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2014 Spring Practice #4: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors

After a week off for spring break, the Trojans were back at it on Tuesday continuing to learn head coach Steve Sarkisian's new system. 
  • Tuesday was another high intensity practice as the coaches were impressed with the team's performance despite the break. "I thought from the physical standpoint our conditioning was pretty good," explained Sarkisian. "It showed their willingness to work while they were on spring break to keep themselves prepared for the pace of practice."
  • Through the offseason and the first two weeks of spring ball the coaching staff has emphasized the importance of the mental aspect of the game, especially considering they're implementing a new system. "I think our communication is much better, especially defensively. We've put in a lot of offense and a lot of defense and those two things mashing together can be challenging," said Sarkisian. "I think we are really benefiting from the walkthroughs, one, at practice, but two, the twenty guys that can't practice right now are getting such valuable reps."
  • Running back Javorius Allen agreed with his head coach saying, "The coaches are doing a great job with walkthroughs and meetings. A lot of guys learn better in that setting and it translates quickly to the field. With a walkthrough in the morning we're able to fix mistakes for practice that afternoon." 
  • A new playbook also means coaches will experiment with players in new positions. For example, freshman Toa Lobendahn has been moved around the offensive line, playing left guard with the ones Tuesday in practice. "Toa has really responded well. He's a mature kid, he works at it, he studies, he prepares and he can translate it to practice," the head coach praised. "The most key point of it all is that he is willing to take to the coaching and then apply the things he's been taught."
  • As a team leader and last year's starting quarterback, Cody Kessler is not only working to master the new playbook for himself, but also to guide his teammates. "The main thing I've been focused on is helping other guys out," said the quarterback. "My goal was to learn this offense so well that when we get in games, or for practice right now, guys can look to me for help."
  • Kessler said he's also spent the offseason focusing on strengthening his arm and is confident in his ability under center. "I feel so much stronger and so much more in command. I feel like I can throw any route on the field."
  • In one of the highlights from Tuesday's practice, redshirt junior Buck Allen hauled in a long pass from Kessler out of a wheel route. Allen said it was the longest pass play he's been a part of in his Trojan career. "We've got a quarterback who can throw so as long as he puts it out there I'm going to go get it. I played a little receiver in high school so I trust my hands, and I trust that my quarterbacks can get it to me."
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice presser...

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