USC football has begun the process of becoming whole.
On Wednesday, the first Trojan left the quarantine protocol and returned to practice after exposure to COVID-19. Head coach Clay Helton expects more players to join the team in the days leading up to Sunday’s game at 4:30 p.m. against Washington State at the Coliseum (Fox Sports 1).
But there still remains the possibility that USC will not be at full power at kickoff. The Trojans had to cancel their previous match due to positive COVID-19 testing and contact tracking that decimated a position group, reportedly through the offensive line The Mercury NewsJon Wilner.
Helton declined on Thursday to say how many novice offensive linemen he expects to have against Washington state, citing a competitive disadvantage.
Six of the USC’s offensive linemen in the second and third series are true freshmen. Casey Collier backs Alijah Vera-Tucker in the left tackle, Courtland Ford backs up the right guard and Jonah Monheim is second in line on the right tackle.
Thus, the Trojans may have to call on inexperienced players to close gaps if starters fail to clear the quarantine in time.
“That line of attack was a veteran group. So the number of reps our twos and threes got in all positions helped us, ”said Helton. Now, when you get into a ball game as a young person, you can always see, like I said, you see their eyes. If it looks like practice eyes, then we’re good – if they look like deer in the headlights, you’re going, ‘Oh god, okay, come here, buddy. Come and have a chat with me. ”
The Trojans have received good news in testing so far. In the past three days, USC has conducted five rounds of testing with no new positives among players.
But the USC is still required to follow the 14-day quarantine contact tracking protocol, starting from the moment the Trojans returned from their road race to Utah two weekends ago. The CDC implemented new federal guidelines this week – 10 days of quarantine after COVID exposure, seven days with a negative test – but they must trickle through the state and counties before USC can adhere to them.
‘You have to be patient in this circumstance. I’d like to have them back today, ”Helton said. “Maybe the CDC with the new guidelines, you say, ‘Oh my god, yeah, let’s get them back today.’ But you’re going to do what the doctors say, and if they tell us we can get them back, we’ll have them back. ”
The future after this week is still uncertain. After Sunday, the Trojans have one more game left on their regular season schedule, against UCLA next Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
This week, Stanford was forced to pack up and leave Palo Alto to play and practice in the Pacific Northwest for the remainder of the regular season due to the three-week ban on contact sports in Santa Clara County.
The USC has discussed its own contingency plans should a similar action be taken statewide or in LA County.
“We hope our levels drop and we don’t have to go to that shutdown, but when we do, we’ll find the next answer,” Helton said. “All I learned about this whole situation is to live in the moment, focus on the moment and when things change you can adapt and put your kids in the best possible place.”
REPORT OF INJURY
LB Palaie Gaoteote IV remains on concussion protocol. While the junior is showing signs of improvement, Helton said, it remains questionable whether he will play against Washington state.
LB Ralen Goforth (foot load) has returned to on-field training, but Helton said a decision on whether he can play on Sunday will be “close”.