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2015 Spring Practice #8: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Trojans answered the call for another high intensity practice on Thursday.
  • "I was really proud with the guys that they responded the way they did after a really good practice on Tuesday," explained head coach Steve Sarkisian. "Anyone can do it once, it's the really good teams that can come out and do it again and again and again. I thought the guys did that today."
  • Sarkisian noted that Adoree' Jackson played offense in the hot afternoon practice and not surprisingly continued to make plays on that side of the ball.
  • The offense won the finish challenge off of a touchdown pass from Cody Kessler to JuJu Smith. Nearly at the midway point of spring ball, the offense and defense are tied at four in the ongoing competition.
  • The Trojans now have a year under their belts playing Sarkisian's uptempo system, and the head coach says he can see the difference in the fitness level of his team. "I like where we're at from a conditioning stand point," he said. "We are much better off this spring than where we were at a year ago. The guys are really understanding the tempo of practice itself and then the tempo at which we operate offensively, and that affects both sides of the ball."
  • Always with a focus on finishing in mind, the head coach also commented on the level of toughness the Trojans have displayed through the first three weeks. "I've been pleased that guys are fighting through the bumps and bruises because we're starting to have some of those and we're going to have more I'm sure," Sarkisian said. "The challenge for our guys is to fight through it and come back and have another great practice on Saturday. In a game you're going to get banged up, but you need to be at your best in the fourth quarter when you are sore and that's something we've been preaching to the guys."
  • On the offensive side of the ball, Sarkisian continues to be impressed with sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith, especially considering that he's been playing with a small cast on his hand during the spring. "Becoming the go-to guy can be a challenge for some players but I don't think it will be for JuJu," Sarkisian explained, adding that Smith's work ethic is what sets him apart. "He's so accustomed to it, I think quite honestly he wanted to be that guy last year."
  • Sarkisian and the entire defensive coaching staff have really liked what they've seen in the start of sophomore defensive back John Plattenburg's second year. "He's playing with really good anticipation," the head coach said. "When you're a safety and you can anticipate things and you have a big heart, you can go make those types of plays. He's been doing that, he's very confident and you can see it in the way that he plays. He's always been willing, but now it's really able to come out of him because he's playing with confidence."
  • Redshirt freshman defensive back Lamont Simmons sat out of Thursday's practice with an irritated hamstring and junior running back Justin Davis had a rest day after a very physical practice on Tuesday.
  • Here is Sarkisian after practice...

2015 Spring Practice #8: Rapid Reaction

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The Trojans continue to battle through spring ball and on Thursday, redshirt senior Antwaun Woods got the rapid reaction on practice from fellow defensive tackles Claude Pelon and Kenny Bigelow...

Dukes to Transfer

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC men's basketball sophomore Kahlil Dukes announced on Thursday that he will transfer following the 2014-15 school year. The guard averaged 2.1 points per game in 20 games this season, including a career-high 18 points against Arizona State on February 22. His freshman year he averaged 2.7 points per game and led the team with a .355 average from the three-point line.

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Williams' Whirwind

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

With just over a month until the 2015 NFL Draft, excitement continues to build around former USC DL Leonard Williams. The young talent, presumed to be a top five pick, is what the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah describes as "the definition of game-changer". Possessing an impressive array of raw physical talents at just 20 years old, the 'Big Cat' has NFL coaches and scouts salivating over his potential for years to come.

Ever since Williams made his NFL announcement on December 29, his days have been a whirlwind of intense training, interviews with teams and a frenzy of cameras and coverage everywhere he's gone. He shined on the field at USC Pro Day, and immediately afterwards hosted round after round of media interviews like a veteran. Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit caught up with the defensive lineman that afternoon to watch film and get a sense of William's football IQ, a quality he soon came to realize might be even more impressive than his athleticism. 

Williams has been described by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. as "the best player available" and by ESPN's Todd McShay as "the most dominant and complete player in this class, at any position". In each of their most recent mock drafts, Jeremiah, Kiper and McShay all project Williams being selected second overall to the Tennessee Titans.

In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, Williams will be featured in NFL Network's draft series "Game Changers" as well as an upcoming episode of ESPN's "Sports Science". The 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago from April 30 to May 2, with round one beginning at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN and the NFL Network.

Here is the full video of Williams breaking down game film with Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit...

