Washington Monday: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Trojans had what head coach Steve Sarkisian called a "spirited" practice on the Monday of their modified work week. Just three days to go until USC hosts Washington on Thursday night...
  • DL Claude Pelon was carted off the field during practice for what Sarkisian believes is an ankle sprain. Freshman LB John Houston Jr. was held out with a sore back. According to the head coach, CB Kevon Seymour will most likely play on Saturday, while he is still unsure about WR Darreus Rogers.
  • On Thursday, the Trojans will play the Huskies for the first time since 2012. It will also be Sarkisian's first time playing his former team, something the head coach says changes nothing about the way USC is preparing this week. "We're going to run our stuff every week just like any other week. We have wrinkles that we like to do and we try to game plan our opponent. They're going to do the same," Sarkisian explained. "There's a lot of similarities between the two teams when it comes to schematics. But at the end of the day, it's about execution."
  • Sophomore CB/WR Adoree' Jackson echoed his coach's sentiment, adding that personal ties to any team doesn't alter the fact that the Trojans' matchup each week is against a faceless opponent. "Just like every game, it's just us versus that team. At the end of the day, no emotions attached, we've still got to play ball."
  • While Jackson is garnering much-warranted attention yet again this season, he's been impressed with a particular teammate who's following in his footsteps as a true freshman starter in the USC secondary. Through four games, Jackson said Iman Marshall's growth and competitive spirit have stood out.  "It's not hard at all," Jackson said on starting games as a true freshman. "It's probably the best feeling in the world. You're eager and you want to do good for the team."
  •  Sarkisian has also been impressed with the athletic Marshall, who stays after practice nearly every day to get in extra position work. "It's the sign of a guy who wants to be great," Sarkisian said. "He's not satisfied with where he's at yet. He's a heck of a player for a true freshman, but he wants to be special, he wants to be great and he works at his craft."
  • Another positive for the defense this season has been redshirt sophomore Chris Hawkins who has "really embraced" the move from corner to safety this season, according to Sarkisian. "I think he's doing well. Obviously he's got a knack for the football, he's creating turnovers for us. He's got a really high football IQ which has given him a nice transition. He's showing physicality, which is important, and he's able to cover from the safety position which is important."
  • With the exception of junior playmaker Su'a Cravens, the heavy, in-game rotation of players at the linebacker position is going exactly how the coaching staff planned, according to the head coach. Sarkisian said he's happy with the intensity the unit is showing and the minimal injuries the Trojans have seen on that front. "I think guys aren't saving themselves. I think they know, 'I got four plays. I'm going to give it what I've got knowing that I have a chance to get a rest. The guys know there's nothing to save themselves for."
  • Here's the head coach after Monday's practice with more on the matchup against Washington...

Washington Sunday: Notes

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The Trojans got after it on Sunday in what quarterback Cody Kessler called "one of the best practices" USC has had on either side of the ball this season.  
  • Freshman RB Aca'Cedric Ware and LB Don Hill, who was playing with the practice squad, got into a bit of a scuffle in the middle of practice, illustrating just how competitive things were at Sunday's practice. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster made light of the situation on the very next play by catching a pass, setting the ball down and raising his fists jokingly looking for someone to fight with. "The only reason our boys go at it is because it's just so competitive," said Smith-Schuster. "The reason why we play so great on Saturday nights is because of our service team. They give it 100 percent and it just brings out the best in us and it shows on game day."
  • Kessler spent the majority of practice working on nailing down his timing with receivers on deep balls including Smith-Schuster and Isaac Whitney who both came up with big plays in the scrimmage portions of practice. Kessler says its been his priority to capitalize on deep ball opportunities after missing a few in recent games.
  • Both head coach Steve Sarkisian and Kessler mentioned the offense's focus on finding the right balance between the number of plays run versus the number of explosive plays per game. Since he became the head coach at USC, Sarkisian has emphasized the desire to run about 80 plays a game. Through four games, the Trojans are only averaging about 66 plays per game. The head coach credits this to the offense's efficiency and ability to capitalize on those explosive plays with the Trojans averaging 8.1 yards per play.
  • The Trojans' run game started off the year strong, but has recently struggled to find its footing. Redshirt senior RB Tre Madden called last week's running performance "a little embarrassing" as the Trojans gained just 76 yards on the ground. Arizona State blitzed heavily in last Saturday's game, but Madden said that shouldn't matter. "It's completely a mindset. They can know exactly what we're going to run and blitz every play, but if we just execute and do our jobs then it's going to work for us," he said.
  • Junior RB Justin Davis added that fixing the running game is simply a group effort. "It's a combination of the running backs, full backs and the offensive line. We all have to be on the same page," Davis said. "We know we have the talent. We know we have the potential. It's just up to us to go and get it done." 
  • Sarkisian is known for his run-heavy offense that's produced a 1,000 yard rusher each of the last two seasons at USC. This year however, the Trojans are the deepest they've been in a while at the running back position so they aren't relying on one guy to carry the workload. "I think it keeps us fresh," said Sarkisian on sharing the wealth. "There's going to come games when we're going to start to lean on a couple of them or one of them depending on how the game goes. As of right now, they're all doing a good job and executing when they get their numbers called, so I have a hard time arguing with it."
  • The Trojans had the weekend off from football but that doesn't mean that Sarkisian, the self-proclaimed number one college football fan, didn't pay attention to what was happening around the country. The biggest takeaway Sarkisian had from a weekend that featured many upsets, is that there's a lot of football left to be played. "You have to sharpen your sword every day. You have to come prepared to play every Saturday because anybody can beat anybody," said Sarkisian. "The rankings shouldn't determine how we prepare and how we play. It should be what we want to do, who we are and what we produce on the field."
  • Here is the head coach after Sunday's practice...

Washington Saturday: Notes

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The Trojans returned to the practice field Saturday afternoon after a couple of days off to start the five-day countdown to Thursday night's game against the Washington Huskies. On the injury front, DT Antwaun Woods (pec), CB Kevon Seymour (knee) and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster who missed two practices for "personal reasons" returned to practice while WR Darreus Rogers and DL Jacob Daniel were both limited with hamstring injuries. 

Here is head coach Steve Sarkisian addressing the media after practice...

Raining Cats and Dogs

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The USC women's volleyball team is steamrolling through its season, boasting a 14-0 record - its best start to a season in 10 years. This weekend, the Women of Troy are looking to keep their perfect win streak alive against two, tough Northwest opponents including No. 5 Washington.

After four games on the road, the Trojans are eager to return home and improve upon their 7-0 record at Galen Center this weekend. USC is one of just five undefeated teams remaining in college volleyball, including Sunday's foe, Washington. The team's success is owed in large part to senior Samantha Bricio, four-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week this season and national leader in points (6.22 pps) and aces (.85 saps).

Click here for a complete preview of this weekend's games.

See the Trojans in action at the Galen Center on Friday against Washington State at 7 p.m. and Sunday against Washington at 1 p.m. Sunday's game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

Here is head coach Mick Haley in his weekly women's volleyball update...

Taking Care of Business

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

While playing football as a Trojan can result in a successful NFL career, the degree earned by graduating from USC lays the groundwork for a successful life. In a recent Trojan Family Magazine article, Mike Piellucci delves into the commitment many former USC football players have made to finish undergraduate study no matter where their post-USC life has taken them.

Click here for the complete story.

"We do understand as players that it doesn't last forever," Marqise Lee, who is working to complete requirements for his degree in sociology each offseason, says of the NFL in Piellucci's article. "A degree can last forever and helps get a nice job after playing. I've got to get a degree to get the job I want. My main focus is helping as many kids as I can."


Morning Mayhem

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No. 3 USC men's water polo hopes to avenge its early season loss to No. 2 Stanford when the Trojans welcome the Cardinal to the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.

Click here for the preview.

USC is 10-1 on the season, having suffered a 6-5 defeat to Stanford in the NorCal Invitational semifinals. The Trojans will finish their three-match home stand on Sunday against San Jose State (1 p.m.).


Record-Setting Start

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No. 2 USC women's golf opened the fall season by shooting 36-under as a team, a new school record, to lap the field by 23 strokes at the Annika Intercollegiate in Orlando, Fla.

"What an incredible record-breaking performance by our team. It's exciting to kick off our season this way," USC 20th-year coach Andrea Gaston said. "I have never seen so many darts thrown at pins and a lot of red numbers. As a coach, you dream of having a day like this. The Trojans were blessed with three incredible days and I'm really proud of them."

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy were led by junior Karen Chung who won the individual title at 12-under. For her effort, she was named the Pac-12 Women's Golfer of the Month.


Trojan Trunks

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Former USC football player Gerald Washington will proudly represent the Trojans on his trunks for his next heavyweight fight vs. Amir Mansour on October 13 (LIVE on FS1). "El Gallo Negro" is 16-0 with 11 knockouts since turning pro.

Meet Iman Marshall

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Name: Iman "Biggie" Marshall

Position: CB

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

Age: 18

High School: Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, CA)

Game: Even as a freshman, Marshall already boasts an extremely impressive physique. The cornerback uses his size to his advantage but more importantly, Marshall's weapon is his ability to move quickly and intentionally, giving him the ability to cover both speedy receivers and big, physical wideouts. More than anything, the freshman is a student of the game, and his desire to be legendary begins with his consistent effort to improve every aspect of his game.

Prep Career: Marshall was one of the most highly-touted recruits of the 2015 class, earning just about every accolade possible upon finishing his senior season. The cornerback made the 2014 USA Today All-USA first team, the Prep Star All-American Dream team and the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Defensive MVP award, just to name a few. Marshall was ferocious on defense with 85 tackles including five for losses and 16 pass deflections. He also played wide receiver, racking up 19 receptions for 315 yards (16.6 avg) with eight touchdowns.

Fall: All eyes were on the true freshman as USC Fall Camp began to see how quickly he could adapt to the collegiate playing speed. The competitive Marshall battled for playing time in camp, making play after play in practice and ultimately starting in USC's last two games while earning significant time overall as part of the cornerback rotation. Throughout camp and into the fall, the freshman continues to be one of the last to leave the practice field, working with coaches and assistants to continue to improve week-by-week. 

Sarkisian on Marshall: "Iman has really come on strong these last few weeks. He's a physical guy at the corner position and we needed it so the timing was almost impeccable with Kevon [Seymour] being down." 

Here is Marshall after practice...

Trojan Tip-Off

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USC men's and women's basketball will ceremonially start the season with Trojan Tip-Off, featuring an array of games, prizes and activities for children as well as intrasquad scrimmages by both teams, at the Galen Center on October 11 beginning at Noon with Fanfest. The two 20-minute intrasquad scrimmages introducing the 2015-16 men's and women's teams will begin at 1:00 p.m.

Click here for more!

Admission to the event is free. Basketball season starts with a doubleheader on November 13 as the Women of Troy host Hope International and the men welcome San Diego.

Click here for basketball ticket information.

During the Trojan Tip-Off, fans will have the opportunity to meet the coaches and players, get autographs and participate in interactive skills challenges with the players and coaches. DJ Malski will be performing and there will be special appearances by the Trojan Dance Force, Song Girls and The Spirit of Troy.