2014 Spring Practice #13: Notes

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian ended practice by breaking the biggest news of spring.
  • "If we were starting a game Saturday, Cody would be our starting quarterback," announced Sarkisian. "I think he's deserved it. I think he's earned it. I think he's performed well."
  • _MCG0117_CodyKessler_041514.jpgSarkisian said that Kessler's "experience" and "quick decision-making" tilted the decision in his favor. "I think we can win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback," said Sarkisian. "I'm proud of him."
  • While Kessler is officially the starting quarterback, Sarkisian stressed that the competition will "wage on", and he sees Max Browne as a future "star" and Jalen Greene "is going to be a great player."
  • Kessler took the news in stride showing the confidence of a QB with 10 wins already under his belt, and the drive to achieve much more than winning the job.  "Obviously, I was very excited. It's another big opportunity for me," he described his reaction to the news. "At the same time, I can't thank Max [Browne] and Jalen [Greene] enough for pushing me. It's not over. This is 'SC. It's always a competition every day."
  • Sarkisian met with all three quarterbacks before practice to break the news and point toward the season. "He is excited about the future and what I am doing. Obviously, the message was negative, but his attitude was positive," said redshirt freshman Max Browne. 
  • In regards to Browne, Sarkisian drew the parallel to the great quarterbacks of the recent past who had to wait their turn like Matt Leinart behind Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez behind John David Booty.  "That was the thing I took away from the meeting the most. At the end of the day, they were all successful here," said Browne. "You never know when your shot is going to be. When you get it, make the most of it."
  • Kessler has the luxury of entering the summer as the undisputed leader of the offense. "I'm going to take that leadership role upon myself, and at the same time, continue to make myself better," he said. 
  • Individually, Kessler is focused on "being a general of this offense" and "every little detail" from play recognition to throwing accuracy.  He had his best practice of the spring today, according to Sarkisian.
  • Browne's goal is "staying consistent and bringing it all together" after showing flashes of brilliance this spring.  He has no intention to transfer saying, "I'm staying put. I'm here for good."
  • While the news is exciting for Kessler, he is not getting ahead of himself. "The season is a long way away. I'm worrying about Thursday," he said.
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice press conference almost entirely explaining his quarterback decision:

Mic'd Up: Tim Drevno

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Offensive line coach Tim Drevno was a major hire for Steve Sarkisian's first USC coaching staff considering his years under Jim Harbaugh molding powerful units up front for Stanford and the 49ers. 

Now, Drevno is building an offensive line with the athleticism to keep pace with the Trojans new uptempo system and the physicality to lead a run-first attack. 

Here is Drevno mic'd up for Spring Football:

Trojans in Business: Larsen Jensen

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

20131030_LarsenJensen_030.jpgName: Larsen Jensen

Resume: Navy SEAL and two-time Olympic medalist

Sport at USC: Swimming

Caroline Deisley: Despite obvious reasons, how did swimming or more importantly, collegiate athletics prepare you for the Naval Academy and joining the Navy?

Larsen Jensen: I think it prepared me for obvious reasons in the sense of you needed familiarity with the water and comfort in your ability with that. I would say that my experience on a sports team in particular at 'SC gave me a taste of what relying on your buddies is all about and what camaraderie is all about. I think that was something that I really wanted on the next level and that's what motivated me to join the military in the first place - just to sort of have an essence or an enhanced version of that camaraderie and teamwork that we experienced at 'SC.

CD: Who would you say was your biggest role model or the biggest supporter in making that decision to join the military?

LJ: That's a really tough question because I don't believe there was any one person who was more so than others. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my family. They were and always have been tremendously in support of my decisions, and obviously, they did a good job of molding me into a person who can make his own decisions. Also, my coaches at 'SC and all my friends and teammates that were out there really supported me and got behind me. Pretty much every task that I've tried to tackle in life, I've had a tremendous support base and I've been very, very lucky in particular to have the support base from 'SC.

