The rushing statistics in the USC spring game sure looked awfully one-sided. Officially, the USC offense carried the ball 23 times for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The two running backs who carried the ball more than twice averaged 10.3 and 15.3 yards per carry, respectively. But head coach Lincoln Riley wasn’t going to overreact to what was just one of several scrimmage-like practices for the Trojans. And one of 15 practices that made up the entirety of spring ball.
“There was some good, some bad, and some in between on both sides,” Riley said of the rushing attack and run defense.
Riley said that lineup “was pretty solid” and played “pretty mistake-free.” He then pointed out solid play be several members of the second offensive line, including left tackle Elijah Paige, right guard Cooper Lovelace and right tackle Mason Murphy.
“There were some good things in the run game,” Riley said.
He added that a spring game setting can make things easy on the offensive line because the game plan on both offense and defense is so simplified.
“There’s not a lot of moving bullets coming at your and you’re just kind of playing a little more straight up,” Riley said. “So I thought that helped some of the young guys.”
Praise for the Running Backs
Riley said true freshmen running backs Quinten Joyner and A’Marion Peterson “played well.” He also pointed to some nice runs from veteran back Darwin Barlow, who finished with two carries for 16 yards.
MarShawn Lloyd had the highlight of the spring game when he took a swing pass, outraced a defender around the edge and then put a spin move on a second would-be tackler to get upfield for more yards.
Riley said the backs missed a few cuts, but he liked the explosive runs they did achieve.
Defense Had Some Good and Bad as Well
The numbers by themselves paint a bleak picture for the defense. But Riley saw some positives.
“Defensively, we got in the backfield quite a bit,” Riley said, adding that the defenders capitalized on some of those opportunities but also missed on some.
“Missed a few tackles that we need to make, but there was also some really good open-field tackling,” Riley said.
Austin Jones got things going for the running game when he got around the right side for a 20-yard gain on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Riley said the defense miss-fit a run on that play. But he said other than that, it was a competitive day between the first units on both sides.
Some of the bigger plays came against the second and third teams. Riley said a lot of the evaluation in a straight-ahead gameplan comes in seeing whether defenders can get off blocks and who wins those one-on-one matchups between runners and defenders in the open field.
And when it was all said and done, Riley reiterated, “Yeah, there’s some good, some bad, some in between.”
A More Physical Spring and Fall
Riley said what did stand out this spring was that they were more physical by design.
“We went a little bit more live this spring than we went the previous spring,” Riley said of more hitting and tackling. “I thought that certainly showed up.”
The Trojans did some form of tackling or physical play in every practice, even the ones where they couldn’t go full-contact all the way to the ground. Riley saw the benefits both for the defenders as well as the offensive players who got more reps where ball security became a factor.
Looking forward, it’ll be the same this fall for the Trojans.
“I would anticipate having a fall camp where, relative to last year, we do a little bit more as well,” Riley said.
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