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2014 Fall Camp #10: Notes

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Written by Caroline Deisley and Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributors

In the first of two practices on Friday, the Trojans focused in on the mental side of the game.
  • Reversing the usual two-a-day routine, head coach Steve Sarkisian used the morning practice to work on specific scenarios like game-winning field goals and offensive drives in the final seconds of a game, and will use the night practice as a more physical workout.
  • Sarkisian said elements of practice will start to look a lot like a real game as the Trojans enter the heart of Fall Camp. "Everything we do is really specific in what we are trying to accomplish," he said. "We're not just running plays anymore. There are going to be scrimmage aspects that will start to really bring the game together for the team."OLine.jpg
  • Slowly but surely through the first several weeks of Fall Camp the offensive line has come together. While Sarkisian says they haven't reached perfection yet, he's been impressed with the improved communication of the unit and the tremendous leadership of center Max Tuerk and offensive tackle Chad Wheeler. The head coach explained that the lingering injuries of Jordan Simmons, Aundrey Walker and Nico Falah have prevented the line from performing at optimal capacity.
  • With more experience under his belt, Tuerk can see the difference that hundreds of snaps to quarterback Cody Kessler have made. "I feel a lot more comfortable. We've taken a lot more reps and now I definitely feel more comfortable than I did."
  • While Kessler is responsible for orchestrating his receivers and running backs, Tuerk's role is to be the quarterback of the offensive line. Learning to thrive in his new position has meant embracing the challenges of an uptempo offense. "You just gotta hustle. You've got to be thinking at all times and you just have to run up to the line and get the call in from the sidelines and make your calls as fast as possible."
  • Overall, Tuerk is encouraged by the state of his line with two weeks to go before the first game. "It's looking pretty good right now," Tuerk said. "Obviously we have a lot to improve on. We can still get better every day. I think right now as an offensive line we're working well together and we're a really close group."
  • Offensive tackle Zach Banner agrees with his fellow lineman but knows there is still work to be done for him and the entire offensive line to be ready for game day. "I feel like I'm getting better every single day because pressure is put on me every single day. I love every minute of it and I know that that's what it takes to make me better, to make our offensive line better and ultimately to make our team better. It starts with the offensive line, it starts with us."
  • While Banner says that physically the offensive line feels prepared to handle the new fast-paced system, the biggest challenge is mental. "You've just got to study a little more. You need to know your role much faster than most other offensive lines do. We don't take all that time. It's now, now, now."
  • Thursday was an off day for the Trojans as they took official team pictures before heading off for an afternoon of bowling and arcade games. But even on off days, the team is always ready to compete. "We like to rejuvenate them," said Sarkisian. "We like to come together as a team and have fun, but also be competitive. At first they were kind of tired but when pop-a-shot basketball and bowling started, the guys were trying to rip each other's throats out. These guys are ultra-competitive. They love battling with one another, but that's a great trait. We look for guys who are true competitors, no matter what we're doing. And I think we have a football team full of those players."
  • Here is Coach Sarkisian after Friday morning's practice...

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