2016 Fall Camp #17: Notes

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The Trojans took their pads off today for a lighter practice before tomorrow's scrimmage, which will solidify the depth chart for Alabama.
  • Full injury report, per head coach Clay Helton: DT Rasheem Green (knee), G Damien Mama (ankle), DT Noah Jefferson (back), S Marvell Tell III (hamstring), CB Isaiah Langley (concussion), S John Plattenburg (concussion), DT Kevin Scott (hamstring).USC_FOOTBALL_FALL_CAMP_080416-5319.jpg
  • The Trojans practiced their overtime situation today, as Helton continued to stress situational football. "I thought it went very well with the ones, driving down and scoring," Helton said.
  • According to RB Aca'Cedric Ware (pictured), the running backs practiced technique and fundamentals today. Ware, who is looking to get into the mix a bit more this year behind Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II, says he has "way more confidence this year" and that he's "not guessing out there anymore."
  • Ware hails from DeSoto, TX, so he's been looking forward to the season opener at AT&T Stadium for a long time. "I have a lot of family coming," he said. "If I can get enough tickets, I'm hoping to get at least 20. But if I can get more, it'll be more."
  • TE Tyler Petite is another sophomore whose confidence level has increased from Year 1 to Year 2. He said that the arrival of QB Coach/Pass Game Coordinator Tyson Helton might mean a bigger role for tight ends this year. "Obviously his tight end last year had a really big year," Petite said. "And I think the other big part is that we've shown that we can do it."
  • Tyson Helton's advice will surely influence his brother's decision on a starting QB, which he'll make after tomorrow's scrimmage. "I look forward to, in that type of atmosphere, when they know it's their last time out there, how they perform," Clay Helton said. "I thank goodness that we took the time to be able to go through the spring and not just name it there, but go also through a training camp so we can make the best decision for our team."
  • Helton announced that FB Rueben Peters, S Matt Lopes and RB James Toland IV were awarded scholarships for the upcoming season.
  • USC will hold a 75- to 80-play scrimmage tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Howard Jones Field.
Here is Helton's full press conference:

De Grasse's Dreams

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USC alum Andre De Grasse won a bronze medal on Sunday in the 100m, but says the upcoming 200m (tonight at 6:30 p.m. PT) is his best event. Watch De Grasse discuss his Olympic goals and his time at USC:

Meet Oluwole Betiku Jr.

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USC_FOOTBALL_FALL_CAMP_080416-5161.jpgName: Oluwole Betiku Jr.

Position: OLB

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Age: 19

High School: Serra (Gardena, CA)

Game: Betiku, who moved to the United States from Lagos, Nigeria, in 2013, is still learning many of the intricacies of American football, but he is an exceptional athlete with a motor to find the football. After arriving in the spring, he used the extra practices to learn the technique and fundamentals that will enable him to tap into his physical strengths on the field. At a deep position group, he is pushing for time behind sophomore Porter Gustin.

Prep Career: Betiku played two years of high school football, earning Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Max Preps All-American first team, Cal-Hi Sports State Defensive Player of the Year and Maxwell Club National Player of the Year finalist honors during his senior year at Serra. Before Serra, he attended Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, but did not play football.

Clay Helton on Betiku: "Wole is coming on. I mean, if you look at him from Day 1 to right now, it's like night and day. It's like taking a baby deer and all of the sudden he's grown into an older person now. He's doing some good things."

Fun Fact: Betiku came to America after impressing coaches at a Nigerian football camp so much (despite having never played before) that they found him a host family in the United States. Three-time Pro Bowler LaVar Arrington became his legal guardian.

Here is Betiku Jr. on his goals as a Trojan and more:

Trojans in Business: Matt Willig

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Name: Matt Willig
Resume: Actor and Founder of Gigbone Productions

Sport at USC: Football

Aubrey Kragen (AK) How did you first get into acting?

