USC Football: USC Spring Game Notes – Trojans Defense Shines, Offense Has Moments

We got our first teaser of the USC Football 2024 season in the form of the USC Spring Game. Overall, the defense had the better performance, which should be very exciting for USC Trojans fans.

USC Football: Offense Makes Mistakes, But Demonstrates High Ceiling

USC Football: 2024 USC Spring Game | Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud - LAFB Network
USC Football: 2024 USC Spring Game | Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud – LAFB Network

Each QB, Miller Moss, Jayden Maiava, and Jake Jensen, all threw an interception, Moss ending with two total. DeCarlos Nicholson hauled in the first INT off of Maiava. On the very next play, freshman standout Marcelles Williams picked off Moss. Then Maliki Crawford got into the action intercepting Jensen.

The final interception was just a great defensive play from Jacobe Covington and Prophet Brown. Moss drove the offense down into the red zone. He tried to hit Kyron Hudson on a post route in the end zone, Covington got his hand on the ball, and Brown intercepted it and returned it 100 yards for the Pick Six.

The offense did show some good things, however.

The running backs, led by Mississippi State transfer Woody Marks, demonstrated good vision and physicality. Quentin Joyner was the 2nd back behind Marks, freshman Bryan Jackson next in line (ended the first half with a touchdown), and A’Marion Peterson with reps after that, adding a touchdown on the final drive.

This young receiving group is showing a ton of upside. Lincoln Riley began the game with four receivers on the field, Makai Lemon, Zachariah Branch, Ja’Kobi Lane, and Kyron Hudson.

Duce Robinson got plenty of action as well, leading the unit with 56 receiving yards. Incoming freshman, Xavier Jordan showed early flashes as well finishing with 4 catches and 39 yards.

The offensive line also demonstrated improvement in run blocking and keeping a clean pocket (no Bear Alexander today) for the quarterbacks. At this point in time, the starting unit looks to be Elijah Paige at LT, Emmanual Pregnon at LG, Jonah Monheim at C, Alani Noa at RG, and Mason Murphy at RT.

After the game, Lincoln Riley said in his press conference that there is no question that Miller Moss is the team’s leading quarterback at the moment. Jayden Maiava is improving rapidly, but if the season started today, Miller Moss would be the starter.

Obviously, Moss had the two picks, but overall he showed command of the offense, and all through Spring Ball has demonstrated tremendous leadership qualities. To me, the challenges in the game were more a testament to the defensive improvement, specifically in the secondary.

USC Trojans Defense Shines

Speaking of the defense, let’s get to them. It’s only the spring game, I get it, but man does the unit look completely different from what we saw last year. The game was ‘thud’ not full ‘live’ tackling, but at the point of attack and the pursuit angles used, it was evident that vast improvements had been made.

The unit played fast and looked like they knew what they were doing out there. Something that could not be said most of last season.

With Bear Alexander out (nursing minor injuries), Kobe Pepe lined up next to Nate Clifton with the starting unit. Anthony Lucas and Jamil Muhammad started at the edge spots. Easton Mascarenas-Arnold is the clear starting Mike linebacker, and he is going to be a problem (in a good way for USC football) this season. He was all over the field and is a clear leader of the defense. Mason Cobb and Eric Gentry both got reps with the first team in rotation. Cobb got a little banged up later in the game and limped off the field, no update on the severity of that, if any.

For the front seven, my biggest takeaway was that Mascarenas-Arnold may end up being one of the most important transfers of this offseason. He is a stud that SC fans should be very excited about.

The secondary was the unit that shone the brightest in today’s Spring Game. Kamari Ramsey and Akili Arnold were the starting safeties. More of a rotation from the rest of the DBs, but DeCarlos Nicholson, Jacobe Covington, and Prophet Brown got a good bulk of starting reps and all played really well.

Some final notes.

The hype surrounding incoming freshmen Marcelles Williams and Kameryn Fountain is absolutely warranted. Both players balled out today, and both will be in the mix to get starting reps this season. Fountain is a game wrecker, but is also fundamentally sound in setting the edge. Williams is going to be a true lockdown corner and had an interception today. There were a lot of great performances from the 2024 recruiting class, and these two led the way.

With spring ball now in the rearview mirror, we now look to the remainder of the spring transfer portal window. Will USC lose any players to the portal? Who will they add to the roster? Keep it right here, for full coverage!