2017 Spring Practice #5: Notes

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The Trojans had several distinguished guests at practice, highlighted by Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.
  • RB Aca'cedric Ware has a foot sprain and is doubtful for Saturday's practice, per head coach Clay Helton.
  • Palmer-Practice.jpgWhile the offense returns QB Sam Darnold and several other core talents, Helton sees "more work to do offensively than maybe defensively" at this point.
  • Among the question marks, both offensive tackle spots are open. Chuma Edoga is a polished veteran, giving him the inside track at one of the openings. The other side is more of an open competition and Helton is "extremely impressed" with Andrew Vorhees, a freshman to watch.
  • The offense also has several opportunities at wide receiver and Velus Jones Jr. is seizing a role. He is not a traditional target like Darreus Rogers or JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he "seems to have created an explosion play each and every day," said Helton.
  • While the defense has a lot of experience, veteran linebacker Cam Smith is looking for a partner inside to replace captain Michael Hutchings. John Houston Jr. is first in line. "John is one of the guys I am really excited about. I liked him a lot last year. He just couldn't really crack into the lineup," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast about Houston. "I think he's got a real good skill set. I think he's instinctual. I am really looking forward to seeing his progress."
  • Houston learned a lot from watching Hutchings, and he still taps into his knowledge whenever he sees him. "Mike is still a leader, so I still take notes from him," said Houston. "He tells me different keys each time that I see him. So coming after him is one of the best things that I could do because he has a lot of experience with the defense. He knows it like both sides of his hands, so I feel like having him as my right hand is going to help me out this season."
  • Pendergast has noticed that sophomore inside linebacker candidate Jordan Iosefa picked up some tricks from Hutchings as well. "Jordan gained a lot of valuable experience last year as well. He's a very good communicator. He has a good feel for what we want to do defensively. He had an opportunity to watch Mike for a year, so that was big for him."
  • With Hutchings gone, Iosefa is ready to lean on Smith's brain and precognitive abilities. "He's helped me understand what's going to happen first down, second down, third down," Houston said about Smith. "He helped me understand what Coach Clancy's thinking because he would know what Coach Clancy was thinking. He would kind of expect it, and it's the same thing that goes for me. I kind of expect what Coach Clancy's going to call."
  • Freshman LB Tayler Katoa is trying to work into the mix as well, but he's making a positional change, so he has a lot to learn. "He's a guy that hasn't played a lot of linebacker, but he's a raw athlete," said Pendergast about Katoa. "He's very receptive, takes coaching very well. Those are the kind of guys you like to coach."
  • The Trojans are allowed three live tackling days out of the 15 practices and Saturday's scrimmage will be one of them. The scrimmage is open to the public and will be on Howard Jones Field at 10 a.m.
  • Here is head coach Clay Helton on the legends at practice and much more:

All-Around Great

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Today, the 2016-17 Learfield Directors' Cup released its Division I winter standings, and USC currently sits in fifth place.

The Learfield Directors' Cup, which rewards the top all-around athletic programs in the nation, currently slots the Trojans behind only Stanford, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State, with 492.0 total points.

USC was ranked No. 8 in the fall standings after a women's soccer national championship and a Rose Bowl-winning finish to the football season. But the Trojans bolstered a spot in the Top 5 with a 4th place finish in women's indoor track & field, a 9th place finish in women's swimming & diving and a 21st place finish in men's indoor track & field during the winter season.

The Trojans may earn another boost when the men's swimming & diving championships wrap up this weekend.

Last year, USC ranked 17th at the winter check-in point, but made a late surge in the spring to finish No. 4 overall. With three Trojan teams currently ranked No. 1 in the nation (men's golf, women's water polo and women's beach volleyball), it's safe to assume USC could move up the ranks once again.

The next update to the standings will come on April 6.

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Great One

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USC athletic director Lynn Swann, a pro and college football Hall of Famer, is set to collect his latest award, the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation's "Great Ones" trophy.

Click here for more.

"The Great Ones Award is our Stanley Cup. Each year we add a new name to it for that individual's contribution to his sport," said Bill McCoy, president of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation. "Lynn Swann and Jim Murray were friends for many years. It seems fitting we are honoring both their legacies with this award."


The Streak

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Tennis fans might know Steve Johnson as the United States' bronze-medal winning doubles player at the Rio Olympics, but the Orange County native made a name for himself at USC long before that.

