Clay Helton Q&A: Alabama

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USC is just five days away from its season opener against top-ranked Alabama. Here is our first Q&A of the season with head coach Clay Helton, in which he breaks down the Crimson Tide's defense:

Hole in Two

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USC men's golf will open the 2016-17 season ranked No. 2 in the Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll.

Click here for the full story.

The Trojans, led by 11th-year head coach Chris Zambri, are coming off an impressive season which saw them advance to the NCAA semifinals. This year, they return all five starters from that squad, plus two top-notch recruits.

Only Texas is ranked ahead of USC in the preseason poll.

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Meet Stevie Tu'ikolovatu

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Name: Stevie Tu'ikolovatuUSC_FOOTBALL_FALL_CAMP_081016_mcgillen_2148.jpg

Position: DT

Class: RS Senior

Size: 6-foot-1, 320 pounds

Age: 25

Last College: Utah

Game: Tu'ikolovatu has brought a physical and mental maturity to the defensive line. On the field, he will line up over the ball at nose tackle. Given his immense size, he occupies multiple blockers which frees up the linebackers to make plays. In Clancy Pendergast's system, he is also given the freedom to work off blockers and try to make tackles-for-loss himself, which is different than how he was instructed at Utah. Last year, he graded out as the second-best interior defensive lineman in the Pac-12, per Pro Football Focus.

College Career: Tu'ikolovatu played for the Utes in 2014 and 2015 after missing the 2013 season with a foot injury as a redshirt freshman. He played in all 13 games last year, starting two. He had 28 tackles with six TFL and two sacks, and also led the Pac-12 and tied for second in the nation with four fumble recoveries. As a redshirt sophomore in 2014, he had eight tackles in 12 games.

Clay Helton on Tu'ikolovatu: "He's a load, especially in the run game. What I didn't anticipate is his pass-rushing skills. He's really strong with his hands and does a great job of throwing guys around. The thing that I appreciate about him: he's really brought a level of maturity to the room. Twenty-five-year-old man with a wife, married, and he really has a focus of what he wants to do ... I go to bed thanking the Lord that he's on our football team, because he's really making a difference for us."

Fun Fact: Tu'ikolovatu went on a Mormon mission to the Philippines from 2010-12.

Here is Tu'ikolovatu on his transition to USC and more....

#HowEyeSeeIt: Jake Olson

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USC long snapper Jake Olson has long been an inspiration for the Trojan football team. From his years as a young fan to his recent accomplishment of walking on to the team, he hasn't let his blindness stand in the way of his passions.

Olson, who won the 2016 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award, hopes to make his USC debut this season.

Watch Olson teach his teammates to play without the use of sight in the #HowEyeSeeIt Challenge:

Trojans Live Tonight

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The new season of Trojans Live kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. PT from The Lab gastropub on Figueroa. Fans are encouraged to come down to the restaurant and meet the in-person guests, but you can also listen on ESPN Los Angeles 710, TuneIn and Facebook Live.

For Alabama week, we have a huge guest list, including head coach Clay Helton, QB Max Browne, women's soccer forward Katie Johnson and athletic director Lynn Swann. Jordan Moore and John Jackson will once again serve as the hosts.


Ballin' in the 'Bu

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USC women's soccer split matches this weekend, dropping a heartbreaker at Long Beach State before bouncing back with a convincing win over Pepperdine in Malibu.

The Trojans (1-2) controlled most of the game on Friday at LBSU, but the 49ers scored the only goal of the game on a 66th-minute corner kick.

On Sunday, USC had another shot to notch its first win of the season and took advantage, scoring three goals in the first half against the Waves.

Check out John McGillen's photo gallery of USC's 3-0 win over Pepperdine in Malibu:

#USCtotheNFL Preseason Week 3 Highlights

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Three weeks into the NFL preseason, Trojans are consistently making highlight-reel plays.

Jaguars LB Hayes Pullard III had a huge game, with 4 tackles and a pick-six. He also caught a TD pass, but it was called back.

Cardinals QB Matt Barkley went 12/18 for 162 yards on Sunday, with 2 TD and 2 INT. He played in relief of Carson Palmer who went 5/9 for 64 yards.

Bills CB Kevon Seymour and Redskins LB Su'a Cravens, both rookies, squared off on Friday, recording four tackles each.

Rookie QB Cody Kessler had an efficient day for the Browns on Friday, going 5/6 for 27 passing yards.

Rookie DT Delvon Simmons had three tackles for the Colts on Saturday.

Titans DE Jurrell Casey had a solid game as well, with three tackles and a sack in Tennessee's 27-14 win over Oakland.

Mock Game: Notes

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USC held a closed 50-play scrimmage off campus to wrap up mock game week.
  • LT Chad Wheeler tested his plantar fasciitis and the results were not promising, per head coach Clay Helton. "It was not great today," he reported about Wheeler's injured foot.
  • Helton will likely decide Tuesday if Wheeler is capable of starting. If not, sophomore Chuma Edoga is the next man up, and the head coach has plenty of confidence in him. "Chuma did a terrific job today," Helton said.
  • Behind Edoga, Helton has young tackles E.J. Price and Clayton Johnston, but he also has the flexibility of kicking out Chris Brown or Jordan Simmons from guard to tackle because they both came into USC as tackles.
  • In more promising injury news, S Marvell Tell III looks good to be full go next week after nursing a hamstring injury back to 100 percent.
  • While the scrimmage was not overly physical, Helton was happy with the situational work. More than anything, he wanted to simulate the experience of staying at a hotel before a game, traveling to the stadium and preparing to play.
  • Helton also praised the "confidence" of QB Max Browne who has been boosted by winning the starting spot.
  • The Trojans will practice next on Tuesday when Alabama week begins. Here is more from Helton:

Kenechi Udeze's Journey

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There are few people at USC who personify the spirit of "Fight On" more than DL coach Kenechi Udeze.

Coming out of high school, Udeze was an overweight, unheralded recruit who came to USC without a scholarship. After dropping more than 100 pounds, Udeze earned his spot on the team, which he made the most of, becoming an All-American, a national champion and an eventual first round NFL Draft pick.

In 2008, after four years as an NFL starter, Udeze received some of the worst news imaginable: he had leukemia. He was placed on IR that season while he underwent six months of chemotherapy.

Watch the journey that led Udeze back to USC here:

Mock Game Thursday: Notes

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The Trojans concluded open practices for the week in preparation for Saturday's mock game, which is closed to the media and public.

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  • S Marvell Tell III (hamstring) and LT Chad Wheeler (plantar fasciitis) remain the two biggest pieces of injury news, but both were on the practice field this afternoon in a limited capacity.
  • While USC has named Max Browne its starting quarterback, Alabama has either not decided or continues to play coy as to its QB. Either way, Helton is comfortable that Browne, a traditional pocket passer, and Sam Darnold, more of a dual threat, give the Trojans' defense looks at both options.
  • Here is the rest of Helton's press conference: