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...

First of Many for Lee

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Marqise Lee caught 29 touchdown passes in his three years at USC, so seeing him touch pay dirt in the NFL for the first time Thursday night was familiar to Trojan fans.  The 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner finished his second preseason game with 4 catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.

"I was excited to get in the end zone for the first time," Lee said. "I just need to get in there a lot more now."

Click here for more.

The second-round pick has Rookie of the Year potential as one of the top weapons in the Jacksonville Jaguars offense, but he will need to adjust quickly to life in the big leagues.  Lee struggled in his first preseason game, but responded last night.

"Last night gave me a lot of confidence," Lee said. "My main focus is wanting the team to understand I'm reliable. Chad [Henne] coming to me early and me catching the ball helps build that trust. I want them to come to me in tough times."

Basketball Season Tickets

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USC men's and women's basketball is under three months from tip-off, so Trojan fans will want to secure their season tickets now.  The men have loaded up with one of the best recruiting classes in school history, while the Women of Troy are coming off a Pac-12 Tournament title.

Click here for men's basketball season ticket information.

Click here for women's basketball season ticket information.

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Kessler Up for Manning

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USC QB Cody Kessler made the preseason watch list for the Manning Award, which recognizes the nation's top quarterback including his bowl performance.

Click here for the list.

As is typical, the Pac-12 is the conference of quarterbacks again in 2014.  Of the 32 candidates, the Pac-12 claims seven selections.


Photo Gallery: Photo Day Behind-the-Scenes

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The Trojans had the day off to take the team photo and handle all the preseason media responsibilities for the video board, website and television.

Malia Cravens wandered around John McKay Center to provide a behind-the-scenes angle of photo day.

USC Football Picture Day 2014 - Images by John McGillen

Throwback Thursday: Sark and CP3

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A dozen years later, they are the USC head coach and a grizzled NFL veteran with a Heisman Trophy, but back in 2002, Steve Sarkisian and Carson Palmer were just getting started.


2014 Fall Camp #9: Notes

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The Trojans tested themselves with a 98-play live scrimmage under the Coliseum lights.
  • The team emerged from the scrimmage relatively unscathed despite a major scare when starting QB Cody Kessler was rolled up on after fumbling the ball on an awkward exchange.  In the end, head coach Steve Sarkisian joked that Kessler was left with a "bruised ego" but nothing more.
  • Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 10.19.30 PM.pngRB Buck Allen (shoulder) was dinged up during the scrimmage, and QB Jalen Greene (abdominal strain) was held out. 
  • Freshman OL Jordan Austin is out for the season as he will undergo surgery on both hips just like Zach Banner did last year.
  • WR Nelson Agholor did not scrimmage because the coaches were just protecting him.
  • Both the offense and defense made big plays tonight. Cody Kessler started the scoring by hitting JuJu Smith for six, and then Max Browne made a beautiful 80-yard connection with Victor Blackwell.  There were no official stats kept tonight. 
  • Defensively, Chris Hawkins stepped in front of a Browne pass for an interception, and Gerald Bowman grabbed a tipped Kessler pass.  Plus, Kevon Seymour stripped Ajene Harris for another forced turnover.
  • On special teams, Soma Vainuku created a blocked punt, and freshman Jonathan Lockett made a diving deflection of a field goal.
  • Sophomore RB Justin Davis did not score, but he was the star of the scrimmage with several long runs and shifty moves.  "I thought Justin played really well.  We've been challenging Justin," said Sarkisian. "He's coming off the foot injury and we're really just trying to get his confidence back. I thought he competed at a very high level."
  • As is typical of a Fall Camp scrimmage, flags were flying at times. "I've got to get with some of the older guys and fix this problem we have with penalties and just young things that are not supposed to happen on the field," said captain Hayes Pullard.
  • Hawkins' INT continues a strong camp for the redshirt freshman who has completely transformed his body from year one to year two.  "When I came, I was kind of fat," Hawkins said plainly. "I took the whole redshirt year to get faster and get my body right, and now I feel I can compete with anyone out here."
  • Hawkins credits both USC's nutrition staff and strength and conditioning staff for aiding him.  "They helped me turn my body around.  I'm feeling good," said Hawkins, who is most proud of his new six-pack.
  • Here is Sarkisian's complete presser in which he speaks at length about the promising freshman class...

Leave a Legacy

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The 2014 season has not even started yet, but the USC senior class, which has already been through the wars, knows the end is near, and they have one last chance to leave a legacy.

Seniors-2014.jpg(Photos and artwork by John McGillen)

Star Among Stars

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USC men's basketball forward Nikola Jovanovic paced the Pac-12 All-Stars in the conference's 73-47 win over the Chinese University All-Stars in Shanghai.  The sophomore led all players in scoring with 15 points in the opening game of the goodwill tour in China.

Click here for the recap.

Jovanovic averaged 8.0 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per contest in his freshman campaign.  He started 24 games and played in all 32 contests.

Jovanovic-Shanghai.jpg(Photo by Kory Mortensen)

Countdown to Keidane

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The Keidane McAlpine era kicks off in nine days and the conference coaches are expecting big things from the new USC women's soccer head coach.  The Women of Troy were picked to finish fourth this season despite a 3-7-1 record in league play last year.

McAlpine is the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and the Trojans do return a solid core in All-Pac-12 defender Mandy Freeman, senior goalie Caroline Stanley, junior midfielder Jamie Fink and sophomore winger Kayla Mills.

USC opens its season in San Diego next week against Long Beach State (August 22 at 5 p.m.) and San Diego (August 24 at 2 p.m.).  The home opener is not until September 5 against UC Riverside (McAlister Field at 4 p.m.).