Jones, with re­grown hair, is ready to lead run­ning backs

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lindsey Thiry lindsey.thiry@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Lind­seyThiry

Last sea­son, Ron­ald Jones II didn’t feel like him­self.

Jones strug­gled to run the ball through the first sev­eral games, and by the mid­point of the sea­son he was cer­tain he knew why: He had cut off his dread­locks.

A year later, the USC tail­back won’t make the same mis­take.

Dread­locks bounced off Jones’ shoul­ders as he ran onto Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones prac­tice field Mon­day for the sec­ond day of train­ing camp.

“I feel like my­self,” Jones said af­ter prac­tice. “I’m ready to go now.”

Said coach Clay Hel­ton: “He told me dreads make him faster and I said I like it.”

Jones, a ju­nior, is ex­pected to as­sume a lead­er­ship role and carry a bulk of the hand­offs af­ter split­ting car­ries the last two sea­sons with Justin Davis, who is now with the Rams.

Ju­niors Aca’Cedric Ware and Do­minic Davis are likely to be Jones’ back­ups. Af­ter an im­pres­sive start to camp, fresh­man Stephen Carr could chal­lenge for play­ing time.

“It’s dif­fer­ent be­cause when the younger guys don’t know the play they’re look­ing at me,” Jones said, ad­ding, “I know the plays now and it’s cool be­ing the older guy.”

Jones, a pro­fi­cient run­ner, has worked to im­prove his block­ing and pass-catch­ing abil­i­ties, but ad­mit­ted he still wasn’t en­tirely com­fort­able with his hands. The 6-foot Jones also gained weight — he’s up to 205 pounds — in or­der to en­dure more hits.

“He has the whole pack­age as far as skill set,” said first-year tail­backs coach De­land McCul­lough. “Right now it’s the de­tails.”

Darnold picked off

Sam Darnold dropped back, threw a deep pass and then threw his arms up as safety Chris Hawkins in­ter­cepted it. Darnold ap­peared frus­trated.

It was his third pass in­ter­cepted in the two-hour work­out, his fourth in two prac­tices. Last sea­son, Darnold didn’t throw a pass for an in­ter­cep­tion dur­ing train­ing camp un­til mid­way through Au­gust.

Quar­ter­backs coach Tyson Hel­ton called it a “very, very av­er­age day” for the third-year sopho­more, but said he wouldn’t change Darnold’s ap­proach.

“Sam’s al­ways go­ing to have free rein,” Tyson Hel­ton said. “That’s what’s go­ing to make him a very good player and so he’ll learn from his mis­takes.”

Darnold must de­velop a rap­port with sev­eral young receivers af­ter last sea­son’s top pass-catcher JuJu Smith-Schus­ter made him­self avail­able for the NFL and Dar­reus Rogers ex­hausted his el­i­gi­bil­ity. No specif ics on Bo­er­meester

On Sun­day, Zoe Katz, the girl­friend of for­mer USC kicker Matt Bo­er­meester, said in a two-page state­ment that her at­tor­ney emailed to the The Times that Bo­er­meester “has been falsely ac­cused of con­duct in­volv­ing me.”

Katz con­firmed that the state­ment was hers.

Her at­tor­ney, Kerry L. Steiger­walt, said that USC al­leged that Bo­er­meester shoved Katz out­side her home.

On Mon­day, Clay Hel­ton said that the sit­u­a­tion re­mained a “univer­sity mat­ter” un­re­lated to foot­ball.

“Any time that there is a univer­sity mat­ter they take the foot­ball coaches and team out of it,” Hel­ton said.

Quick hits

Of­fen­sive line­man Viane Tala­maivao rolled an an­kle, Clay Hel­ton said, dur­ing prac­tice and was side­lined… Af­ter two days of prac­tices that were open to the pub­lic, the re­main­der of work­outs will be closed.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

RON­ALD JONES II rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 touch­downs as a sopho­more in 2016.

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