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Best of Beijing

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The USC Track & Field program once again reminded the world of its embarrassment of riches both past and present, taking home seven medals at the 2015 IAAF Track & Field Championships in Beijing last week. Led by USC alum Allyson Felix, who won a gold medal in the 400m and silver medals in both the 4x400m and 4x100m relays, four Trojans medaled throughout the nine-day competition.

For a complete recap, click here.

Bryshon Nellum (pictured third from left), a former All-American sprinter at USC, earned a gold medal for Team USA after running the third leg in the team's 4x400m relay final. Racing for Canada, rising senior Andre De Grasse and former Trojan sprinter Aaron Brown seized bronze medals as members of the 4x100m relay. De Grasse also won bronze in the men's 100m final earlier in the week.

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(Photo credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Painting the Helmets

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USC's football helmets are iconic, so we followed them to the Riddell factory in Union City, CA, to see them painted from start to finish.

Of note, California law mandates that all helmets are inspected every year, so USC sends them out after spring football. Riddell, which makes most of the helmets for teams west of the Rockies, strips all the guts from the inside and removes all the screws and metal. Then, they are inspected for cracks and any other defects.

The official color is "USC Cardinal Metallic." They paint two coats of cardinal primer beneath two coats of paint, so when the paint gets chipped and scuffed during the game, you still see cardinal.

Once the helmets are painted, the guts are reassembled inside, and they are shipped back to USC. The equipment staff then puts on the face masks and decals.


Meet Cameron Smith

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Name: Cameron SmithUSC_Football_Spring_Coliseum_033115_MCG4065.jpg

Position: LB

Class: Freshman

Size: 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds

Age: 18

High School: Granite Bay (Roseville, CA)

Game: Physically, Smith looks the part of a prototypical middle linebacker, but what's really made him stand out to the USC coaching staff this early in his career is his ability to diagnose opposing offenses and his natural instincts on the field. The freshman will wear No. 35, joining a long list of dominant linebackers of the same number reaching back through USC history.

Prep Career: As a senior linebacker at Granite Bay, Smith accumulated 148 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. His outstanding play earned him 2014 Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team and USA Today All-California honors. Smith had 11 interceptions in his career.

Fall Camp: Smith gave himself the upper hand in adjusting to the speed of the college game, graduating early from high school and enrolling at USC last spring. The linebacker's playmaking ability, displayed both in spring practices and Fall Camp, as well as his intellect have placed him in a position to make an immediate impact on the field this fall. Smith is currently slotted behind redshirt senior Lamar Dawson, who is out with a rib injury, which means the freshman could earn his first start on Saturday against Arkansas State.

Coach Sark on Smith: "The guy has been making plays for us [since spring]. He's been performing at a high level. He's got a high football IQ. He's just a heady guy. That position, sometimes you think it's got to be the big tough guy, which he is, but it takes smarts to play that position. We saw it with Hayes [Pullard], and Cam definitely has that real good sense and good feel in there."

Here is Smith on his first day of media availability...

State of Troy: September 2015

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Each month, we interview USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Haden on his handling of the Sarkisian situation...

Coli-Sunset-SH.jpgThis decision was given careful thought after conversations with medical professionals and trusted staff members. We developed a confidential plan going forward. Steve has discussed the counseling part of it, which he has already started. He has told me that it has been helpful, and he has approached it with an open mind. I understand that some people disagree with my decisions, this happens all the time. I believe this course of action was in the best interest not only of our university and Steve Sarkisian, but especially of our players, who have really rallied around their head coach.

Haden on the NFL coming to the Coliseum...

I have not spoken directly with the NFL in some time, but from all accounts, I absolutely believe the NFL will be here in 2016 or at the latest 2017. It could very well be two teams, but we would welcome one team in the Coliseum, and we have told that to the NFL. They would be a tenant of ours for likely two seasons, while they built their own stadium. And, we would use those dollars as part of the money that we need to remodel the Coliseum.

Haden previews the fall sports...

