USC simplifying schemes on both sides of ball

LOS ANGELES -- Three months after USC finished with a disastrous 5-7 record, the Trojans returned to the practice field Tuesday with an eye toward the future.

USC coach Clay Helton told his players it's important for a leader to be able to own his mistakes, and in his case, that means identifying what went wrong in 2018. Part of the solution, he said, was to simplify things on both sides of the ball. New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell's system is inherently less complicated, but Helton also directed defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to scale things back.

"We basically created simple, effective schemes to allow our kids to play faster," Helton said. "I want us to focus more on the fundamentals and techniques of the game, because I think we're as talented as anyone we're going to play this year, if not better."

It's obviously way too early to formulate any sort of meaningful conclusion about what has been accomplished to this point, but the initial impressions about the schematic shift that came with Harrell's arrival have been positive.

"I love his system. It's built to go fast, built for an athletic quarterback, built to spread the ball around," USC quarterback Jack Sears said. "We have a lot of talent on offense from our running backs to our O-line to our receivers."

If Harrell does, in fact, want more of a mobile quarterback at the controls, that bodes well for Sears, who played well in one start last year with starter JT Daniels sidelined due to injury. Sears is clearly a better athlete than Daniels, who is most comfortable sitting in the pocket.

Daniels didn't have any issue with the competition opening back up.

"It's a completely new system, completely new coaching style," he said. "It only makes sense that you have a whole 'nother round of competition.

"The more you get to know [Harrell], you see he's really, really true to his principles. He doesn't waver. He's strict to what he believes in, and what he believes in works."

Matt Fink, Sears and Daniels are expected to split reps evenly throughout the spring. Helton did not say when he expects to name a permanent starter, and it's likely the competition could extend into fall camp.

Helton said the staff will release a two-deep depth chart every Friday in an effort to promote competition.

"I don't want any player on this football team to be comfortable with his position," Helton said. "He's always fighting for a job, he's always competing for a job."