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Center Stage at Pac-12 Media Day

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Pac-12 Media Day began on Thursday live from Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, but USC won't be in the big spotlight until Friday at 10:50 a.m. PT as head coach Steve Sarkisian, QB Cody Kessler and LB Su'a Cravens address the media at the main stage. 

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @usc_athletics for all-access coverage throughout the day as the three Trojan representatives go through the Pac-12 media car wash. Also, tune in here to watch the live interviews at 10:50 a.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network. 

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#ALLinNOW: Cody Kessler

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Every team wants to win a championship, but the focus and drive to be ALL IN NOW will separate the contenders from the pretenders in the end. The 2015 Trojans' goal is to focus on dominating every moment, every second, and being accountable for what is in their control.

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USC quarterback Cody Kessler had a specific goal in mind when he decided to return for his senior season: win a Pac-12 title and put the Trojans in position to bring the National Championship Trophy back to Heritage Hall.  In 2014, Kessler led the Pac-12 in completion percentage (69.7), set USC records for passing efficiency (167.1) and completions (315) and tied the school's season record for touchdowns (39). It won't be easy to improve upon such a stellar season, but Kessler believes he's capable of being an even better player and leader in 2015, and knows that to make it to the title game in January the most important work starts now.

"I didn't come back to USC to win the Heisman," explained Cody before Pac-12 Media Days on Thursday. "It's an honor to have my name on lists for preseason accolades but that's not what I'm here for. I want to win a championship with my team and I believe we can do it. I try not to focus on the numbers, but I've continued to work in the offseason on fixing mistakes I made last year and working with all of my receivers."

The Trojans' fall camp begins in one week with Kessler under center yet again. To achieve its goals, his team will rely on him from the first snap of practice to the season's final down;  and for the motivated senior, he wouldn't have it any other way.

The Best Buddies

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

It's well known that USC boasts some of the world's best athletes, but on Wednesday at the first-ever Trojan Games, it was apparent that Trojans are some of the world's best buddies too. Athletes from five different sports hosted more than 100 local children with disabilities, and from start to finish every person had a smile on their face.

Click here for more information on the Trojan Games and other ways to get involved through Trojan Outreach.

Check out this recap of the inspiring event featuring USC QB Cody Kessler and some of his teammates...

Photo Gallery: The Trojan Games

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

On Wednesday, USC welcomed more than 100 kids with disabilities from several local nonprofits to the first-ever Trojan Games for a day of sports, education and fun with Trojan athletes from the football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's track and women's basketball teams. The pairs of buddies rotated through four stations, throwing the football with Cody Kessler and JuJu Smith, scoring goals with Dominique Randle, practicing yoga with Brianna Barrett and learning about nutrition with Courtney Jaco.

Click here to watch KABC's feature on the inspiring event.

"It was awesome to get to spend time with those kids," Kessler said afterwards. "I spent most of my day with these twin boys, Chuma and Chooka, and had a great time playing football and soccer and just giving them a special day. I know they had fun and I can tell that my teammates did too. "

Here are all of the John McGillen photos of USC athletes and their new buddies...

Athlete to Athlete: Blair Carnes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

With the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in our own backyard this week, USC athletics wanted to do everything it could to be involved. Trojan athletes from a handful of sports came out to support different events throughout the week and learn more about some of the incredible competitors at this year's Games.

For USC women's swimmer Blair Carnes, racing at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center is a regular occurrence. For the Special Olympics athletes competing at this year's World Games however, the experience of swimming on such a big stage is one they'll never forget. This week, Carnes dropped by her home pool to hear how swimmers from around the world are liking their experience at USC.

Here is Carnes with several Special Olympics swimmers after their races on Tuesday...

Making the Rounds

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor 

Head coach Steve Sarkisian traveled across the country on Wednesday to go through the ESPN Pac-12 Car Wash where he answered questions about the upcoming season and the Trojans' goal of bringing a championship back to USC. 

He hit all the popular stops in Bristol including SportsCenter, College Football Live, the Paul Finebaum Show and the Russillo Show, to name a few. He battled rival UCLA head coach Jim Mora in a crosstown showdown about different Los Angeles topics like the coaches' In-N-Out orders and then got down to business to talk about what his Trojans are capable of this season. This east coast trip began Sarkisian's annual media tour prior to the start of the season with Pac-12 Media Day beginning on Thursday in Los Angeles. 

Here is the head coach on SportsCenter talking USC football...

Pac-12's Pick

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

For the first time since 2012, USC was picked by the media to win the Pac-12 Conference this season. The announcement, made on the first morning of Pac-12 Media Days, adds even greater expectation and excitement to a season already headlined by the return of senior QB Cody Kessler and 17 other 2014 starters. The Trojans received 21 of 45 votes to earn the preseason top spot. Defending conference champion Oregon earned the second-most championship votes with 17.

The media has correctly selected the conference champion in 12 of the last 15 polls. USC's quest for the Pac-12 title begins on September 19 at 5 p.m. PT when the Trojans host the Stanford Cardinal for their conference opener.