While at USC, "Stevie" pulled off one of the most incredible accomplishments in the history of college tennis: a 72-match win streak that included two NCAA Singles Championships.

His fortitude helped lift the Trojans to four straight national titles as well (2009-10-11-12).

Check out The Streak, a short film by FloTennis detailing Johnson's legendary accomplishment.

State of Troy: March 2017

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Each month, we interview USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Swann on men's basketball's NCAA Tournament run...

usc-basketball-Baylor-NCAA-tournament-2017-mcgillen-Lr-7086.jpgNumber one, I thought the season was terrific. The coaches and players would like to still be playing basketball and have a run at the national championship, but when you look back at it, and you see that they won more games in a season than any other team in the history of USC men's basketball, that is a significant accomplishment. They validated their tournament selection by beating Providence and SMU despite a lot of so-called experts suggesting that they should not have been there. I think the players saw that they had a good chance to beat Baylor and be in the Sweet 16, and so as an athlete, that is why they are disappointed. They are not disappointed in their season, but they know they could have gone further. I hope they all come back and improve and get better because I think there is room for improvement. This was a great experience for them and I was pleased to have been there with them.

Swann on hiring a new women's basketball head coach...

I am very involved with this process. The base skill set requires that any candidate be able to teach, manage, organize and recruit. Beyond that, I am looking for someone who can develop and build relationships to get the most out of the team. You have to be able to reach the student-athletes individually to get them to be better people and better players. Hiring a head coach in today's environment, under NCAA and Pac-12 rules, is not as simple as it used to be because there is so much more you have to do off the court that if you are not prepared and organized, you get behind and it is tough to catch up. So, I am looking for someone who has that experience, mostly former head coaches, but we are still looking for talent, and if I believe that someone who has been an assistant and not been a head coach has that ability, I would not hesitate to bring them in and talk to them.

Swann on No. 1 women's water polo's record-setting 48-match winning streak...

To maintain that type of consistency and excellence, there are two things you need. One, you need the talent to pull it off. But, you also need a coach who can keep that team together and knows how to utilize that talent. Jovan Vavic has so many national championship trophies in his office that it is unbelievable. He is the key. He knows how to recruit and train the right student-athletes to give them the confidence and game plan to succeed. Even when his team does not play its best, they still find a way to win because of their preparation, attention to detail and technique.

Swann on No. 1 beach volleyball...

usc-beach-volleyball-2017-zuma-ucla-mcgillen-7466.jpgI have seen coaches who were driven, and I have seen coaches who were talented. Anna Collier is both. She makes it fun and fresh for her players. I was fortunate enough to see them firsthand on the beach in Malibu defeat Pepperdine and UCLA. Our young women are competitive and willing to get after it 100 percent of the time. I am looking forward to the rest of their season and I expect them to continue to do well and make history.

Swann on spring football...

The first challenge for Clay Helton is to get everybody over the fact that we went to the Rose Bowl and we won. You have to refocus. That was January, and we are now moving forward. The goal is to win the Pac-12 championship. You have to do that first, so that is what we want to get accomplished. We are trying to build the depth with our younger players to get to the level of the playoff teams like Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State. We need to be able to rotate players in without losing a level of performance and play. That's what we are striving to do, so that our backup players are not backups but the next guy ready to go in and get the job done.

Swann on the rest of the spring competition...

I am impressed by men's and women's golf, both ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Women of Troy recently won a tournament in Palos Verdes, while I watched the men dominate the field in Las Vegas. Our men's tennis team is in the top 10, while the women have hit a bump in the road, but I expect them to overcome it. Our women's lacrosse team has done very well, going back East and challenging itself against top competition. People are going to see a West Coast team in the East and say, 'I want to be there.' I really like head coach Lindsey Munday's intensity, and she is doing the right thing in terms of her schedule. I see the track and field team every morning working out. The coaches are putting them through their paces, and you can see the enthusiasm about what they have in this team. They had a good indoor season, but the goals are even bigger as the outdoor season begins. And baseball, I enjoyed watching the Trojans at Dodger Stadium, down 3-0 most of the game, come back and beat UCLA in extra innings. If they continue to play with that kind of grit, they will have a great season. Men's volleyball continues to improve, despite some key injuries, and is building for the future. As for our rowing program, they just finished their training camp and I am looking forward to their season and being on the water with them for their competitions. Overall, spring is the busiest time of year, and I think football, women's soccer and men's basketball set the tone with their high-profile success. The enthusiasm is contagious and we are excited to see it spread throughout every sport.

