Competition Tuesday: live team run-work with full crowd noise was a high-level session.
1) Injury update: OT Andrew Vorhees will be out until next week while still rehabbing from offseason minor knee surgery; Frosh LB Solomon Tuliaupupu has had the last screw removed from his foot (Mater Dei injury). He’ll start to run on the water treadmill soon. His prognosis is good, he’s really feeling good, but he still has a ways to go; Frosh RB Markese Stepp is under concussion protocol. “It’s all based on testing.”
2) Defensive standouts: DL Jay Tufele, OLB Hunter Echols (getting a lot of reps with Porter Gustin out), ILB Kana’i Mauga (hi-level of play, “Can become an emergency stack linebacker, if needed.”), CB Greg Johnson (the only DB highlighted: “He’s competing at a very high level. I really like what he is doing.”).
3) Impressive OLs: OG/OT Alijah Vera-Tucker has looked good filling in for Andrew Vorhees. Though he missed today’s practice with an ankle, Austin Jackson has been extremely impressive overall.
4) Helton on QBs: “USC’s early schedule placement will not determine how QBs are evaluated as the potential starter. “I’m gonna sit down after this weekend and kind of look at the two pre-season games (scrimmages) and kind of see where we are. It doesn’t mean I’m making a final decision.
“After one pre-season game, both myself and (QB) coach (Bryan) Ellis sat down with the quarterbacks and visited with them and told them exactly what their strengths in this camp have been and where their areas of improvement need to be to win the job. We’re taking the time to provide clarity for them and what they need to improve on for these upcoming weeks.
“I’m really gonna see the summation of a lot of practices and some pre-season games before making a decision. The best quarterback will play.”
5) Youth: DL Connor Murphy is getting a lot of reps too, as is DL Liam Jimmons and OLB Juliano Falaniko and OLB Porter Gustin is helping out like a coach on the field. “The young kids are playing a lot. The good Lord is watching after us. Our youth is finally showing up. We’ve had to redshirt some kids last year and let them grow up and now we are seeing the dividends. Lord help us, knock on wood, that we stay healthy. We have a true 2 – 2 ½ deep now that’s pretty dang solid.”
6) Jay Tufele: “He’s having a great camp. You could tell about him in the spring. He’s putting in the extra work. He’s the first one in study hall and the last one to leave. You can’t get him out of the weight room. He’s the guy that’s taking care of his body. It’s a credit to him. He’s becoming a mature soul. I’ve put it out in front of the entire team. When things are going right for you off the field, it’s gonna happen on the field too.”
7) 2018 team: “In the first three games, it’s not gonna really be about the quarterback. It’ll be about us playing great team football, playing great defense and playing great special teams. We’re really gonna have to lean on the run early in the season to take the pressure off the quarterbacks.”