Day 11 Footnotes: Chase Williams' 'swagger' solidifying nickel spot
While USC's cornerback situation remains rather unclear heading into the second preseason scrimmage Saturday, this camp has actually revealed there's a lot to like elsewhere in the Trojans' secondary.
Talanoa Hufanga, in particular, has tried to make that abundantly clear to anyone watching.
Near the end of practice Thursday, the sophomore safety punctuated his impressive preseason with yet another pick-6 -- his third of the week -- on yet another instinctive, impactful play that further teases his potential for a true breakout season.
It was the second to last series of the day for the Trojans, quarterback JT Daniels took the snap and fired into the right flat. Hufanga read it the whole way and darted into the passing lane to snatch the ball and take off untouched the other way.
"I don't ever want to play against that guy. I'm glad he's on our football team,'" coach Clay Helton said. "That's three this week. He's had a hat trick on pick-6s this week. He's so football instinctive and it goes back, I absolutely love two-way players … If you go back with him at Corvallis, he was as good an offensive player as he was a defensive player. I think he's got that dynamic of being able to read routes, knowing when the ball comes out, knowing spacing and understanding that if there's a flat route going out somebody's coming in and he does a great job."
Helton, for the second time this week, reiterated that he thinks Hufanga could be "one of the better safeties in the country" this fall. But again, his mounting hype has been well told already this month. (We wrote about it here yesterday).
More to the point is the stark dichotomy that has developed within USC's secondary as a whole -- a group of talented yet unproven young corners whose most consistent trait might be inconsistency, and the contrasting safety/nickel spots that seem to inspire as much trust from the coaches as any on the defense.
Even if those players aren't actually all that experienced either.
Between Hufanga (who missed the final three games of his freshman season with a broken collarbone and the end of spring practice with another one) and redshirt sophomore Isaiah Pola-Mao (who had his season end after just two games last fall), the Trojans' starting safety spots have effectively been set since the spring. While Helton raves about Hufanga, DBs coach Greg Burns calls Pola-Mao "Mr. Consistent."
And then there's the potential X-factor.
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Redshirt freshman Chase Williams wasn't much on anyone's radar this time last year. He became marginally relevant when an absurd rash of attrition at safety prompted the coaches to move him from cornerback to safety in mid-September. He'd end up getting into four games overall as a true freshman and starting at free safety in the finale against Notre Dame.
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