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Trojans Start at 8

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

rankingtemplate.jpgUSC will start the 2015 football season ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25. The preseason poll was released on Sunday, positioning the Trojans as the second-highest ranked Pac-12 team with Oregon coming in at No. 7. Overall, six Pac-12 teams made the list including UCLA (No. 13), ASU (No. 15), Stanford (No. 21) and Arizona (No. 22).

The Trojans take the field for the first time this fall on September 5 at 8 p.m. PT at the Coliseum against Arkansas State.

Andre's Arrival

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

If it wasn't official yet, USC rising senior Andre De Grasse established himself as a legitimate star on the international stage this weekend, winning the bronze medal in the men's 100m at the 2015 IAAF Track & Field World Championships. The Trojan's 9.92 mark set a new USC record and placed him on the podium with world champion Usain Bolt (9.79) and runner-up Justin Gatlin (9.80), as well as Trayvon Bromell, who finished with the exact same time as the Canadian.

"Few rises are actually meteoric. This one is shaping up as Halley's Comet. Most of us won't see its like again," wrote Cathal Kelly in this article on De Grasse's third place finish and his sudden and exciting surge to the top of the sport.

De Grasse was in last place at the halfway point of the 100m before racing back to clinch third at the finish alongside Bromell. At 20 years old, De Grasse stands as a symbol of a bright future in Canadian track. He was the first Canadian to reach the World Championships 100m final since Bruny Surin in 1999.

Check out De Grasse's final push for the podium...


Photo Gallery: Fall Camp #16

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The defense emerged victorious from the final scrimmage of Fall Camp on Saturday and John McGillen was there to capture every moment. With just under two weeks to go until kickoff, here are photos of the Trojans as they prepare to beat the Red Wolves.

Sarkisian Apologizes

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Here are USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and athletic director Pat Haden on Saturday night's Salute to Troy event:

Sarkisian: "I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night.  I have a responsibility to all of them and I let them down.  Pat Haden talked to me after the event about my actions and I assured him this will not happen again."

Haden: "I met with Coach Sarkisian and I expressed my disappointment in the way he represented himself and the University at our Salute To Troy event.  While the details of our conversation will remain between us, I am confident he heard my message loud and clear."

2015 Fall Camp #16: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors

With exactly two weeks until USC's first game of the 2015 season, the Trojans endured one last two-a-day on the final day of Fall Camp...
  • "I was very impressed with our defense," said head coach Steve Sarkisian after Saturday's practice. "I thought they really controlled the line of scrimmage today and did a good job of punching the ball out at the end of runs - not just getting people to the ground, but getting the ball out. I thought they showed a great deal of physicality."
  • Defensive line coach Chris Wilson was impressed with the performance of his unit in the second scrimmage of Fall Camp, specifically with its improvement within the last week. "They care about each other," Wilson remarked. "You've got a bunch of good men on this team, good teammates. They're starting to understand what a good teammate looks like so that's been fun to watch. We've just got to keep improving."
  • One member of the defensive line that stood out particularly throughout camp is redshirt senior Greg Townsend Jr. who broke through the offensive line several times in Saturday's scrimmage. "Greg has been very explosive," Sarkisian said. "What I like about Greg is he's different than some of our other defensive tackles. We have a lot of big guys who are physical guys and strong guys. Greg's got more quickness, he's got more suddenness, he's got more pass rush ability than some of our other guys. He's been disruptive all camp long and today was no different."
  • Junior linebacker Michael Hutchings also played a role in the defense's dominant effort, snagging an interception off of a Max Browne pass and running it back inside the 10. Hutchings applauded the hard work of the team's pass rushers for contributing to plays like that. "Our pass rushers have been killing it on the edge. There hasn't been one slacker in our room," the junior said. "Coach Sirmon has stated multiple times how everyone is competitive. Everybody's fighting to play."
  • Despite the defense's strong day, Sarkisian was not impressed with the performance of his unit on the other side of the ball. "I was disappointed offensively in our execution," the head coach explained. "I thought we would be better up front. We've been really good the last three days, but for whatever reason today we just weren't. We have to find a way as an offense, when things don't go great in the first or second quarter of a game, to regroup, and play good football in the second half. That didn't happen today, so it was a good learning lesson for us."
  • One spark for the offense was the speedy performance of freshman running back Dominic Davis who returned a kickoff for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and had a handful of flashy plays. "This scrimmage to me was about finding out who's going to play when it's time to play," said Sarkisian. "I think No. 16 showed up and said, 'I'm capable of playing football here at USC'. Dom is an electric guy. When he gets to the edge he can create plays with his legs, with his speed. I like him because he's tough, he gets his nose in there."
  • A particular area of improvement that the head coach is looking to see after Saturday's scrimmage is the offensive line play, something that can take time to develop fully as the unit requires extra cohesion. "There's a lot of communication that takes place, there's a lot of trust that takes place," Sarkisian said. "That trust factor is critical. I think at the end of the day, it's a unique unit on any team. It takes more than just coming off the ball and beating somebody up. It's doing it together."
  • Saturday signaled the official end of Fall Camp as the Trojans begin classes on Monday. With two weeks until USC faces Arkansas State in the Coliseum, Sarkisian feels there's a lot of work that needs to be done. "I wish we had two more [weeks]. We need to get better."
  • Specifically within the linebacker corps, Hutchings believes they have the right mindset to accomplish Sarkisian's mission. "We're healthy, we're deep. That's something that's new since I've been here the past two years. We're a super close-knit group," said Hutchings. "I'm pretty confident about what we have to do for the next two weeks of prepping for Arkansas State."
  • Here is Sarkisian at the conclusion of Fall Camp...