Specifically, Dean Ellis of the business school was a tremendous influence on me and he's just an incredible guy. Coach Dave Salo who's currently the men's head swim coach over at 'SC was also a tremendous influence on me so those are two of the Trojan great names that I guess you could say have helped to mold me into the person I am today.

CD: What sticks with you about your time as a student-athlete at USC? You mentioned Dean Ellis, how was that working with teachers and administrators?

LJ: It was awesome and as is with most things in life, the best advice I can give is to enjoy it because it's always over too soon. Make sure you soak it in because too often we get wrapped up in how busy our schedule is and in my particular case, when the next meet is or what kind of times you want to produce or do as a team, the grades, the midterms, what's going on Saturday night...all that kind of stuff. It's so easy to get wrapped up in all of that. Every once in awhile I think it's important to take a step back and realize that you're at a really important spot not only physically but also in terms of a really unique spot in your life where you're just a college student and have things going on. You sort of take it for granted later in life when you don't get the naps in the middle of day or when you're done with classes to just go relax. You sort of miss that from time to time. It's a tremendous experience so just treasure it. 

CD: Was there anything as a collegiate athlete you wish you had known before you entered the real world?

LJ: No question. I think it's unfortunate that as a college athlete you get so absorbed in whatever your sport might be whether it be swimming, football, basketball, whatever, that you really don't see beyond that. You don't really prepare yourself as well as perhaps a lot of the other students do at school. When a lot of the other students are doing internships every summer, the athletes are generally stuck on campus practicing and training for the next game or the next event. You have almost all your eggs in one basket in the sense that you're just shooting for that athletic performance and not necessarily preparing yourself for the real world job that's going to be creeping up on you right around the corner. Any student-athlete out there that might be having the unfortunate experience of listening to me talk, I think definitely get out there, get internships and get exposure to whatever it is you may be passionate about in the professional business realm because even if you go on to be a professional athlete, you can ask anyone, it's very short-lived. They set you up very well; however, you can't neglect everything else because otherwise you're just going to be at a deficit to everyone else who has done an internship for those four years. 

Sports Business Analysis Transformed

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The USC Marshall School of Business and USA Today are teaming up to create a first-of-its-kind online platform for daily content covering the business of sports. A new site, The Fields of Green, will be dedicated to vital analysis of breaking news, current events and ongoing topics in the sports industry through curated blog posts, original columns and multimedia such as slideshows, infographics and video.

Click here to check it out.

"We are so pleased to be working with the USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Fields of Green brings something completely new to the table: timely, incisive analysis of issues in sports from a business perspective," said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute and a national authority on sports business and strategic marketing. "It's a niche that no one else is filling, and a tremendous opportunity to shed light on the developments driving the sports business industry today."

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Harberts Gets the Dream

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USC women's basketball two-time All-Pac-12 center Cassie Harberts will be reunited with former Women of Troy head coach Michael Cooper whose Atlanta Dream selected Harberts 20th overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft.  She is the 11th Trojan ever to be selected in a WNBA draft joining an elite sorority including her former teammates Jacki Gemelos and Briana Gilbreath.

Click here for the complete story.

Harberts departs USC as the No. 7 all-time leading scorer and No. 8 all-time rebounder in program history. As a senior, she led the Trojans to the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament title, and brought them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

Mic'd Up: Chris Wilson

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The USC defensive line has earned consistent praise from head coach Steve Sarkisian this spring.  NT Antwaun Woods has been "the standard on the defensive side of the ball", while Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons have both been tabbed as breakout candidates.

Even without All-American Leonard Williams at his disposal, new defensive line coach Chris Wilson is getting it done in his first few months.  Listen in to the coach at work in our latest mic'd up...

Recapturing the Feeling

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In the first month of the season, USC baseball celebrated four walk-off wins.  The Trojans' late-inning mojo has been largely absent since then though as they have lost three consecutive extra inning games.

