Filling Up the Podium

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USC water polo is known to be greedy.  The program has a history of hoarding titles, which apparently extends to the international stage.

The Women of Troy sent five representatives playing for three different countries to the 2014 FINA World Cup in Russia, and they all came back with hardware.  Team USA featuring recent graduate Kaleigh Gilchrist and two-time Olympian Kami Craig took home the biggest prize defeating Australia in the Gold Medal Game.

The Aussies' silver medal squad included former USC All-American Hannah Buckling and current student-athlete Jayde Appel. Spain occupied the final spot on the podium as 2013 national championship hero Anni Espar helped her country collect the bronze.

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Gilchrist made the leap from USC to the USA.

Photo Gallery: 2014 Fall Camp #13

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The Trojans played some real football last night at the Coliseum, albeit against each other, and the playmakers showed up including freshmen Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith who had return touchdowns on special teams. 

Here are the John McGillen photos:

2014 Fall Camp #13: Notes

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USC scrimmaged with live tackling for approximately 100 plays under the Coliseum lights.
  • The Trojans simulated a preseason game tonight complete with special teams situations and physicality throughout.  They survived the scrimmage with minimal injuries, although OG Khaliel Rodgers' knee will undergo further tests.  Also, Tre Madden (turf toe), LB Michael Hutchings (ice on shoulder) and LB Anthony Sarao (ice on ankle) were removed before the end.
  • Jackson-Smith-Camp14-McG.jpgUSC is actually getting healthier as star defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods participated in full contact tonight albeit for about a dozen plays. "Obviously, you'd love to play those guys as much as you can," said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. "Those guys will be ready to play."
  • The scrimmage started with the first teams going against the second teams and both top units dominated.  Offensively, FB Soma Vainuku showed off his agility and power on a catch-and-run making a defender miss before plowing through another.  The drive ended with Tre Madden's rushing touchdown.  On the next first team offensive series, Cody Kessler hit TE Randall Telfer down field to setup a Buck Allen rush TD.
  • Kessler on the first team offense: "I felt like we made huge strides.  From where we were last time to now, scrimmage-wise, we did a great job."
  • The defensive first team made short work of the second team offense with OLB Scott Felix (formerly Starr) standing out.  In the first matchup of ones vs. ones, the defense held the offense after giving up a couple first downs. Felix actually hit Kessler on a pass rush, for which he quickly apologized, and then Delvon Simmons batted a pass in the air which RT Zach Banner caught for a considerable loss.
  • The first team offense did get its payback in a short field drill capping a 40-yard scoring drive with a Kessler TD pass to Allen.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian on the first team: "I was encouraged by the fact that our ones really dominated the twos. Not that our twos aren't good players, but I thought that the execution on both sides from the ones was really good when it was ones versus the twos."
  • On the second and third teams, RB James Toland IV had a highlight run, and S Matt Lopes picked off Max Browne for the only turnover of the day.
  • The biggest highlights of the scrimmage came on special teams as two freshmen displayed jaw-dropping athleticism.  First, Adoree' Jackson had an electrifying punt return for a TD and then JuJu Smith showed an incredible burst of speed on a kick return for six. 
  • Jackson did struggle a little at cornerback with two penalties, one for pass interference and another for holding, and Wilcox noted that the college referees are emphasizing coverage penalties just like the NFL this year.  
  • The offensive line saw some shuffling tonight.  When Rodgers went down, freshman Damien Mama was pushed into the first team.  And, Aundrey Walker is starting to round into form, so the coaches tried him at right tackle for the first time this Fall Camp, but he is also an option at guard. Sarkisian said that he is planning on rotating offensive linemen within games this season.
  • Once again, WR Nelson Agholor was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons despite being healthy.  Sarkisian sees the wide receiver position as a little undefined outside of Agholor.  The unit has "a lot of bodies" and different guys have flashed in "spurts," said the head coach. He would like to see more from Steven Mitchell, and he expects the young receivers to be "wide-eyed" early on.
  • Here is Sarkisian on the biggest test of Fall Camp to date:

Project Trojan - Fall Camp - Episode 2

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The Trojans are in the "dog days" of Fall Camp, but they are grinding through the heat and exhaustion with two weeks to go until the Coliseum opener.