Get to Know: Adoree' Jackson

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Beyond the recruiting bios, stat columns, post-game quotes and jersey numbers, every one of USC's elite student-athletes possesses a unique personality. Whether it's their life motto, hidden talent or spirit animal, there's more that makes up each of our Trojan athletes than what's put on display come game day.

It's a well-known fact that USC sophomore Adoree' Jackson can do nearly everything on the football field, but his talents don't stop there. Whether it's in the kitchen or on the track, the uber-talented Jackson is constantly working to be the best he can be while also ensuring he's having fun along the way.

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2015 Fall Camp #14: Notes

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USC QB Cody Kessler returned to practice, leading the offense to a win in the Finish Challenge.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian had a day off from the press today, but we did talk to Kessler, who is back from his one day hiatus to attend orientation for his Master of Communication Management program. "It killed me not to be out here, but I had to take care of that," said the redshirt senior. "It's just as important to me."
  • Kessler's pitch count has been rising through the grind of Fall Camp, so Sarkisian saw the value of putting his starting QB on ice for one day. "My arm definitely benefited from it," said Kessler.
  • As you can see in the photos below, practice was again the Adoree' Jackson show as the offense continues to feature him during this six-practice stretch when they have him all to themselves. "Right now, we're putting in the 'Adoree' package' pretty much, so it is kind of overwhelming to him a little bit, but he handles it so well," said Kessler about Jackson. "We're trying to overwhelm him. The kid is so smart that he learns it so fast."
  • While any quarterback would love to have Jackson making plays down the field, Kessler benefits more in practice by playing against the sophomore. "He makes me better as a quarterback when he's playing corner," said Kessler, who called it a "win-win."
  • The weapons continue to develop around Kessler including senior transfer TE Taylor McNamara, who Kessler labeled the most "improved this camp." McNamara made a pair of plays to win the competition period and is turning into a "comfort blanket" for the QB.
  • In the last couple practices, freshman QB Sam Darnold has made several beautiful touchdown throws. "He's doing a really good job as a rookie," said Kessler about Darnold. "He's been asking me a ton of questions and taking everything in from me and the other guys around him. He's taking it, learned it, and then applied it into practice, which is kind of hard to do as a freshman because you have so much stuff thrown at you."
  • Saturday is the second scrimmage and then Salute to Troy. We will have both covered on all our social media platforms, including the RipsIt Blog. Here is John McGillen's photo gallery from this afternoon's practice:

Tailgating Made Easy

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

This fall, there's a new, easy and affordable tailgating option available for Trojan fans. For every home game, Tailgater Concierge will provide set-up and take-down of an exclusive tailgate as well as service throughout the entire tailgating period. Packages are available for groups of any size, and in addition to the two standard packages listed below, can be customized to fit your needs.

  • Touchdown Package ($520) - Ideal for 10 people. This package includes one tent, two tables, six chairs and two coolers with ice.
  • Field Goal Package ($350) - Ideal for four people. This smaller package includes one tent, one table, two chairs and one cooler with ice.

Whether you live near the Coliseum, or are making a longer trip, using Tailgater Concierge allows you to skip the hassle of managing a tailgate and focus on cheering the Trojans on to victory.

For more information or to reserve a tailgate experience, visit www.TailgaterConcierge.com.

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Familiar Faces, New Places

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Written by Grace DeWitt, USC blog contributor 

Offseason adjustments to the roster and lineup are a football fact of life. With USC's Fall Camp well underway, we checked in with four Trojans to see how they've risen to the challenge of learning to contribute in new capacities. 