USC_WVB_UNC_082815_MCG6641.jpgWomen's volleyball is off to a terrific start with a new offensive and defensive system, and they have already surged up the national rankings to No. 8. I watched the wins over North Carolina and BYU on Pac-12 Networks and came away very impressed. Women's soccer is 2-1 with its only loss to the No. 1 team in the country, so we are optimistic about what Keidane McAlpine is doing with that program. As always, we expect big things from men's water polo, one of our most decorated programs.

Haden previews football...

I am really excited about the younger players, but you always start with the veteran core, and we are lucky to have a senior quarterback in Cody Kessler, who had sensational numbers last year. Adoree' Jackson has a chance to be the most exciting player in college football. He is going to get a lot of touches in a lot of different ways. The biggest change, though, is that when I watch us practice, I see four guys at every position. We should be a lot better team by midseason after these young players gain some game experience.

Haden on men's basketball's trip to Italy...

I got a lot of positive reports from the trip. Andy Enfield's team looks a lot better. All our young players are not so young anymore, and the two freshmen, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, are going to be special. I know it has been hard in basketball the last few years, but we are really encouraged about the trajectory of the program.

Trojans Live Returns

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC's weekly radio show, Trojans Live, returned Monday night live from The Lab on Figueroa for its third season. This year, the show will be aired primarily on Mondays at 7 p.m. on ESPN 710 Los Angeles. Here is the schedule for the next five shows:
  • Tuesday, September 8
  • Monday, September 14
  • Monday, September 21
  • Monday, September 28
  • Monday, October 5
There was much to talk about in week one with just four days until the Trojans kick off the 2015 season. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian started the night discussing his decision to hand over much of his play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Clay Helton and later provided a scouting report for the team's first opponent, Arkansas State.

Sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster joined the show as this season's first student-athlete guest to talk about his name change, his increased confidence in his second season and his unique transportation around campus. USC women's volleyball senior captain Samantha Bricio also dropped by to discuss her more vocal role this season as well as her legacy as a Trojan.

Finally, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden called into the show to discuss Salute to Troy, the potential for the NFL in Los Angeles and the Trojans' upcoming season. Listen to his full interview here...

Arkansas St. Tuesday: Notes

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Game week is well underway as the Trojans ready for the season opener against Arkansas State (Saturday at 8 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks).
  • No new injury news, but the Trojans are preparing as if they will not have LB Lamar Dawson, RB Justin Davis, DL Claude Pelon and DL Jordan Simmons.
  • 4-countdown.jpgIn that case, freshman LB Cameron Smith will get the start alongside senior captain Anthony Sarao. "The guy has been making plays for us [since spring]," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "He's just a heady guy."
  • Sarkisian also expects all three freshmen tailbacks - Ronald Jones II, Aca'Cedric Ware and Dominic Davis - to play on Saturday. However, Tre Madden is back in the starting role after missing all of last season. "Being my senior season, I wanted to be on the field and have a pivotal role for the team," said Madden. "I'm just having the most fun I can possibly have this year."
  • Freshman RT Chuma Edoga will rotate in with starter Zach Banner. Marvell Tell III and Iman Marshall will see time in the secondary. TE Tyler Petite, who made a great TD catch in practice today, is listed as a co-starter at his spot. OLB Porter Gustin should parlay a strong Fall Camp into meaningful time as well.
  • As a team, Sarkisian said the Trojans will sub or "platoon" at "an alarming rate" compared to previous seasons when they did not have any depth. "We don't have second defense, we platoon, so every defense is a first defense," said LB Su'a Cravens. "Any defense that's in there is gonna be ready to compete."
  • Like the defense, the offensive line will rotate constantly, but they have to be wary of Arkansas State's aggressive pass rush, which accounted for 37 sacks last season. "They're a good team," said LT Chad Wheeler, who is healthy and ready to start. "They led their division with sacks. They have a great pass rush, talented guys. We gotta bring our A-game."
  • Two punting notes: Starting punter Kris Albarado will wear No. 17 this season. And, the newest Trojan is blueshirt punter Chris Tilbey. Originally from Melbourne, he is an Australian Rules-style punter who comes to USC as a transfer from San Francisco City College. He is eligible to play immediately as a sophomore.
  • Clay Helton was the star attraction at practice today since he was publicly named the offensive play-caller on Saturday. "It's been a year in development," said Helton about the plan to run the offense. "Obviously, when you're a first-year group and getting to know exactly what Coach wants as an OC and a play-caller, it was really a great learning experience for me to see exactly what he wants and how he makes calls."
  • Helton will call plays from the field and WR coach Tee Martin will serve as his eye in the sky up in the press box. "If we were in a different situation, and we didn't have Tee Martin and Coach Tui and Coach Sark, you're talking about four quarterbacks on a staff, we've all seen and played the game and so the information coming down is very simple. If we weren't in that situation, and I felt like I needed better vision, I'd be up. But I can't tell you how valuable it is, when you get in a critical situation at the end of the game, to be able to literally talk to the players and say this is exactly what I want you to do. That's critical."
  • Helton and QB Cody Kessler have developed tremendous chemistry over the redshirt senior's career. Helton on Kessler: "It's like having a coach on the field. It's like he's reading my mind. He knows, whether it's myself or Coach Sark calling the play, exactly what we want and exactly why we're calling the play."
  • Here is Sarkisian's morning press conference:


