Pat's Chats - Cody Kessler (Part I)

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USC athletic director Pat Haden welcomed starting quarterback Cody Kessler into his office for the newest webisode of "Pat's Chats".  The two QBs touched on several different football topics including the evolution of the position, media scrutiny and the adversity of last season.

Leading the World

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USC senior Aleec Harris was named the Pac-12 Men's Track Athlete of the Week for his historic run in the 110-meter hurdles at the Mt. SAC Relays. Harris posted a world-leading time of 13.32 to set a new school record.

Click here for the complete release.

Harris won the race defeating volunteer coach and Trojan great Ryan Wilson, the 2013 USA Track & Field Champion, in the process.  USC track and field is in San Diego this weekend for the Triton Invitational.

Harris at Trojan InvitationalDA.jpg(Photo by Dan Avila)

Spring Breakout: Scott Starr, OLB

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

There is plenty to be excited about in the upcoming year of USC football, and with spring ball completed, the Trojans have discovered new and improved talent all across the field. Whether new to the roster or finally positioned for a starting role, this year's spring breakouts are ready to make a difference.

Starr-Camp2-McG.jpgName: Scott Starr
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Position: Outside Linebacker

The Past: A highly touted recruit out of high school, Scott Starr showed serious promise as a linebacker seeing time as a true freshman in games against Hawaii, Syracuse and Stanford on special teams and as a backup. However, he was sidelined and consequently redshirted after suffering a neck injury prior to the California game. This injury really seemed to plague Starr's early career at USC as it caused him to miss 2013 Spring Football, lessening his chances at a starting spot come the 2013 season. Due to a banged up front seven, Starr did see some playing time at the end of the 2013 season, appearing in the last six games and racking up nine tackles and one deflection.

The Present: After losing the likes of Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin, the 3-4 defense has openings at both outside linebacker spots. Starr has been working in with the ones all spring, finally getting his chance to show this new coaching staff some of the reasons why he was recruited in the first place. He's also demonstrated an outstanding learning curve showing that he's really observed those who played in front of him and really put in the effort necessary to earn a starting spot. 

The Future: Starr will compete with the likes of J.R. Tavai, Quinton Powell and Jabari Ruffin at the outside linebacker positions with all four expected to play significant roles. For most alignments, look to see Starr or Tavai as the rush outside linebacker with Powell and Ruffin competing for the other OLB spot.

Wilcox on Starr: "I really like his hybrid body type. He's into football, which is important. I'm excited about Scott."

Here is Starr with our Caroline Deisley...

One Thing Left To Do

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No. 1 USC women's sand volleyball will carry the top seed into the 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships set to take place in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 2-4.

And why not?

The Women of Troy are 20-1 on the season having won 19 consecutive dual matches.  They are led by Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes, the nation's top pair, who are riding a 26-match winning streak of their own after claiming the
inaugural Pac-12 Invitational on Sunday.

Now in the program's third year, the only thing left to accomplish is a team national championship.  The Trojans will have to usurp No. 2 Pepperdine, the preeminent power in the sport, as well as a field that includes No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Hawaii.

USC will gets its final tuneup before the postseason this weekend in Tucson against Arizona and Boise State. 

USC and Pepperdine are expected to joust for the title.

Clutch in the Cage

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USC women's lacrosse goalie Liz Shaeffer, who was the hero against Stanford with 8 saves, earned the program's first ever MPSF Defensive Player of the Week honor.  The sophomore's biggest stop came in the final minute to seal the Women of Troy's 11-10 victory in the Coliseum.

Click here for the complete release.

The win over No. 13 Stanford was the program's first against a ranked team.  Now, the Women of Troy travel to Chicago really looking to slay a giant as they take on No. 5 Northwestern at historic Wrigley Field.


6-Points: 2014 USC Spring Football

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The first spring football season under head coach Steve Sarkisian is in the books, so let's recap what we learned.

Don't Blink

McGillen_042014_MCG4332_SPRINGGAME.JPGThe biggest difference on Howard Jones Field this spring was the pace of play.  The Trojans are running their offense at breakneck speed, which will not only get opponent's on their heels come fall, but the USC defense will be fit to face all the no-huddle attacks in the Pac-12.  Despite the increased tempo, the Trojans are still a run-first offense with a deep group of tailbacks competing for carries led by Buck Allen and Tre Madden.  "Whoever plays us should be worried.  We've got monsters in the backfield," said WR Nelson Agholor.

Too Tough to Unseat

Sarkisian made it clear that no player would suffer from preconceived opinions, and every spot was up for grabs.  However, in the end, Cody Kessler was too sharp and savvy to cede his spot to the hard charging Max Browne.  Kessler displayed improved arm strength and accuracy, and appears to be the undisputed leader on offense.  "Cody's got a really quick release, tremendous arm strength and he's really accurate down the field," praised Sarkisian.  "I think we can win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback."

On the Nose

Spring football is a great showcase for players primed to break out.  No player took better advantage than junior nose tackle Antwaun Woods who has matured into an unexpected leader and dominant run stuffer. "He has had a heck of a spring. I think Antwaun has really been the standard on the defensive side of the ball all spring long," said Sarkisian. "He's really a playmaker, he lives in the backfield. He does an amazing job of making the ball bounce to the perimeter and he does it with tremendous energy."

McGillen_042014_MCG3937_SPRINGGAME.JPGCenter of Attention

USC was forced to shuffle its offensive line this spring to due to injuries and departures.  Veteran Max Tuerk was the biggest chess piece to move as he takes over the center position vacated by Marcus Martin. Tuerk has always been considered a heady lineman who can play multiple spots, and the coaches trust him to make the correct calls at the line of scrimmage. "Max is a very talented player. He's very bright. He could probably play three different positions on the offensive line," Sarkisian said. "We have to see how we evolve up front. It is comforting to know that you have an experienced player at center when you are operating at this pace."

Whoa Nelly

The torch has officially been passed.  USC has been blessed with elite playmakers on the outside for the last handful of seasons, including record-setters Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but now Nelson Agholor is the danger man.  While several candidates battle for the No. 2 position, Agholor is undoubtedly the top target.  "Nelson is a really good player," said Sarkisian. "He is a dynamic football player. I've been very impressed by him."

Help on the Way

When Sarkisian released his end of spring depth chart, 23 names were listed at the bottom under injured.  The head coach expects all of them to be fully fit for fall camp plus a collection of exciting prospects from a Top 10 recruiting class.  "I'm hopeful the next time we have a scrimmage like this in the middle of Fall Camp that we are a little more efficient on both sides of the ball," explained the head coach after the Spring Game. "There will be a lot more guys participating by then too which will be key." The highlight additions include All-American DL Leonard Williams, Freshman All-American DB Su'a Cravens, CB Josh Shaw, RB Justin Davis, WR/DB JuJu Smith and WR/DB Adoree' Jackson.

Here are the John McGillen photos from the USC Spring Game:

Spring Game Gallery - Images by John McGillen

Photo Gallery: Men's Tennis Wins Pac-12

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Head coach Peter Smith had his players focused on one thing last week, but not what you would expect.  Playing UCLA for the Pac-12 regular season title, he was more intent on beating the Bruins than controlling the conference.  In the end, the Trojans owned both.

"The goal is always to beat UCLA," said Smith before the match. "We don't care where we play them. We could play them at 8 a.m. in Chicago, we could play them at 6 a.m. in Hawaii. Yes, winning the Pac-12 is something we'd love to do, but mostly we just want to beat UCLA. Period. And that's the beauty of the rivalry."

It was a beauty of a rivalry match in the end.  The Trojans battled back after dropping the doubles' point thanks to singles winners No. 1 Yannick Hanfmann, No. 3 Roberto Quiroz, No. 4 Max de Vroome and No. 5 Eric Johnson.

Quiroz came through with the clinching victory and was promptly mobbed by his teammates after collapsing to the ground.  Here are the John McGillen photos:

M Tennis v UCLA - Images by John McGillen

Photo Gallery: Lacrosse in the Coliseum

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USC women's lacrosse celebrated its first ever Senior Day with a dramatic 11-10 victory over Stanford in the Coliseum.  Ceilidh Meagher, the lone senior, started the day walking through a tunnel of lacrosse sticks with her parents and ended the afternoon inside a dog pile with her teammates.

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy had fallen on hard luck in recent weeks.  Once tied atop the conference, USC dropped three consecutive heartbreakers before finally seeing the ball bounce the Trojans' way on Sunday.

USC finished the MPSF regular season 6-3, and now hits the road for a big non-conference tilt with perennial power Northwestern inside historic Wrigley Field.  John McGillen will travel with the Women of Troy to document their trip to the Windy City, and he also provided the photos from a picture perfect day at the Coliseum.

v Stanford - Images by John McGillen

Sweet Sweep

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USC baseball came into the season with postseason dreams, and the Trojans are now firmly in the mix with a month to play thanks to a three-game sweep of Arizona this past weekend at Dedeaux Field.  USC is now 20-17 overall and back to .500 in Pac-12 play at 9-9.

After Wyatt Strahan's complete game shutout set the tone for the series on Thursday, Omar Cotto Lozada delivered a walk-off single to keep the momentum going Friday.  Finally, veteran southpaw Bob Wheatley, who had struggled mightily in conference play, sealed the sweep with seven shutout innings on Saturday.

Click here to see the amazing juggling catch by Garrett Stubbs on Saturday.

The Trojans have now won five straight games, and picked up their first conference sweep since 2009.  USC had not swept Arizona since 2001.

Here is a look at Friday night's drama capped by another Trojan walk-off:

2014 USC Spring Game: Notes

Written by Caroline Deisley and Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributors

The White team (defense) defeated the Cardinal team (offense), 19-15, in front of an estimated 17,500 fans at the Coliseum on a perfect Saturday afternoon.  
  • Saturday marked the culmination of Steve Sarkisian's first spring as USC head football coach, and as he reflected over the past 15 practices, he believes the team accomplished everything it needed to. "I really feel like we've got our schemes implemented," said Sarkisian. "For what we do offensively and defensively, which are relatively complex schemes on both sides of the ball, we got the majority of both those two things installed."
  • There were three big sacks on the day as a part of the defense's dominating performance. Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Scott Starr tallied one of the sacks and was encouraged by his team's victory. "We won so it was definitely a great day," said Starr. "It was good to get a sack, but I wanted to get even more. We've got a long way to go, but this is a great building point for us. We have our chemistry down as a defense, and now we've just got to put the final pieces together to be ready for fall."
  • In the interest of keeping the team healthy, players on both sides of the ball only saw action in the first few series. For example, LB Hayes Pullard was replaced early on in the day allowing him to take on the role of a "player-coach," something the senior has focused on all spring.  "They pulled me out early so I tried to capitalize as much as I could when I was out there," said Pullard. "Then, I just tried to keep the younger guys motivated because you know it is a long day when you're practicing the whole day." 
  • Each quarterback completed five passes on the day. Kessler was 5 for 10 for 86 yards, Max Browne was 5 for 15 for 65 yards and Jalen Greene was 5 for 12 for 72 yards. On the receiving end, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick had 3 catches for 53 yards, Victor Blackwell had 2 catches for 51 yards and Darreus Rogers had 2 catches for 40 yards. The offense ran 85 total plays throughout the course of the game.
  • According to Kessler, the offense approached Saturday's game conservatively considering 23 players were unable to participate due to injury. However the quarterback says he's satisfied with the team's progress this spring. "As a team we made huge strides this spring," explained Kessler. "From practice number one to number 14 I think we've made so many different improvements. Guys got better and guys started getting healthy. For me personally, I just feel a lot more comfortable with this offense."
  • Sarkisian explained that the offense's performance on Saturday doesn't concern him heading into the fall. "We will be a great red zone offense. Historically, we've been and wherever I've gone we've been really good in the red zone. Obviously, this was a bit of a vanilla game plan. We just wanted to let the guys go play."
  • Now that Spring Ball is officially over, the Trojans have come a long way from where they were just 15 practices ago. "This spring wasn't just about today," said WR Nelson Agholor. "It was about the 15 practices that we got to get better. So for me, I got better every practice that I had the chance to whether it was weightlifting, didn't matter."
  • Sarkisian expects all 23 currently injured players to be healthy and ready to go for fall camp noting that a limited roster restricted the Trojans ability to play to their full potential. "I'm hopeful the next time we have a scrimmage like this in the middle of fall camp that we are a little more efficient on both sides of the ball," explained the head coach. "There will be a lot more guys participating by then too which will be key."
  • Here is Coach Sarkisian's final spring presser...