Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor
The Trojans got after it on Sunday in what quarterback Cody Kessler called "one of the best practices" USC has had on either side of the ball this season.
- Freshman RB Aca'Cedric Ware and LB Don Hill, who was playing with the practice squad, got into a bit of a scuffle in the middle of practice, illustrating just how competitive things were at Sunday's practice. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster made light of the situation on the very next play by catching a pass, setting the ball down and raising his fists jokingly looking for someone to fight with. "The only reason our boys go at it is because it's just so competitive," said Smith-Schuster. "The reason why we play so great on Saturday nights is because of our service team. They give it 100 percent and it just brings out the best in us and it shows on game day."
- Kessler spent the majority of practice working on nailing down his timing with receivers on deep balls including Smith-Schuster and Isaac Whitney who both came up with big plays in the scrimmage portions of practice. Kessler says its been his priority to capitalize on deep ball opportunities after missing a few in recent games.
- Both head coach Steve Sarkisian and Kessler mentioned the offense's focus on finding the right balance between the number of plays run versus the number of explosive plays per game. Since he became the head coach at USC, Sarkisian has emphasized the desire to run about 80 plays a game. Through four games, the Trojans are only averaging about 66 plays per game. The head coach credits this to the offense's efficiency and ability to capitalize on those explosive plays with the Trojans averaging 8.1 yards per play.
- The Trojans' run game started off the year strong, but has recently struggled to find its footing. Redshirt senior RB Tre Madden called last week's running performance "a little embarrassing" as the Trojans gained just 76 yards on the ground. Arizona State blitzed heavily in last Saturday's game, but Madden said that shouldn't matter. "It's completely a mindset. They can know exactly what we're going to run and blitz every play, but if we just execute and do our jobs then it's going to work for us," he said.
- Junior RB Justin Davis added that fixing the running game is simply a group effort. "It's a combination of the running backs, full backs and the offensive line. We all have to be on the same page," Davis said. "We know we have the talent. We know we have the potential. It's just up to us to go and get it done."
- Sarkisian is known for his run-heavy offense that's produced a 1,000 yard rusher each of the last two seasons at USC. This year however, the Trojans are the deepest they've been in a while at the running back position so they aren't relying on one guy to carry the workload. "I think it keeps us fresh," said Sarkisian on sharing the wealth. "There's going to come games when we're going to start to lean on a couple of them or one of them depending on how the game goes. As of right now, they're all doing a good job and executing when they get their numbers called, so I have a hard time arguing with it."
- The Trojans had the weekend off from football but that doesn't mean that Sarkisian, the self-proclaimed number one college football fan, didn't pay attention to what was happening around the country. The biggest takeaway Sarkisian had from a weekend that featured many upsets, is that there's a lot of football left to be played. "You have to sharpen your sword every day. You have to come prepared to play every Saturday because anybody can beat anybody," said Sarkisian. "The rankings shouldn't determine how we prepare and how we play. It should be what we want to do, who we are and what we produce on the field."
- Here is the head coach after Sunday's practice...