By Eric Lambkins II
Sports Reporter 

USC's secondary stands out in the Spring game

 

April 25, 2024

George Laase

USC quarterback Jayden Maiava looks for running room during the Trojans Spring Game last Saturday.

Trojan fans, there's no need to panic. There will be life after Caleb Williams. This rendition of the USC offense should improve under their new quarterbacks, Miller Moss and Jayden Maiava and the defense is also looking better after their Spring Game last Saturday, April 20.

Moss, who electrified the DirectTV Holiday Bowl fans and set the internet ablaze, got the first crack at picking up where he left off. Moss didn't have the success that he had in the bowl game, as he threw for 133 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. However, USC head coach Lincoln Riley remained steadfast in saying that Moss would be the starting quarterback if the season started today.

Right now, the heart and soul of the Trojans lie in their defense, especially in the secondary. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, it's clear that playing complimentary football will be crucial to their success. But what catches your eye about their secondary are their lanky, ball-hawking cornerbacks. They had a knack for sniffing out plays and making game-changing interceptions throughout the scrimmage, forcing opposing quarterbacks to play with timing and accuracy.

On the day, the secondary forced four interceptions, punctuated by Prophet Brown's 104-yard interception touchdown after Jacobe Covington broke up a slant pass intended for Kyron Hudson. Marcelles Williams, DeCarlos Nicholson and Maliki Crawford terrorized all three Trojan quarterbacks, each securing one interception. Garrett Pomerantz plucked the ball out of the air from Bryan Jackson when he attempted to set up a reverse run for Xavier Jordan.

There were things of note on offense. The Trojans have a throwback offensive line akin to when Pete Carroll was at the helm. They're big, physical, intelligent, and play with smooth brutality. Throughout the game, the line frequently pushed the defensive line around, creating holes for running backs to run through, and they held up against the blitz.

"I do think we're going to have the ability, it feels like right now, to move more people off of the ball than maybe we have had in the first two years," Riley said. "We've got a little bit more mass, a little bit more girth, we're starting to look more like the o-line at USC ought to look like, and so I think that's very exciting." Redshirt freshman left tackle Elijah Paige is a unit. The 6'7" giant plays with great feet, leverage, and vision and fully grasps what defensive fronts want to do.

The Trojans have a collection of running backs that Lincoln Riley can deploy that will take full advantage of the holes the offensive line creates. Take A'Marion Peterson, a redshirt freshman who's an absolute powerhouse on the field. Just ask Garrison Madden, the redshirt sophomore linebacker who probably felt like a speedbump after trying to tackle Peterson. The way Peterson runs with that raw power and balance is something to behold. But Peterson is more than a punishing back. He also displayed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up blitzes.

Senior Woody Marks showcased great elusiveness, agility, and vision, rushing four times for 29 yards, while sophomore Quentin Joyner showed a great burst, taking his lone carry for 16 yards.

George Laase

Trojan defensive back DeCarlos Nicholson (#17) gets ready to intercept a pass during USC's Spring game.

USC has a deep receiver room bustling with speedsters, route-running technicians, and chain movers, all with big-play ability. Makai Lemon is a technician at the position who stood out with great body control to beat Brown and haul in a touchdown from UNLV transfer quarterback Jayden Maiava.

Moss went 16-for-21 for 133 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Maiava went 15-for-17 for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Jake Jensen went six-for-eight for 91 yards and one interception.

Lemon caught six passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Jackson caught one pass for three yards and a touchdown. Peterson rushed nine times for 41 yards and a touchdown. Jackson rushed 10 times for 13 yards and one touchdown.

Follow Eric on X @elambsquared and Instagram @elamb5quared.

 

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