Here is Project Trojan episode two:

Big Summer for Nikola

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USC men's basketball will break out a brand new team this fall, but big man Nikola Jovanovic is one returnee with sizable expectations.  The 6-foot-10 sophomore is the Trojans closest thing to a center, and he is developing the skills to dominate on the block.

To that end, the Serbian was the Pac-12 All-Stars' leading scorer on the recently completed trip to China.  In the three games, Jovanovic averaged 11 points per contest.

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Along with his basketball development, Jovanovic (center) was able to tour China, including Shanghai's Yu Garden with his Pac-12 teammates.

(Photo by Kory Mortensen)

Super Bowl of Beach Volleyball

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USC women's volleyball alum April Ross will be immortalized on the Manhattan Beach pier after winning the AVP's showcase event for the first time in her career.  Ross, who paired with Kerri Walsh Jennings a year ago to form the world's best team, defeated Brooke Sweat and Lauren Fendrick in three sets (after Sweat suffered back spasms) to become the fifth Trojan ever to win the Manhattan Beach Open.

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"I never really let myself believe it was actually going to happen because I wanted it so bad," Ross said. "It was kind of weird how it happened, but I think we played really well this whole tournament and we battled. Even in that final until Brooke got hurt, we battled and I think we were going to take it."

Ross will have her name plaque on the pier alongside fellow Trojans Miki McFadden (the only other USC woman), Ron Lang, Tim Hovland and Adam Johnson. 

"I'm humbled by the fact that I'm out there with Kerri and I'm going to be on the pier till the world ends."

Soccer Countdown

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USC women's soccer will kickoff the 2014-15 athletics calendar this week as the Women of Troy open the season on Friday against Long Beach State in San Diego. 

With Fall Camp winding down, we checked in with soccer to see how the first training camp under new head coach Keidane McAlpine is bringing the team together.

2014 Fall Camp #12: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors

On the eve of another two-a-day, the coaching staff was extremely impressed by the Trojans' performance as they continue to grind through the heart of Fall Camp.
  • "These are kind of the dog days of training camp...It's easy to try and just survive a practice," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "I thought the guys today had awesome energy. They were competing from the moment we started and competing at a high level. I was really proud of them."
  • Sarkisian emphasized that the focus for the next two weeks will be all the little elements of the game. He said, "This isn't about implementing schemes. We've got a pretty good idea of who we are... Now it's about the details of the calls, the nuances of the calls. Those are the things that we are really trying to nail right now, the special scenarios."Dixon.jpg
  • Entering his fifth season, senior TE Randall Telfer knows the importance of mastering the tiny details, something he preaches to the younger guys. "I feel like I bring some experience. I've been here for forever, it seems," laughed Telfer. "I've played in a lot of games and been in a lot of different situations. I've been up at the half, been down at the half, I've lost games during the season and won a lot of games too. I feel like I add that element for whenever guys get down on themselves, I can put things in perspective for them."
  • As the most experienced member of the tight end group, Telfer recognizes the importance of his role on the team but is excited for the challenge. "It feels like it's been forever since last season," said the senior. "I'm just excited to get back out there. It's the first time in a while that I've been 100 percent. I feel ready to go. I try not to think about any pressure. I feel like there is a little bit just because I'm the older guy and there are a lot of young guys looking up to me. But I just try to put my head down and play the game."
  • Telfer's leadership has dramatically impacted freshman TE Bryce Dixon (pictured) who has made tremendous strides since the start of camp. "Bryce is doing exceptionally well. I'm very proud of what he's done so far. He's picking up the playbook pretty well, especially for a freshman," praised Telfer. "I'm looking forward to what he can do for us this season."
  • The senior tight end's presence is not only recognized by the freshmen, but by the coaching staff as well. "Telfer is very important not only to our tight end group but to our team," explained tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo. "He's a senior, he's been around and he has goals that he wants to accomplish still. He's a hard worker, he's one of the first guys out here catching balls each day. He's very patient with our young tight ends, he's teaching them and he's a great role model."
  • The AP released its preseason rankings on Sunday with the Trojans coming in at No. 15. When asked of his reaction, Sarkisian described the news as 'totally irrelevant' saying that he's never talked about rankings with the team. Instead, the head coach focused on the team's main goals for the season. "What we can control is trying to win the PAC-12 South. If we can do that then we can compete for a PAC-12 Championship and then the ball's out of our court."
  • Offensive injury report: OG Aundrey Walker continues to improve as the coaches were impressed with his performance in the last 48 hours, and OG Damien Mama is back after tweaking his ankle on Saturday. RB Justin Davis was sidelined due to an ankle injury he suffered in Saturday's practice but the coaches are not concerned with its severity.
  • Defensive injury report: DT Cody Temple is recovering from a concussion so he was no contact on Sunday but should be back fully in the next couple of days. OLB J.R. Tavai is also back after rolling his ankle on Saturday. S Gerald Bowman was out sick so he did not practice. DE Leonard Williams and DT Antwaun Woods both were back in full pads, but ILB Lamar Dawson is still recovering from a knee injury. OLB Jabari Ruffin, who tore his ACL last week, scheduled his surgery for the end of this month but has already begun rehab.
  • Much to the players' delight, Andre Heidari made a 40-yard field goal to help the Trojans end practice a little early and some members of the team even elected to jump off the high dive to cool off after another hot day.
  • Here is Coach Sarkisian after practice...