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#ALLinNOW: JuJu Smith

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Every team wants to win a championship, but the focus and drive to be ALL IN NOW will separate the contenders from the pretenders in the end. The 2015 Trojans' goal is to focus on dominating every moment, every second, and being accountable for what is in their control.

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Woods. Lee. Agholor. The last three years have featured three of the best wide receivers to ever play at USC. In 2015, the No. 1 wide receiver spot has sophomore JuJu Smith's name all over it. With great expectations comes great responsibility, something the wide receiver has learned after watching the procession of elite players before him. As Smith looks to the 2015 season, he knows it's time to take his game to an even higher level.

"Now that I'm a sophomore, I've really focused on being a leader in the offseason," Smith said. "Some of the biggest things I've worked on this summer have been body control, route running and continuing to build my relationship with Cody so we're always on the same page. I have a feeling it's going to be a big season and we know we've got to be ready for it."

Redd's Retro Diary: NFL Training Camp

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As told to Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor, by former USC RB Silas Redd (2012-13)

Former USC running back Silas Redd wrapped up an impressive NFL rookie season last December, overcoming injuries in his senior year at USC to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Redskins and earn his spot on the team's depth chart. A year ago, Redd was unsure of what his future held as he worked every day to prove himself through rookie training camps and ultimately in front of the entire Redskins organization at OTAs. As this year's class of Trojans enter their first NFL training camps with the hope of taking their game to the next level, Redd looks back and provides a window into what the journey to the league looks like from a player's perspective. 

The last installment of this series focuses on the period of time from signing as an undrafted free agent to making the final 53-man roster for the 2014 Washington Redskins. 

Undrafted: May 8-10, 2014

Everyone always builds up what they do on draft day. I remember just wanting to spend it with my close family and friends in my home. We had a small group of people over and just cooked and ate and waited. The worst part was waiting. I was so anxious, so nervous just because I was pretty unsure of where I was going to end up and if I was going to end up anywhere. I knew my knee was a concern and what ultimately led to me not being drafted, but I had had some good meetings with teams leading up to the draft and I thought I could go in one of the later rounds. Then, I received a call from Randy Jordan (the Redskins running backs coach) around the fifth or sixth round saying they were interested in me.  I knew I still had a long road ahead of me if I wanted to make the roster but I just had faith in myself. I just shared the moment with my family and started looking at the challenges that lay ahead. 

First Impressions: May 15-17, 2014 

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I was really anxious to get to rookie camp just because I had missed the game so much. After being hurt, I was just so ready to get back out there and compete again. The whole rookie camp process is a three-day process. I had a lot of fun and more importantly, I really thought I practiced well so it gave me some confidence heading into the rest of summer workouts and OTAs. Leading up to camp, I was out in Los Angeles at the Athletic Performance Institute in Carson where I worked out before, and I really believe that they helped me get to the level I needed to be at to perform as well as I did. The thing that kept me going and that's always kept me going throughout this whole process is my family. The love and support I receive from them just gives me motivation to work that much harder despite any obstacle that I may encounter. My son is really what gave me the strength needed to grind and work like I did. 

Earning A Spot: July 24-August 28, 2014

Just as I was ready and anxious before rookie camp, I was nervous to begin training camp. The Redskins were pretty deep at the running back position so I was competing and learning from people like Alfred Morris who had the top spot on the depth chart locked up. I had played one season with his backup, Evan Royster, when I was a freshman at Penn State so I knew his capabilities and then there was also Roy Helu Jr. On top of all that talent, I was going up against rookie Lache Seastrunk, so yet again I was faced with this major obstacle where I had to fight for a chance to prove myself. 

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The biggest difference I noticed once OTAs started was that I was expected to know the game of football and know what I was supposed to be doing at all times. They knew I was a rookie but at the same time they wanted to see how fast I learned, comprehended and could think. This is where I felt like it was the time to show them that I could handle the workload as far as the schemes and different plays. It was tough coming in as an undrafted free agent because that already puts me behind some of the other talent on the field, but I just took advantage of the opportunities that were given to me.

There's a saying that you don't count the reps, you make the reps count so that's what I tried to do whenever I got my chance. I really relied on the leadership from Bradford Banta, who actually played TE at USC and is the assistant special teams coach for the Redskins. He worked with me every step of the way developing my skills as a special teams player because that's really how I made the team. I had never really done special teams, especially tackling, so I worked closely with him to get my skills to the necessary level to earn a spot.

Athlete to Athlete: Jordan Adams

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

With the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in our own backyard this week, USC athletics wanted to do everything it could to be involved. Trojan athletes from a handful of sports came out to support different events throughout the week and learn more about some of the incredible competitors at this year's Games. 

On Tuesday, USC women's basketball guard Jordan Adams stopped by Galen Center to visit with some of the Games' basketball competitors. She met a charismatic South African who's loving life in Los Angeles and an inspirational American who is pursuing his dreams thanks to the Special Olympics.

Here is Adams interviewing basketball players from the Games at the Galen Center...