Matt Willig: "Well the longer I played in the NFL, I was looking for something that wasn't a behind-the-desk sort of job. I was thinking about going into the broadcast booth and doing some sideline reporting, and then I got introduced to a commercial agent who dealt with a lot of ex-athletes. Throughout my career, I was hosting radio and television shows, with the 49ers and with the Jets, my first team. I just sort of got comfortable being on camera. So this agent said, 'Hey, let's try some commercial auditions in the offseason and see how it goes.' And I ended up booking my first commercial audition and had a couple of big campaigns, and that led to the decision of when I retired to give it a shot and see how it goes."

AK: Why do you think you clicked with acting?

MW: Literally, I'm the fifth of six boys, so I've always wanted to be on and noticed. It's kind of my personality --- I was always a prankster with several teams. You never know if that's going to translate into being a decent actor, but at least I had the ability to want to be on camera and be comfortable doing that, comfortable being someone else. As an actor, that's challenging, to try to see if you can put yourself in someone else's shoes. And it just came natural. So when I finally retired, I got into acting lessons and quickly learned that I had more than just being the big bruiser or the big bad guy, even though that's what I play a lot of times. I've also done some roles that required some serious acting. And I'm decent at it, so that obviously helped.

AK: Based on your size, I'm sure that you get a lot of calls asking you to play a certain type of role. Does that get frustrating to you, or do you embrace that?

MW: You'll hear a lot of people say that you go where the money is and your bread and butter, so to speak. I can't hide how big I am, you know, 6-foot-7, 285 or 290 pounds --- it looks even bigger on camera. So I embrace it, but it's always nice to do something where despite my size, I play someone who has some flaws or someone who has a little bit inside that you can get to know, and I've done a few films like that. I've been known as a guy who can come in and play different nationalities --- I play a Russian guy, I play a Hispanic guy, things like that. Playing different nationalities broadens the horizons a little bit.

AK: That leads me into asking about your role in "Concussion," which was a more serious role. I'm sure you could bring a lot of your own experiences to that, having played football, so what was that like for you?

MW: It was something I really wanted when I found out about it and saw that they were looking for a few athletes to come in and audition. You talk about roles that are kind of right in your alley and sort of made for you --- this was. Looking back on it, I wish it was a bigger role, but it was great. And I was able to use my experiences --- not only mine but people that I knew --- guys that were struggling that had gone through some things. I played with Junior Seau. Junior was my roommate as a freshman, so I knew Junior really well. Scott Ross was a linebacker that I played with at SC and he ended up taking his life. So it was all around me. And it was really cool as an actor to really get into that and feel that. You want to feel the emotions, and it was real. And I was able to use that and was really proud to be a part of the movie.

AK: Would you say that that's one of your favorite projects you've worked on? What are some of your other favorites?

MW: That would definitely be up there. Being in We're the Millers was fun because it's garnered me some additional notoriety. Doing a series like NCIS was a lot of fun --- I played a Mensa character with really high intelligence. Playing on the show Dexter was a lot of fun. At the time, that show was just coming into its own, and to play a bad character on that was fun as well. I always use the analogy that it's such a long ladder to success in acting. Just when I feel like I've climbed a few steps on the ladder, you look up and see how much further there is to go. It's a grind, like any other business. But I love it and I'm comfortable saying that I get more out of it than I ever did playing football. I was so lucky to play 14 years in the NFL ... then to turn around and have a second career like this has been a godsend.

AK: It is pretty remarkable to have two separate successful careers. Do you think you just got lucky or do you think that's something everyone can do?

MW: It is very unique. I think I picked two careers that are very hard to attain and very hard to have success at. So I consider myself lucky. One of my mottos is, 'Why not me?' If I work hard and continue to believe in myself --- it sounds corny, but it's true. I just thought it was possible, I just went for it. I had people along the way, even in my family, that thought, 'You're crazy. That's ridiculous. Go out and get a job where you can make some consistent money and have a nice back end of your life.' It was the hard route. But it's been absolutely fulfilling and pretty unique.

