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USC starts planning to keep Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in check

Reviewing fundamentals is coming to an end.

As USC nears the conclusion of its second week of Rose Bowl preparation, Coach Clay Helton and the Trojans have turned to planning for Penn State and quarterback Trace McSorley.

“We watched a little bit as a team at his ability to scramble and his ability to be able to create and keep his eyes downfield and make throws,” Helton said Wednesday. “So we made that a big point of emphasis today with some of our pressures about keeping him in the pocket and don’t let him get out, because he can be extremely dangerous with those big receivers once he gets out there.”

McSorley has passed for 3,360 yards and 25 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He has rushed for 352 yards and six touchdowns.

Sophomore Porter Gustin and junior Uchenna Nwosu have grown into formidable outside linebackers and will be tasked with keeping pressure on McSorley during the Jan. 2 game.

“He’s really elusive,” Gustin said. “He escapes the pocket really well and makes some big plays for them.”

Said Nwosu: “He can make plays on the move.”

Gustin, who played in high school in Utah, counts pass-rush ability among his most improved skills. He has a team-high 12 tackles for losses, including 5 1/2 sacks.

“I have just learned the game a lot better,” he said, “learned a lot of things throughout the season.”

Nwosu also made noticeable improvement in his third season and has three sacks. The former Narbonne High standout took cues from former Trojans linebacker Su’a Cravens, now with the Washington Redskins.

“He taught me everything from how to read, how to play certain plays, what to do in certain situations,” Nwosu said.

Gustin and Nwosu’s ability to control the edge marked a big milestone in their development, Helton said.

“The way they’ve grown as pass rushers, learning from their technique and fundamentals and how much pressure they are creating off the edge,” he said.

Gustin and Nwosu combined for two of USC’s season-high six sacks in the regular-season finale against Notre Dame. 

“We have so much fun out there,” Nwosu said. “We are always able to communicate, switch sides, get different matchups if you want.”

The Rose Bowl could be a preview of next season for Gustin and Nwosu.

“To have that type of experience they gained from this year and then having that being able to come back should be huge for us,” Helton said. 

Adoree’ Jackson wants to put on a show

Skip a bowl game?

Adoree’ Jackson, an All-American and the Thorpe Award winner as the best defensive back in the nation, said he did not think he would do that.

In the last week star running backs Leonard Fournette from Louisiana State and Christian McCaffrey from Stanford announced they would skip bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft.

Jackson, a junior, has not announced whether he will return for his final season of eligibility or make himself available for the draft, but said he did not think he would forgo a bowl game for draft preparation.

“Another chance to get some film out there and get some stats,” Jackson said when asked what it meant to play in a bowl. “Just to show out a little bit more and it’s time for people to get to see what you’re capable of.”

Against Notre Dame, Jackson returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown and caught a 52-yard pass for a touchdown. 

“Every Saturday is probably hundreds of games going on,” he said, “People don’t really get to see you, and then on that one bowl game, there might be one or two  games on that day and people actually get to see you play.”

Quick hits

Former USC players Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, Jurrell Casey of the Tennessee Titans and Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings were selected to the Pro Bowl. “I’ll be a big fan on that day,” Helton said. … Offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers remained sidelined because of concussion protocol. … USC is scheduled to practice Thursday before a five-day break.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Twitter @LindseyThiry

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