has been a lot of chatter about what needs to change since Helton took the reins of the program in 2016. For example, playing down to their opponent’s level and establishing their own style of play rather than playing from behind for starters.

Helton put emphasis on “any experience is good experience.” What we saw during the spring showcase won’t necessarily mean it’s what will translate and be seen on the field this fall.

The Trojans look to fix those things during fall camp which will kick off in August before they open their 2021 campaign against San Jose State on Sep. 4 at the Coliseum.