2014 Fall Camp #11: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributors

The Trojans battled through physical and mental fatigue on Saturday at the Coliseum, just two weeks away from the kickoff of the 2014 season.
  • The coaches led the team through an intentionally hard practice in the midday heat to challenge them coming off a physical practice on Friday night. Head coach Steve Sarkisian explained that the Trojans' overall endurance will be a huge factor in determining how successful the 2014 campaign will be. "We're going to have to fight through it," Sarkisian noted. "We're going to have to play when we are a little sore. We don't have the luxury of holding guys out. We have to learn to fight through and I thought the guys did a good job today."
  • Sarkisian highlighted the defensive effort on Saturday as they continue to welcome back players who were sidelined like Su'a Cravens. The coaches changed up the defensive scheme a little by trying the sophomore safety at a hybrid linebacker position due to his ability to create turnovers. "He's such a versatile guy. He's got a very high football IQ that he allows us the luxury of moving him around," said the head coach. "I think he likes being around the ball. This way allows him to get involved in the action."
  • The Trojans also welcomed back CB Kevon Seymour who finally practiced with no restrictions. The junior is impressed with the current state of the secondary but knows there is still work to be done. "We're looking real good," Seymour said. "We've been up and down but for the most part we are growing as a unit and we're helping the young guys. Overall, all the freshmen are catching on. They've still got some work to do but they're learning."Thumbnail image for 14-countdown.jpg
  • Both Seymour and Cravens explained that consistency is the secondary's biggest concern as they hit the halfway point in Fall Camp. "One day we're the best secondary in the nation and the next we are the worst," said Cravens. "So we have a lot to work on when it comes to just being consistent."
  • The defense has had the luxury of going up against Sarkisian's new, fast-paced, spread offense which the Trojans will see a lot of in PAC-12 play. Cravens cited the tempo as being the hardest thing to keep up with. "We go against the same plays every day but it seems like they're running different ones just because of how fast they are moving."
  • Sarkisian also praised USC's wealth of offensive talent highlighting the diverse options available on any given play. "We're a unique group in that we can give you just about every personnel group," said the head coach. "And not just put it on the field but have real weapons at every spot."
  • One of the Trojans' versatile weapons, freshman Adoree' Jackson, was back in action today after sitting out a couple of practices with a hurt foot. Jackson practiced exclusively at corner and made an impressive knock down over the top of Victor Blackwell on his first day back. "He was a little rusty out there today but all in all, his athleticism looked great," explained Sarkisian. "His first day back, I didn't want to put too much on him."
  • Saturday saw a few more injuries for the Trojans as RB Justin Davis, OG Damien Mama and OLB J.R. Tavai all tweaked their ankles, none of which appear serious. Good news is that DE Leonard Williams and DT Antwaun Woods are making huge strides toward being back to 100 percent.
  • To conclude practice Sarkisian reminded everyone in the team huddle that two weeks from today they would be in about the second quarter against Fresno State. The head coach challenged his players to assess themselves now that they've arrived at the midpoint of camp. "You guys have got to go look yourselves in the mirror and ask yourselves: one, am I ready to play a game? Two, if I'm not, what are the issues that I need to get worked on, get fixed in the next two weeks to put myself in the position to play?"
  • Here is the rest of Sarkisian's post-practice presser...

2014 Official Team Photo