AK: Lastly, what's next for you?

MW: You know, it's hard. You try to climb the ladder but I'm getting older, I'm reaching 50 in a couple years and you never know how long this will go on. My goal is to work for a good five more years to maintain the success, have some good roles, and then kind of ride off into the sunset and use my retirement. I'm hoping that there's one more leap up the ladder --- maybe a television series where I can work consistently. I just came off doing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and that was a lot of fun as well. I want to be like a Brad Garrett in Everybody Loves Raymond. He was the next door neighbor. And I think that would be a great role to have, as a second lead in a television series. I have a production company, so maybe I'll write it myself. I've been trying to pitch a few ideas. I think acting's hard --- producing is twice as hard. But who knows. I'm still enjoying it like nothing else. And until the enjoyment goes away, I'm gonna keep doing it.

Throwback Thursday: Quincy Watts

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Let USC track & field legend/coach Quincy Watts take you through his magical 400m run at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Trojans Add Two More

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april.jpgThanks to April Ross and Nia Ali, USC is adding two more medals to its all-time Olympic tally.

Ross, a three-time All-American with USC's indoor women's volleyball team, bounced back from her surprising loss in the semifinals to win a bronze medal in beach volleyball with partner Kerri Walsh Jennings on Wednesday. Ross and Walsh Jennings dropped the first set to Brazil's Larissa Franca Maestrini and Talita Rocha, but the pair came back to win the last two sets to secure a medal. It's Ross' second medal in as many trips to the Olympics, having won a silver at London 2012 with fellow Trojan Jennifer Kessy.

Click here to follow #USC2RIO!

Ali, meanwhile, placed second in the women's 100m hurdles to secure USC's first ever medal in the event. Ali, with a time of 12.59 (+0.0) finished in between fellow Americans Brianna Rollins and Kristi Catlin, giving the U.S.A. its first ever sweep in that event, which garnered the praise of the First Lady of the United States.

USC now boasts 10 medals at Rio 2016 (three gold, four silver, three bronze).


2016 Fall Camp #16: Notes

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The Trojans practiced amid the tunes of the Spirit of Troy on a hot day at Howard Jones.
  • Full injury report per head coach Clay Helton: G Damien Mama (ankle), DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu (hip), DT Rasheem Green (knee), S Ykili Ross (stomach bug), C Cole Smith (stomach bug), G Jordan Simmons (knee), CB Isaiah Langley (concussion), S John Plattenburg (concussion), T Chad Wheeler (plantar fasciitis).Lopes.jpg
  • Helton explained that he'd release an official two-deep on Sunday. When asked what factors he's considering in naming his starting QB, Helton stressed "the decision-making, the timing, the accuracy, and then being able to move the ball and put the ball in the end zone."
  • According to Helton, all 105 players on the roster are academically eligible this season. Helton thanked USC's Student-Athlete Academic Services team, noting that "they've established not only one of the highest team GPAs, but one of the highest APRs, which will be coming out in the upcoming year."
  • The Trojans emphasized their 4-minute offense at practice today. "That's really what we're focusing on all through this camp," Helton said. "Not only fundamentals and techniques, but also teaching situational football -- every situation which might come up in the season."
  • Safety Matt Lopes (pictured, #37) stood out with two picks in practice today.
  • No players were made available today. The Trojans return to practice tomorrow at 3 p.m.
  • Here is Helton's full press conference:

Meet Josh Imatorbhebhe

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USC_FOOTBALL_FALL_CAMP_080416-5848.jpgName: Josh Imatorbhebhe

Position: WR

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

Age: 18

High School: North Gwinnett (Suwanee, GA)

Game: Imatorbhebhe made heads turn last year when he posted a freakish 46" vertical at Nike's The Opening. Now, Imatorbhebhe, who joins his older brother Daniel on the roster, looks to make a name for himself at USC. He can compete right away as an athlete, testing extremely well in all strength and speed categories. The next step is to become a technician on the practice field in the hopes of earning time as a freshman.

Prep Career: Imatorbhebhe picked up 2015 Prep Star All-American Dream Team and Gwinnett Daily Post All-County third team honors as a senior. He hauled in 31 passes for 452 yards and 3 TD as well as one passing and one rushing TD. Imatorbhebhe also played basketball at North Gwinnett.

Clay Helton on Imatorbhebhe: "He's been a great 15-yard and line of scrimmage possession receiver, and now he's starting to do some things more down the field that we've seen in practice."

Fun Fact: In addition to his impressive athleticism, Imatorbhebhe can sing.

Here is Imatorbhebhe on who he looked up to before coming to SC, and more...

Trojans JetPack

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Our partner JetBlue Airways is offering USC fans a massive discount to travel with the Trojans this season. The Trojans JetPack features $50 one-way flights to see USC play at Stanford, Utah, Arizona and Washington, or all four games for a total of $400 plus a travel certificate for a free flight.

Click here to book your flights now!

The deal is available until Friday, August 19. To book, call 1-888-JETBLUE (538-2583), and choose option 3 between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. PT. This offer is not available on and is only available via phone. Also, please mention that you are interested in purchasing a Trojans JetPack flight.


2016 Fall Camp #14: Notes

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After a frustrating scrimmage on Monday, the Trojans were all business this afternoon on the practice field.
  • Head coach Clay Helton's injury report: LB Quinton Powell (strained neck), C Cole Smith (stomach bug), S Ykili Ross (stomach bug), TE Taylor McNamara (shoulder), OG Damien Mama (ankle), OT Chad Wheeler (PRP injection in his foot for plantar fasciitis) and DT Noah Jefferson (participating in individual drills).
  • USC_Football_fall_camp_mcgillen_081516_MCG2612.JPGOn the healthy report now, Helton praised WR Jalen Greene (pictured) to the team and the media for "acting like a pro" by rehabbing his hamstring injury and taking advantage of minimal opportunities. Greene made acrobatic touchdown catches in each of the last two practices.
  • Johnny Nansen has made the switch from running backs coach to linebackers coach, which is like being "back home" for the former Washington State linebacker. With his unit, he wants to "develop an identity and develop confidence in the kids." To do that, he has to "keep things simple so they can play a lot faster," which is made much easier by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's scheme.
  • Sophomore Cameron Smith is the only linebacker with extensive starting experience, and he's returning from a knee injury. "He's getting there," said Nansen, who moved Smith back with the first team for the first time during Fall Camp today. "Two weeks from now, I think he'll be full speed, but we're trying to make sure he gets to the game."
  • Even a step slow, Smith always seems a step ahead because of his knowledge and instincts. He is also an indispensable leader at the Mike position for a young front seven. "Cameron is that natural leader in the middle, but it's nice to have the other guys come along and be leaders too," said Nansen, who pointed out the growth of OLB Porter Gustin, OLB Uchenna Nwosu and ILB Michael Hutchings.
  • LB Osa Masina was hampered by nagging injuries throughout his freshman season, but he is a big time talent who is expected to play a significant role this season. "He's coming along," said Nansen about Masina. "We've just got to push him. It's about confidence."
  • The entire defense is growing in confidence, which is starting to give the offense headaches. However, Max Browne bounced back and performed much better than Monday's scrimmage. "It's what you expect as a coach," said Helton about Browne's resilience. "That's what experienced quarterbacks do."
  • The quarterback dilemma will be solved this weekend. Until then, Helton spends "every second" calculating stats from practice and watching film to "make the right decision for our football team" at the most valuable position.
  • The Trojans will not be as dependent on true freshmen this season with the increased roster numbers, but WR Michael Pittman Jr., WR Tyler Vaughns, OLB Jordan Iosefa and OLB Connor Murphy are all standing out to Helton lately as potential contributors.
  • On another steamy afternoon, Helton treated the team to some shaved ice after practice. 
  • Here is Helton's entire press conference: