LOS ANGELES — After a bye-week, USC is determined to continue their impressive performance from the first three games as the Trojans head to Tempe to face Arizona State. Although the offense has been consistent, the defense has made significant strides and will play a crucial role in the upcoming games.
Here are three takeaways from the practice this week:
USC needs to embrace the villain role
USC coach Lincoln Riley discussed his team’s need to embrace their role as they prepare for their first away game of the season.
“You’re gonna be every other team’s biggest game. That’s one of the great things about playing at USC,” Riley said. “It’s something that you have to embrace, and then you said it, this is a challenge that this team has not been on together yet.”
USC had a strong record on the road last season, winning four out of five games, with their only loss being against Utah. In order to maintain consistency, the offense will need to perform well, as Caleb Williams frequently emphasizes. Currently, the Trojans are scoring an impressive 59.3 points per game, the highest in the nation. Having observed the team’s practices since their victory over Stanford two weeks ago, it’s clear that they are making every effort to continue their success on the field.
“We’re ready,” Riley said. “This team is eager to get on the road and go face some of those challenges.”
The return of Cobb brings a much-needed boost of energy to the defense.
Mason Cobb hasn’t played since August 26th, but the defense hasn’t taken a backseat. They’ve improved every game, but there’s still room for more improvement. The return of Cobb brings a new dimension to the defense, as the linebacker is ready to take on Arizona State.
“These past two weeks have been good to me,” Cobb said. “I’ve been able to dive into the playbook more, get my body right and build my strength up. I feel really healthy and I’ll be ready to go Saturday.”
USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch expressed excitement about the linebacker’s return to the field after missing two games. Additionally, Cobb noted that he has never been on a team with a strong offense.
It’s time for Tahj to step up as the team’s leading receiver
Williams has relied heavily on Tahj Washington as their primary weapon on the field during the first few games. Among USC’s receivers, he is the only one with over 200+ receiving yards. Additionally, he is tied with Brenden Rice for the most receiving touchdowns, with three each. It’s worth noting that Washington is averaging an impressive 25.9 yards per catch.
The team’s offense is designed to have various ways to defeat you on the field, but thus far, Washington has proven to be the most dependable player. Williams once mentioned that Washington can make his role more challenging than intended. He specifically discussed Washington’s ability to maneuver on the field and how he has an edge over the opposing team’s defense due to his knowledge of the game.
The blocking duties of Washington on the return team are vital, especially for Zachariah Branch. It cannot be emphasized enough how crucial his role is in contributing to the team’s success.
“Just do your job and he’s going to take care of the rest” Washington said earlier this week at practice. He then added “Just stay engaged and don’t stop until the whistle blows.”