Palinoia

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contibutor 

_MCG8177.jpgOn the first day of 2015 USC Fall Camp, every member of the football team was handed a coin inscribed with a complicated word and its simple definition.

Palinoia: The compulsive repetition of an act until it is perfect.

The word was one that no player had heard before, but it soon became entrenched in the identity of the team as they prepared for the upcoming season. To achieve the lofty goals the Trojans have for themselves this fall, it's going to require a mentality far above the status quo. Each coin serves as a reminder of what it takes to become the championship-caliber team USC believes it can be, and as a source of motivation that will stretch beyond the grueling two-a-days of Fall Camp.

USC Pass

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New this season, the Trojan Family can sign-up for USC Pass to get last-minute notifications about USC football tickets. Simply, enter your name, email and mobile phone number at USCPass.com, and they will text you before the game when tickets become available.

Click here to sign up!

To purchase, click the link in the text. You will immediately receive a mobile barcode for entry into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Sign up now and you will receive special discounted offers for the first two USC home games, including tickets as low as $25 for the season opener against Arkansas State on Saturday.

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Bricio Leads Ranking Surge

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USC women's volleyball rocketed up the national rankings from No. 22 to No. 8 after winning the Baden Invitational this past weekend at Galen Center. Tournament MVP Samantha Bricio was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for leading the charge.

Click here for more.

Bricio is no stranger to Pac-12 weekly honors, picking up her fourth career nod. In three matches last week, Bricio hit .320 and picked up 58 kills (5.80 kps).

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Bench Boost

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

No. 17 USC women's soccer's bench came up big in the team's second win of the season this weekend, with freshman Mckenzie Taylor and sophomore Sydney Johnson scoring one goal apiece in the second half to put away UC Riverside, 2-0. The hard-fought game went scoreless until the 75th minute when the freshman turned a pass from Dominique Johnson into her first collegiate goal, scoring from 13 yards out to give the Trojans the lead.

Click here for a complete recap of the game.

"The motto is 'One Moment, One Now', and we had two women come into the game today that took their moments and helped their team win," head coach Keidane McAlpine said after the game.

With two road victories under their belts, the Women of Troy are off to a promising start in 2015. Their away slate continues this weekend against two, top-ranked opponents in No. 21 Duke and No. 6 North Carolina. The Trojans take on the Blue Devils on Friday at 4:30 p.m. PT before facing the Tar Heels on Sunday at 8 a.m. PT.

Here are Saturday's two goal scorers, as well as junior goalie Sammy Jo Prudhomme, after the victory...