In desperate need of a victory, USC recaptured that exhilarating feeling Saturday as two substitutes, freshman Reggie Southall and sophomore Turner Clouse, who both entered the game as pinch runners, combined to deliver the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly.  Finally able to exhale, the Trojans pounded out 13 runs on a season-high 19 hits Sunday to take the three-game series from Utah.

Click here for the recaps.

USC sits at 17-17 overall with Arizona coming to town for three games this week (April 17-19), which will all be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks. 

Senior Jake Hernandez leads the team in hitting with a .354 BA.

Two New Women's Basketball Assistants

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USC women's basketball head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke celebrated her own birthday by signing two new assistant coaches, Beth Burns and Taja Edwards, for the upcoming campaign.

Edwards_taja.jpgBurns (pictured below) will serve as the associate head coach joining the USC staff after an impressive career at San Diego State, where she stands as the winningest coach in program history with a 295-186 overall record at the school.  In all, Burns has 21 years of head coaching experience, including six years at Ohio State, earning six conference Coach of the Year awards and making eight NCAA appearances, including a 2010 trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

"Beth is a legend," Cooper-Dyke said of Burns. "She established a winning culture at San Diego State that is in line with what we are working to do here at USC. She is a defensive-minded coach who has such wisdom when it comes to college basketball. Her passion and energy also make her a great fit for us here at USC, and I'm very eager to have her on staff."

Click here for the complete story.

Edwards (pictured right) comes to USC after an assistant coaching stint at Cal State Fullerton. The Carson native prepped at Long Beach Poly, where she won back-to-back state championships, and then played collegiately at Fresno State, where she helped the Bulldogs win four Western Athletic Conference championships and made four trips to the NCAA Tournament.

"Taja is a bright, young coach who I really believe has a great future," Cooper-Dyke said of Edwards. "She has NCAA Tournament experience as a player, so she knows what it takes to succeed as a student-athlete on the court and in the classroom."

Previous assistant coaches Brandi Manning and Evan Unrau were not retained after last season.


Meet Delvon Simmons

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Simmons-Spring14-McG.jpgName: Delvon Simmons

Position: Defensive Lineman

Class: Redshirt Junior

Size: 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds

Age: 21

High School: McKeesport (Pennsylvania)

Scouting Report: Delvon Simmons is a mountain of a man who is most effective occupying blockers and clogging up running lanes up front.  He could play a significant role in Justin Wilcox's new 3-4 defense competing for a starting spot alongside Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams.

Prep Career: Simmons was a highly touted prospect out of Pennsylvania being honored as a Super Prep All-American and a U.S. Army All-American as well as being named to the Rivals 100, Super Prep All-Northeast and Prep Star All-East rosters. The 6-foot-6 defensive lineman had 57 tackles with 11 tackles-for-loss and one sack his senior year of high school before committing to Texas Tech University where he played as a backup freshman year, registering 13 tackles in 10 games. Simmons started 13 games his sophomore year for the Red Raiders racking up 27 tackles including six for loss with two sacks and two deflections. After the 2012 season, Simmons decided to transfer to USC where he redshirted his junior year in compliance with NCAA transfer rules. 

Spring Ball: Simmons has shown tremendous potential throughout the spring as he competes for a starting spot on a defensive line that lost key starters Devon Kennard, Morgan Breslin and George Uko from last season. He's currently working on developing his pass rush skills and technique, specifically focusing on his footwork.

Wilcox on Simmons: "Delvon has improved daily, and he's played obviously in college football before, but I think he's a guy who will continue to develop and get better and better. He just needs to continue to develop fundamentally, but I think he's a guy that can definitely help us." 

Here is Simmons with our Caroline Deisley...

Ready for the Postseason

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DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson will represent USC men's basketball in the NBA Playoffs this spring.  The Raptors and Bulls are currently tied at 47-33, so one will be seeded third and the other fourth in the Eastern Conference.

While Gibson has never missed the postseason in his NBA career, DeRozan will be making his playoff debut.  Judging by the ferocious slam that he threw down over the weekend, he is ready for the big stage.