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Season of Seven

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USC men's water polo is back in the pool this week putting its national championship streak on the line for yet another season.  The Trojans are in untouched waters having won six consecutive NCAA titles, but No. 7 would be truly magnificent given that Jovan Vavic has to replace his son Nikola, the National Player of the Year, and James Clark, an All-American goalie.

Click here for the complete outlook.

Of course, the Trojans do not rebuild.  They reload. 

Enter McQuin Baron and a talented group of reinforcements.  Baron fills up the cage at 6-foot-9 and already boasts experience as the goalie on the U.S. National Team.  He will be joined by a quartet of prized foreign imports including Lachlan Edwards (Australia), Mihajlo Milicevic (Serbia), Lazar Pasuljevic (Montenegro) and Matteo Morelli (Italy).

While the Trojans lost a lot of talent, the returning core would be envied by any other program.  Kostas Genidounias enters his senior season with an opportunity to surpass Nikola Vavic as USC's all-time leading scorer.  Rex Butler (pictured) owns 70 career goals as he searches to join the illustrious 100-goal club.

USC begins its heavenly quest for No. 7 this weekend at the Triton Invitational.  The SoCal BMW Crosstown Cup match against UCLA is set for November 2 at the new Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

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Where Trojans Bank

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Meet John Plattenburg

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

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Name: John Plattenburg

Position: DB

Class: Freshman

Size: 5-foot-11, 180 pounds

Age: 18

High School: Lamar High (Houston, TX)

Scouting Report: Plattenburg boasts the physicality of a defensive back with top end speed allowing him to match-up against the nation's best wide receivers, while also rotating in at the nickel position. 

Prep Career: Plattenburg dominated his senior season at Lamar as a defensive back and returner earning him 2013 Prep Star All-Midland honors as well as a spot on the All-District 20-5A second team. Prior to playing in Houston, Plattenburg established himself as an elite defender at Centennial HIgh School in Corona, Calif., racking up 75 tackles, five interceptions, nine deflections and two fumble recoveries his junior year leading his team to victory at the 2012 CIF Inland Division Championship as well as the CIF State Open Division Regional Bowl. 

Fall Camp: With the loss of OLB Jabari Ruffin, the Trojans needed to switch up the defensive rotation allowing freshman like Plattenburg to get some quality reps at different and/or new positions. The freshman defensive back will most likely see some time at the safety position, but has been rotating in at the nickel position.  He played briefly at the end of the season opener against Fresno State.

DB coach Keith Heyward on Plattenburg: "He's doing a great job. He came out and showed tremendous quickness and strength and had a pretty quick grasp of our playbook. That's why he's running with the second group right now at the safety position." 


Big Week for Kessler and Williams

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USC QB Cody Kessler and DE Leonard Williams earned weekly honors for the Manning and Lott IMPACT awards thanks to strong performances in the Trojans' season opener against Fresno State.

Kessler was named one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week for his 394 passing yards and 4 TDs (plus one rush TD). 

Click here to vote for him.

Williams is up for Lott IMPACT Player of the Week after snatching an interception to go with seven tackles. 

Click here to vote for him.

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Freshman Phenom

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

It didn't take long for Trojan fans to experience first-hand the multidimensional talents of CB/WR/PR Adoree' Jackson. The freshman contributed to all three areas of the game and played 52 total snaps against Fresno State (13 on offense, 25 on defense and 14 on special teams).  Catching his first career pass on USC's opening offensive possession, Jackson later notched his first career tackle before scoring his first career touchdown and returning a punt for 10 yards in the fourth quarter.

Jackson is not the first Trojan to play substantially on both sides of the ball however. Chad Morton, in 1996-97, was the last USC player to play both offense and defense a significant amount in a game. He played a combination of WR, TB, CB, S and PR in three games as a freshman and two games as a sophomore.

Even with his impressive debut, Jackson says there are still areas of his game that can improve. He gave himself a "C" grade against Fresno State, but the freshman will get plenty of opportunities to bump that to an "A" when USC takes on Stanford this Saturday.

"Everybody says this is a big game, but we think every game is a big game," Jackson explained. "I'm just going to play my game and keep preparing how I've been preparing. We're feeling good coming into this game."