Mike Williams Gets a Whistle

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Former USC wide receiver Mike Williams has been named the head football coach for Locke Charter High School in Los Angeles according to the Los Angeles Times. After a successful six-year career in the NFL, Williams will now work to train up the next generation of phenomenal football talent.

Williams was named a Freshman All-American at USC after the 2003 season in which he had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns, all of which were school and conference freshman records. His second and final year at USC he led the Trojans in receiving yards and touchdowns while finishing as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and receiving first team All-American honors. After sitting out a year from football in lieu of a court ruling that declared him ineligible for the 2004 NFL Draft, Williams was selected 10th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

The wide receiver finished his NFL career with his former USC coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks in 2010-2011. With a strong recommendation from Carroll, Williams will now go to work leading the Locke program which finished with a record of 7-8 in 2014.

mwilliams.0414.jpg(Photo credit: Orange County Register)

USC, Haden React to Release of McNair Documents

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USC and athletic director Pat Haden reacted today to the documents released from the Todd McNair v. NCAA lawsuit.

Statement from the University of Southern California

March 25, 2015

After an initial review of this first set of documents unsealed by the court in the McNair v. NCAA lawsuit, it is evident that the content confirms bias against McNair and USC by and on behalf of the NCAA and its Committee on Infractions. We are extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process.  USC hopes that the transparency in this case will ultimately lead to review and changes so that all member institutions receive the fair and impartial treatment they deserve. 

It seems likely that there are additional documents that will come to light.  Once USC has had the opportunity to review all of the documents unsealed by the court, we will determine what further action is appropriate. 

Statement from USC athletic director Pat Haden

March 25, 2015

"These recent documents confirm what we've believed all along, that we were treated unfairly in this investigation and its penalties.  

 "I think these documents are cause for concern about the NCAA's own institutional controls.

 "It should be concerning to all schools that the NCAA didn't appear to follow its own rules."

Click the links to read more from the LA Times and CBSSports.com.

Photo Gallery: Trojan Bombers

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No. 8 USC baseball has already cracked 15 home runs this season, which nearly doubles last year's total of 8. The Trojans used the long ball again last night to defeat Pepperdine 5-2 behind Jeremy Martinez's first round-tripper of the season.

Click here for the recap.

Here are the John McGillen photos as the Trojans pick up win No. 20 to only five losses:


Spring Rallies

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Come hang out with head coach Steve Sarkisian, linebacker Su'a Cravens and the Trojans this Sunday as they rally the USC crowds at the Hermosa Pier and the Americana at Brand in Glendale. The coach and his players will be joined by the Trojan Marching Band and the Song Girls.

Click here for more.

Fans in attendance can go home with autographs and the chance to win a signed chrome helmet.

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Hungry for More

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

It's been a season of firsts for the USC men's swimming and diving team. The Trojans won their first conference championship since 1979. Senior Cristian Quintero became the first Pac-12 swimmer ever to sweep the 100y, 200y and 500y free. And now, the team is looking to clinch its first top three NCAA finish since 1990.

For a complete USC men's swimming NCAA Championships preview, click here.

The 2015 NCAA Championships begin in Iowa City on Thursday, and USC is dead set on further raising the bar on its already stellar season. Thirteen swimmers and four divers will represent the Trojans at the meet where they will need to put forth the same phenomenal effort shown in the Pac-12 Championships in order to succeed on an even bigger stage.

Quintero, the defending NCAA champion in the 500y free, will lead USC in Iowa as the top seed in the 200y free, second seed in the 500y free and fourth seed in the 100y free. The All-American will also participate in several of the Trojans' relay teams which have been given high seeds as well.

Team-Swimming-15.jpg(Photo by Steven Stumph)

Photo Gallery: Sand Volley Solidifies No. 1

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Right before its match with defending national champion Pepperdine, USC women's sand volleyball was named the nation's top team in the new AVCA poll. The Women of Troy then backed up their No. 1 ranking by defeating the Waves 3-2 in an afternoon thriller at Merle Norman Stadium.

Click here for the recap with video highlights.

The Trojans remain undefeated at 7-0 on the campaign with wins over No. 2 Hawaii, No. 3 Pepperdine and No. 4 Florida State. They host CSU Bakersfield (3 p.m.) and Saint Mary's (4:30 p.m.) on Thursday.

Here are the John McGillen photos from USC's Tuesday afternoon win over Pepperdine: