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2014 Fall Camp #14: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

After a day off, the Trojans were back at it with another two-a-day on Wednesday and finally, the freshmen got to meet the press.
  • Wednesday's practiced mimicked that of a Tuesday practice during the regular season in regards to intensity and workload. "Tuesdays are lunch-pail, hard-hat kind of days," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "We've got to work and there's no easy way around it. We've got to get a lot done and it's going to be a physical practice." 
  • For the first time, Sarkisian let the incoming freshmen speak to the media with two and a half weeks of Fall Camp under their belts. Overall, the head coach is impressed with the maturity and effort from his first recruiting class at USC. "It was a highly touted group coming in. I think there were some expectations that this group was going to come in and contribute and compete. To their credit, they've prepared for it," he said. "Training camp is not easy when you're back being the freshmen...but I think this group for all intents and purposes has really battled through it. They've got some quality maturity about them, they've got good work ethic and I think they're really going to contribute to our success this fall."JuJu.jpg
  • One of the surprises of Fall Camp for the head coach has been the outstanding play of WR Ajene Harris. "He just appears very natural. He looks like he's been doing this a long time," explained Sarkisian.
  • Three members of the freshmen class are listed as playing both ways including athletic phenom Adoree' Jackson. Sarkisian specifically noted how impressed he was with Jackson's ability to physically and mentally handle playing both sides, but the freshman is up for the challenge. "I don't really have a preference," Jackson said. "Whatever I'm needed to do on the field, that's what I've been doing."
  • Another freshman whose number will be called quite often is WR/S JuJu Smith. Though he has the potential to contribute on both sides of the ball, Sarkisian believes at this point the team is best served with Smith on offense. "He's going to play so much for us offensively and he's earned it, it probably wouldn't be fair to him right now (to play him on defense) ," said the head coach. "He's just really good for us right now on the offensive side of the ball."
  • Smith joins a talented wide receiver corps and is benefiting from their combined experience.  "I've learned a lot. From Darreus, I learned to use my body. From George, I learned speed and from Nelson I learned smartness. Mostly I've learned field awareness on reading the defense's coverage," said the freshman.
  • With redshirt freshman right guard Khaliel Rodgers sidelined for up to two to three weeks with a knee injury, true freshman Damien Mama has stepped up to fill his spot in practice and the coaching staff has taken note. "What I like about Damien right now is he hasn't gotten discouraged when he makes a mistake, he gets right back in and goes after it again," said Sarkisian. "To me that's a sign of a player that's resilient and tough-minded and is going to have a chance to be really successful for us for years to come."
  • Sarkisian drew comparisons between the freshman and former USC OG Deuce Lutui in the way they carry themselves on and off the field, specifically in their work ethic. "We've really been pushing Damien physically the last few practices. We've made it hard on him, left him in for extended reps, and he's responded really well. He's a big human being in there, he's hard to run around."
  • Junior RB Tre Madden has turf toe and could be out for up to a week. However, this allows sophomore RB Justin Davis a good opportunity to see extended reps. Though the focus is on making sure Buck Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis are all fresh and ready to go for game day, Sarkisian noted that Davis "might have performed the best of anybody" in the Trojans' two scrimmages.
  • Wednesday marked 10 days until kickoff for USC and Sarkisian is confident in the preparedness of his team. "I think we're very close. We had a great practice this morning. We'll really put it all together on Saturday in a mock game where we utilize all of our substitutions and the flow of the game with special teams and what not. Practices like tonight make me fell better, like we're closer."
  • Here is Coach Sarkisian at the conclusion of Wednesday's practice...

Covering the Beat

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USC football never suffers from a lack of coverage thanks to all the dedicated media representing LA's newspapers and networks plus the national websites, but after a flurry of changes, the beat writers need their own transactions column. 

Gary Klein (LA Times) and Scott Wolf (Daily News) remain the constants, but Klein's work will now be complemented by Lindsey Thiry who is running USC Now, the paper's new Trojan blog.  Michael Lev, who left the USC beat for a couple years to cover the NFL, has returned to handle the day-to-day Trojan news for the Orange County Register as Rich Hammond moves on to follow the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

On the web, Ryan Abraham has taken USCFootball.com from Rivals.com to Scout.com, and he will maintain his staff under the new umbrella company.  Adam Maya, a USC alum, will join Chris Swanson on the beat for Rivals' new USC site, TrojanSports.com.  Garry Paskwietz continues to lead WeAreSC.com, which is ESPN's USC site, as does Scott Schrader with Fighton247.com

Of course, you can always get comprehensive USC football coverage with behind-the-scenes access right here on the RipsIt Blog as well as the Trojan social media network which includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Permission to Dream

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Former USC and NFL linebacker Thomas "Hitman" Williams has moved on to a professional life as a motivational speaker, which includes a new autobiography, Permission to Dream, detailing his secrets to success and how they can inspire others.

Click here to purchase it.

Williams was an emotional leader for some of the greatest teams in Trojans history, but before the glory days at USC, he had to conquer a childhood filled with pitfalls and doubters.  Having coming out the other side, he has extrapolated his experience to educate others about following their dreams.

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Trojan Family on Display

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If you have Pac-12 Networks, be sure to tune in tonight at 9 p.m. PT for the Training Camp show from USC which will feature an emotional story about lifelong Trojans fan Michael Stark who suffers from cerebral palsy.


Count It Down

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Fall Camp on Pac-12 Networks

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Pac-12 Networks is riding into town Wednesday with its cast of characters featuring Michael Yam, Rick Neuheisel, Curtis Conway and Yogi Roth for a training camp special on the Trojans which will air at 9 p.m. PT.

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Women's Volley Season Preview

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USC women's volleyball is ready for the final push.  The Women of Troy have been knocking on the door of a seventh national championship for several years, and now they hope to have found the mix to kick it down.

Junior Samantha Bricio and sophomore Ebony Nwanebu stand at the core of the 2014 squad.  They are one of the nation's most talented offensive duos.

The big hitters will be setup by a pair of returning setters in senior Hayley Crone and sophomore Alice Pizzasegola.  And, the middle will be occupied by veterans Hannah Schraer and Alicia Ogoms.

Click here for the complete season outlook.

The question lies in defense where Natalie Hagglund, always the smallest Trojan on the court, leaves behind the biggest hole as a departed three-time All-American libero.  But, head coach Mick Haley has a plan for that.

"We had previously designed our defense to accent Natalie," said Haley. "We've since changed that in order to put less pressure on the position. We will replace Natalie by committee. We'll change what we have the blockers do a little bit, and we'll cover the court starting at the net a little more. We'll have to wait to see who steps up so we can best construct our lineup. Once we get that, it's about developing a role for every player, and people knowing what's expected of them, so that they can contribute to the team effort. Organization will be the other part. We need to be better organized."

The plan goes into action starting August 29 as the Women of Troy open the season in Stockton at the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic.  USC opens its home account with Texas A&M on September 11 and Florida on September 12.

Here is the official women's volleyball poster, which you can click to enlarge and download:

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Filling Up the Podium

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USC water polo is known to be greedy.  The program has a history of hoarding titles, which apparently extends to the international stage.

The Women of Troy sent five representatives playing for three different countries to the 2014 FINA World Cup in Russia, and they all came back with hardware.  Team USA featuring recent graduate Kaleigh Gilchrist and two-time Olympian Kami Craig took home the biggest prize defeating Australia in the Gold Medal Game.

The Aussies' silver medal squad included former USC All-American Hannah Buckling and current student-athlete Jayde Appel. Spain occupied the final spot on the podium as 2013 national championship hero Anni Espar helped her country collect the bronze.

Click here for more.

Gilchrist made the leap from USC to the USA.
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Photo Gallery: 2014 Fall Camp #13

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The Trojans played some real football last night at the Coliseum, albeit against each other, and the playmakers showed up including freshmen Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith who had return touchdowns on special teams. 

Here are the John McGillen photos:


2014 Fall Camp #13: Notes

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USC scrimmaged with live tackling for approximately 100 plays under the Coliseum lights.
  • The Trojans simulated a preseason game tonight complete with special teams situations and physicality throughout.  They survived the scrimmage with minimal injuries, although OG Khaliel Rodgers' knee will undergo further tests.  Also, Tre Madden (turf toe), LB Michael Hutchings (ice on shoulder) and LB Anthony Sarao (ice on ankle) were removed before the end.
  • Jackson-Smith-Camp14-McG.jpgUSC is actually getting healthier as star defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods participated in full contact tonight albeit for about a dozen plays. "Obviously, you'd love to play those guys as much as you can," said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. "Those guys will be ready to play."
  • The scrimmage started with the first teams going against the second teams and both top units dominated.  Offensively, FB Soma Vainuku showed off his agility and power on a catch-and-run making a defender miss before plowing through another.  The drive ended with Tre Madden's rushing touchdown.  On the next first team offensive series, Cody Kessler hit TE Randall Telfer down field to setup a Buck Allen rush TD.
  • Kessler on the first team offense: "I felt like we made huge strides.  From where we were last time to now, scrimmage-wise, we did a great job."
  • The defensive first team made short work of the second team offense with OLB Scott Felix (formerly Starr) standing out.  In the first matchup of ones vs. ones, the defense held the offense after giving up a couple first downs. Felix actually hit Kessler on a pass rush, for which he quickly apologized, and then Delvon Simmons batted a pass in the air which RT Zach Banner caught for a considerable loss.
  • The first team offense did get its payback in a short field drill capping a 40-yard scoring drive with a Kessler TD pass to Allen.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian on the first team: "I was encouraged by the fact that our ones really dominated the twos. Not that our twos aren't good players, but I thought that the execution on both sides from the ones was really good when it was ones versus the twos."
  • On the second and third teams, RB James Toland IV had a highlight run, and S Matt Lopes picked off Max Browne for the only turnover of the day.
  • The biggest highlights of the scrimmage came on special teams as two freshmen displayed jaw-dropping athleticism.  First, Adoree' Jackson had an electrifying punt return for a TD and then JuJu Smith showed an incredible burst of speed on a kick return for six. 
  • Jackson did struggle a little at cornerback with two penalties, one for pass interference and another for holding, and Wilcox noted that the college referees are emphasizing coverage penalties just like the NFL this year.  
  • The offensive line saw some shuffling tonight.  When Rodgers went down, freshman Damien Mama was pushed into the first team.  And, Aundrey Walker is starting to round into form, so the coaches tried him at right tackle for the first time this Fall Camp, but he is also an option at guard. Sarkisian said that he is planning on rotating offensive linemen within games this season.
  • Once again, WR Nelson Agholor was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons despite being healthy.  Sarkisian sees the wide receiver position as a little undefined outside of Agholor.  The unit has "a lot of bodies" and different guys have flashed in "spurts," said the head coach. He would like to see more from Steven Mitchell, and he expects the young receivers to be "wide-eyed" early on.
  • Here is Sarkisian on the biggest test of Fall Camp to date: