Focus switches to Arizona State at Wednesday’s practice

first_imgRedshirt sophomore defensive lineman Christian Rector departed practice on Wednesday with a hand injury. Photo by Matt Karatsu | Daily TrojanThe football team took to the practice field on Wednesday for the second time since a disappointing 49-14 loss to Notre Dame last week. The Trojans can still win the Pac-12 South, but will have to perform better going forward, starting with this week’s road matchup with Arizona State.Preparing for the Sun DevilsHelton said that Wednesday’s practice focused on the team’s third-down game plan, specifically keying in on Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who leads the team with 51 receptions for 627 yards and three touchdowns this season.The focus extended to the other side of the ball, too. “Coach Bennett on third down is doing a really nice job everywhere, from cover-zero pressures to drop-eight,” Helton said of ASU’s defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. “He’s mixed it up really well, especially over the last two weeks, and they’ve created a lot of havoc.” The Sun Devils have come into their own over the last two weeks. After allowing an average of 36.4 points through their first five games, they have given up just 17 points total against No. 12 Washington and Utah. Arizona State held the Utes to 110 rushing yards and forced Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley to throw four interceptions last week. The Sun Devils look to repeat the feat against a Trojan offense that has struggled with turnovers all season.On offense, Arizona State is led by the running back tandem of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard, who have combined for 687 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season, including 168 yards and a score last week.“Both backs run hard, [and] they’re both big,” junior linebacker Cam Smith said. “Their running game works well for them.”InjuriesRedshirt sophomore defensive lineman Christian Rector left Wednesday’s practice with a hand injury. Head coach Clay Helton wouldn’t say if it was serious, but did admit he was concerned.“Whenever you have to leave the field it’s not good,” Helton said. If Rector is unavailable on Saturday, sophomore linebackers Jordan Iosefa, Connor Murphy and Oluwole Betiku Jr. could take turns in his spot.Helton also said he hopes to have redshirt senior wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. back tomorrow.“He felt a lot better today,” Helton said of Mitchell, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury. “We’ll see where it’s at tomorrow. I am planning on him making the trip.” Helton also said the team was preparing sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. to fill in for Mitchell if needed.Freshman long snapper Damon Johnson is out of concussion protocol and has returned to practice. Helton said Johnson was fully cleared for this week’s game. In addition, junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga did not practice Wednesday as he dealt with an illness.Finally, freshman tight end Josh Falo was held out with a foot injury. He will be evaluated over the coming days. After logging limited practice time yesterday, junior outside linebacker Porter Gustin was not wearing pads on Wednesday.“Being able to put full weight on [his injured toe] and run is the first step,” Helton said. “Hopefully we’ll get some change of direction over the coming days and see where he’s at by the end of the week.”last_img read more