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Stanford Wednesday: Notes

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USC QB Cody Kessler and DE Leonard Williams will be "ready to go" for Stanford.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian squashed any internet rumors about the severity of the injuries to two of his biggest stars.  He also is optimistic about the return of OL Jordan Simmons (knee) and Khaliel Rodgers (knee) to practice, but they need to improve their fitness to have an impact Saturday.
  • Cravens-Stan13-McG.jpgOL Damien Mama worked out during the beginning of practice, and he will be a game time decision.
  • Sarkisian hinted on last night's Trojans Live that Stanford might open it up a bit more this season with a veteran quarterback and a talented receiving corps.  "It's a tough match-up because they complement their run game very well," Sarkisian said about Stanford's wideouts. "You want to commit to defending the run, but then, you know they can beat you with the deep ball to create explosive plays."
  • All-American Ty Montgomery is the toughest match-up on the outside for the Trojans, so junior CB Kevon Seymour will likely draw the assignment after a "very active" first game against Fresno State during which he had three pass breakups.  Sarkisian also praised Seymour for being "confident, but disciplined." He has had an interception in practice on back-to-back days.
  • On the other side, Adoree' Jackson knows the competition level will be ramped up from a week ago.  "They just told me to tighten up," said Jackson. "We're going up against great receivers defensively like Montgomery and the other receivers they have. They said, 'This is like a pro team. You're not going against Fresno State.' We need to tighten up and be prepared for anything."
  • Given Stanford's balanced attack, Sarkisian pointed to Su'a Cravens as the X factor. "Su'a's versatility is a real key for us in this game because he can play down in the box and be physical and then he can be a deep safety in some of our nickel sets and everything in between there."
  • Cravens setup the game-winning field goal with an interception against Stanford last year (pictured).  "I gotta make a lot more tackles than I did," he said. "I want another pick. I did pretty good, but I want to be a lot better than last year. I want it to be to where they can't run to my side. There's something about Stanford that fires me up so I'm ready."
  • While the Cardinal have the capacity to open the game up, David Shaw will likely be in no hurry to match the Trojans' tempo. "I can't force them to run more plays," said Sarkisian about the clash of styles.  The head coach explained that "efficiency on third down" will be the key since both teams want to extend drives to control the nature of the contest.
  • Senior LB Hayes Pullard relishes the opportunity to play an opponent like Stanford. "It's going to be a dogfight. That's Stanford-USC football," said the captain. "Just bringing your lunch pail and being able to go out there and just fight toughness with toughness."
  • Stanford's physicality poses a unique challenge in the Pac-12, which is better known for spread offenses looking to throw 50 passes per game.  Pullard described the weekly conference game plan conundrum perfectly by saying, "You've got to be ready to face a lion one week and a mongoose the next."
  • This is a titanic match-up, especially so early in the season, but the Trojans are trying to avoid riding the emotional wave this year. "We can't make the game bigger than what it is," said Cravens. "It's only week two. Stanford, of course, is going to be a big game, but we're going to approach it like we approach every game and go out there and do what we gotta do."
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice presser:


Trojans Live - Stanford Week

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox provided the Stanford scouting report on last night's Trojans Live plus John Jackson and I sat down with DT Antwaun Woods and women's volleyball Hayley Crone.

Click here to see Wilcox's segment.

Click here to see Woods' segment.

Click here to see Crone's segment.

Click here for JJ's scouting report.


JuJu's Debut in Context

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Streaking down the USC sideline in the Cardinal and Gold No. 9, you cannot blame Dion Bailey for being confused.  The former Trojan safety tweeted at Marqise Lee that he "must be seeing things" and asked the Biletnikoff Award winner if he is still at USC.

USC_FSU_08302014_MCG6222_2.JPGBut no, it is John "JuJu" Smith in the No. 9 jersey now, and while he looks like a junior superstar, he is just a 17-year-old freshman.  Smith finished his breakout performance with four catches for 123 yards, which is more than any USC true freshman has had in a season opener.

Here is how USC's career Top 10 pass receivers fared in the season opening games of their first year  (catches-yards-TDs):
 

Roberts Woods, 2010 vs. Hawaii, 4-46-0

Marqise Lee, 2011 vs. Minnesota, 5-32-0

Dwayne Jarrett, 2004 vs. Virginia Tech, 2-8-0

Keary Colbert, 2000 vs. Penn State, 0-0-0

Kareem Kelly, 1999 vs. Hawaii, 5-104-0

*Johnnie Morton, 1990 vs. Syracuse, 0-0-0 (*was redshirt freshman in 1990)

Steve Smith, 2003 vs. Auburn, 1-7-0

Mike Williams, 2002 vs. Auburn, 4-56-0

**Keyshawn Johnson, 1994 vs. Washington, 1-5-0 (*was junior in 1994 after transferring from JC)

*John Jackson, 1986 vs. Illinois, 3-53-0 (*was redshirt freshman in 1986)

Meet Viane Talamaivao

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor
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Name: Viane Talamaivao

Position: OL

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-3, 330 pounds

Age: 18

High School: Centennial (Corona)

Scouting report: If it were not for Damien Mama, Talamaivao would be the massive freshman on everyone's mind.  He is a mountain of a man himself, and his skills and size translate to any of the interior offensive line spots.

Prep Career: Talamaivao played alongside fellow Trojan freshman John Plattenburg at Centennial before Plattenburg transferred to Lamar High in Houston for his senior year. Talamaivao was also highly touted out of high school claiming a spot on the ESPN 300 list, the Los Angeles Times All-Area team and the 2013 Prep Star All-American Dream Team.

Fall Camp: Due to the breakneck speed of Steve Sarkisian's offense, the offensive line will see many different rotations to keep the line fresh. Talamaivao worked all summer with the strength & conditioning staff as well as nutritionist Becci Twombley in order to be adequately conditioned by the start of Fall Camp. Talamaivao featured mainly with the second team in Fall Camp, but he rotated into the action at right guard consistently in the season opener against Fresno State.

Sark on Viane: "I think our younger guys continue to improve, continue to get better. I think Viane has made very good strides at guard. What it looks like at the start of a game or start of a practice might not be who's getting the most reps. We're just always trying to find the scenarios. We need eight really good guys who can rotate through for our season to be really successful."

Here is Caroline Deisley meeting Big V...

McAlpine Opening Eyes

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Steve Sarkisian is not the only USC head coach making an impressive debut this fall.  New women's soccer boss Keidane McAlpine is off to an undefeated start through four matches capped by a 2-1 upset of No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend this past weekend.

Click here for more.

The Women of Troy were trailing the Irish at halftime before second half goals from Savannah Levin, the first of her career, and Reilly Parker, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.  Senior Caroline Stanley, the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week, made a crucial stop on a penalty kick to preserve the victory.

Click here for the Pac-12 release.

USC started the weekend by defeating Iowa State 3-1.  The Women of Troy will play their home opener on Friday at 4 p.m. PT against UC Riverside.