Jalen Greene, QB-turned-WR

USC_Football_Fall_Camp_080915_MCG9305.jpgThough he entered USC as a quarterback, earning the Trojans' Offensive Service Team Player of the Year Award in 2014, Jalen Greene (pictured below) has a better chance to see the field as a wide receiver, so he is seizing that opportunity. "It's been alright," he said of the transition. "A few things have been tough technique wise. Of course, I know the routes and the schemes and everything, but there's just little things I have to fix if I want to be a great receiver." Fortunately, Greene has been able to use his experience as a quarterback to his advantage in transitioning to wideout. "I can get lined up faster, because I know what the quarterback wants on each play," he said. "I know how fast I need to get there, and what I need to do to fool the defense." Even though that insight has helped him speed up the learning process, Greene knows there is still work to be done before the start of the season. "Coach [Tee Martin] has said I'm doing pretty well, but I'm not satisfied with myself because I know I could be playing a lot better," he said. "I know I can show them that I can do a lot more."

Jordan Simmons, OG-turned-DT

Like Greene, redshirt junior Jordan Simmons (pictured right) feels that he has "a lot more work to do" as he prepares to play in a new position of his own. While a recurring knee injury kept him from reaching his full potential as an offensive lineman in his first three years with the Trojans, the 2015 season offers Simmons another chance to demonstrate his talent, this time as a defensive tackle. He says the adjustment is going "really well" thanks to assistance from "the veteran guys, like Antwuan [Woods], and Delvon [Simmons], and Claude [Pelon]." Simmons began his high school career as a defensive linemen before switching over to the offensive line in his senior year. "I haven't played [defense] in a really long time, so I've had to learn all over again," he said, noting that because things are "more strategic" at the collegiate level he's found it hard to incorporate his past experience. "It's going well, but it's just learning a lot at a quick pace. I'm basically a freshman starting all over."

Cyrus Hobbi, OL-turned-TE

On the other side of the ball, tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo ('Tui') is echoing similar sentiments about redshirt senior Cyrus Hobbi. "He's been away for a year, so he's kind of re-going through being a freshman in terms of getting back in the flow of things," Coach Tui said of one of his newest tight ends. Hobbi appeared in several games for the Trojans in 2012 and 2013 at center and offensive guard before retiring from football due to a lingering back injury. Despite the extended absence, Hobbi has so far proved he knows how to stage a comeback. "He's been working out and getting ready for this," said Coach Tui. "He stepped right in from a physical standpoint and has been able to do everything that I've asked him to do." Returning to the team as a tight end, Hobbi will offer a unique skill set to a position group in need of depth. "He's got the background of an offensive linemen, so he's done well on the run blocking," Coach Tui remarked, though he also admitted, "There's gonna be little rust that we've got to get off" in regards to ball handling. In any case, the tight ends coach offered an optimistic outlook for Hobbi, "He's picked up everything that he needs to, he'll be fine for us."

Chris Hawkins, CB-turned-S

Hawkins' 2015 debut as a free safety is a long time coming. He's been taking reps at the position since the team's Holiday Bowl preparations last season, but chalked that experience up to timing. "It was just something fun because it was an off week," he recalled. Coaches and teammates took note of the redshirt sophomore's ability, including defensive back turned linebacker Su'a Cravens, who called him "a natural safety." While Hawkins played the position in high school before assuming the role of cornerback, he never anticipated doing so in college. "When I picture USC's [safeties] I think of Taylor Mays - 6-foot-4, 230 lbs. - can run a 4.2," said Hawkins. "It wasn't my ideal, but you never know what'll happen. There's a lot of safeties that are kind of smaller in the [National Football] League right now that are excelling as well." At 5-foot-11, Hawkins has taken to the weight room to ensure an edge over opposing offenses. "I'm anywhere in the range of 190 to 193 lbs. right now," he said after a Fall Camp practice this week. "My body's taking less of a beating having more muscle on it. It feels good." With his improved physique, Hawkins said his focus for the rest of training camp is on improving his tackling. Fortunately, his talented teammates offer the competition needed to take him to the next level defensively. "Going against guys like JuJu [Smith-Schuster] everyday, you gotta be up on your P's and Q's," he said. The future looks bright for the former corner, who feels "very comfortable and confident" in his new place in the secondary.

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Fall Camp Dance-Off

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The USC football coaching staff is always looking for ways to make practice competitive, and that even includes the dance party. The big boys showed off their best moves at Thursday's practice.

The only question is who are you voting as the winner??