USC Pro Day 2017 With Shaun Cody

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As USC Pro Day 2017 unfolded on Wednesday, USC All-American Shaun Cody connected with Trojans past and present to get their perspectives on the young men competing and the importance of Pro Day leading up to the NFL Draft.

Trojans Do a Dozen

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USC's top-ranked beach volleyball team improved to 12-0 on the season and extended its winning streak to 42 matches with a victory over LMU yesterday.

Click here for the full recap!

Terese Cannon and Nicolette Martin served as the clinchers as the Trojans served up a 5-0 win to keep their all-time record against LMU unblemished (16-0).

USC's standout duo of Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes dropped their first set in uncharacteristic fashion, but bounced back with a dominant 21-10 win in the second set, and a 15-3 tiebreak victory.

The hard-fought win was the duo's 85th consecutive win.

After locking up the victory, the pair competed in the USC vs. LMU Pairs Tournament, winning its first two matches before splitting up in the finals. Hughes paired with Cannon in the finals, earning a 21-14, 21-18 victory over teammates Katrina Kernochan and Allie Wheeler.

The undefeated Trojans head to Columbia, S.C. this weekend for the Gamecock Grand Slam -- Dan Apol Memorial tournament, where they'll face No. 4 FSU, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 9 Georgia State and No. 13 Stetson.

Walk-On Walk-Off

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At athletic programs across the nation, it's unlikely for a walk-on to make an immediate impact in his or her first appearance on a team. That's what made yesterday that much more special for USC women's tennis senior Ines Guinard.

Guinard, an industrial and systems engineering major who has accepted an offer to work at Bank of America Merrill Lynch upon graduation, joined the team this fall after being spotted hitting on the practice courts by the women's tennis coaches.

Yesterday, she made her first appearance in a dual match for the Trojans, and with all eyes on her, clinched a 4-3 victory for USC.

After dropping the doubles point, USC rattled off three straight singles victories to charge ahead to a 3-1 lead. But the Lions clawed back to even things up with two three-set wins. With the score knotted at 3-3, spectators, teammates and coaches gravitated toward Court 6, where Guinard was locked in battle with LMU's Tatijana Sheikhan.

Guinard took the first set in a tiebreaker, but dropped the second. With the match on the line, she powered through to win the third set, 6-3, to win her first-ever collegiate tennis match and clinch the win for the Trojans.

With the win, the Trojans improved to 5-7 on the season heading into conference play. USC kicks off its Pac-12 stretch with a road trip to take on the Washington schools this weekend.

Follow the Women of Troy on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date!

@inesguinard is one of the best sport stories I have ever been a part of. Ines Guinard just secured the deciding match in a 4-3 win over LMU. What makes this story so special is that Ines was a normal student in early January, a senior, finishing up her Industrial Engineering degree, looking forward to her job as an investment banker upon graduation. For whatever reason, Ines slipped through the cracks for 3.5 years at USC until we saw her practicing and saw her true tennis ability. Once @zoescandalis and I shook her hand, we knew we had to have her on the team. Now here she is making history and blazing her own trail. I am not surprised, she is emotionally intelligent, doesn't flinch under stress, extremely positive, always building up the team, and loves to compete. So so so great to have her on our team for her last few months of school!

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Trojan Outreach Looks Inward

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Throughout the month of March, USC's Trojan Outreach program has been internal and reflective.

The program recently brought in Athletes for Hope to hold a workshop at the March Head Coaches meeting to educate the coaches on why and how to give back to the community.

Additionally, USC student-athletes participated in a workshop with PlayWorks at their most recent Trojan Athletic Senate Meeting. The student-athletes learned different methods to interact with and inspire children, which will come in handy this fall, when they'll partner with PlayWorks once a week to join local LAUSD students at recess to demonstrate the "Power of Play."

Next up for Trojan Outreach is the "Trojan Zen" event, where Trojan football alum Zach Banner will partner with UpRising Yoga to educate local children on the mental and physical benefits of yoga. That event will take place on campus this Saturday.

Follow Trojan Outreach on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date!

USC Pro Day 2017

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USC Pro Day 2017