After demanding Governor Gavin Newsom to allow them to compete, the USC Trojans dominated their unprecedented season in 2020. After going undefeated in their five-game season, they fell short 24-31 to the Oregon Ducks.
A positive take away for head coach Clay Helton last season was staying in the moment. The expectations that are put on the Trojans could cause people to focus on bowl games over in-season matchups. However, he stayed present while enduring health and safety protocols and preparing for games.
“That mentality is something that really hit home to me,” Helton said. “Probably one of the better learning experiences that I’ve had as a coach … that was definitely a silver lining for me, how important it is to be in the moment as a coach.”
After suffering an arm injury during the USC versus Washington State University game, junior quarterback Kedon Slovis took the offseason to evaluate his arm and build confidence.
“At the second half of the spring, I said I can’t try to be protective of my arm and my shoulder, my elbow, or whatever is going on,” Slovis said. “At some point you to say “here’s what it is that happened, you’re cleared now, you’re good” and you have to rip the band aid off.”
For junior wide receiver Drake London, this is the first time in his life that he is concentrating solely on football. In previous years, he has competed for both USC football and men’s basketball.
“Basketball has helped me tremendously with my game,” London said. “Jump balls, spacing and just little things like that helped my football game a lot.”
Slovis and London gave credit to the program’s strength and conditioning team to helping them improve during the offseason. The staff helped London be a faster and stronger wide out. Slovis noted how the strength and conditioning squad upped the game of the entire team.
“Everything they do is functionally based, you’ll feel very sorely, but you never feel stiff, you always feel mobile and loose,” Slovis said. “They do a great job to cut down body fat a lot, I think a lot of guys have saw a similar slimmed down but more muscular version of themselves.”
London led the Trojans last season with 502 reception yards, scoring three touchdowns. He and Slovis have been working on their routes and getting their timings down. London has been improving on all aspects of his game, including his route running, since spring ball. He also relies on the tutelage of his former teammates to improve.
Former Trojans like Indianapolis Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr mentored London. He inquired about how they handled leading the wide receivers and how they overcame obstacles.
“I’m just implementing that right now and using what they gave me,” London said. “Just using that and trying to keep that brotherhood that’s in that wide receiver corps.”
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Todd Orlando introduced nickel and dime packages that helped the team excel during the 2020 season. Helton noted how he saw the improvement of the defense during those six games and hopes they build off it this season.
“It’s so imperative that your defense systems are now multiple, especially against these spread passing offenses,” Helton said. “It’s so important to be able to have those nickel and dime packages to be able to slow down passing attacks.”
USC will host San Diego State during their season opener on September 4 at 2:00P.M.