Getting Up to Speed

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By Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Imagine you are a highly touted prospect out of high school who's gearing up for what's supposed to be a breakout year before tearing your ACL thus missing the entire 2013 season. Or imagine you're a junior heading into your last Battle of Los Angeles game in the Coliseum before not only losing, but also breaking your ankle in the process. Or imagine you are a 17-year-old tailback who ran for 361 yards on 53 carries with six touchdowns before breaking your ankle in one of the most historic stadiums for USC running backs in a tough loss to rival Notre Dame. 

Aundrey_Walker_insta.jpgThose scenarios were unfortunately the realities for redshirt junior wide receiver George Farmer, senior offensive guard Aundrey Walker (pictured) and sophomore tailback Justin Davis with others also enduring season ending injuries on an already lean Trojan roster. However, all of these players have showed what has become a staple of this current Trojans' football roster; they've shown how to handle adversity and how to come back firing better than ever. 

The biggest story of the Trojans' offseason was how everyone was adjusting to new head coach Steve Sarkisian's fast-paced offense. The majority of players spent the time off conditioning with strength coach Ivan Lewis in order to prepare for spring ball where the players would finally have their first crack at implementing the new offense. However, players like Farmer, Walker and Davis didn't really have this luxury. 

Farmer spent the spring testing the waters and shaking out the cobwebs as he worked his way back into playing shape with a knee brace as his only limitation. Davis worked on whatever areas he could strengthen like his core, upper body, mind, etc., while rehabbing his ankle. Walker on the other hand was learning a new type of speed - he was testing how fast his motorized scooter could go up and down the sidelines. 

Fall Camp officially started for the Trojans on Monday and all three Trojans were eager for the opportunity to finally get back out there with their teammates. 

"It kind of brought my back to my freshman days when I first got to 'SC," joked sophomore Davis. "It feels great just to get my feet wet. It takes a quick time to get acclimated to the speed but I'll be good."

For Farmer, who ran a 4.30 40-yard dash on his first day out of the brace in the middle of June, it's all about taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase his talents and get his coordination back to 100 percent before the season starts. 

"We've been doing the conditioning up until this point so I've been pretty confident with that, but once I got out here and ran a couple of routes my mind got going and I wasn't thinking about my knee," said the redshirt junior. "Everything was smooth from there."

Adjusting to Sarkisian's new offense is by no means easy as they would all tell you. At Monday's practice, the Trojans ran a combined 210 plays throughout practice and walk-thrus. Walker joked after Tuesday's practice that although everything was going pretty well, he was feeling sore after his first practice under the new system. 

"The speed is pretty fast," Walker explained. "But, I know every play. No doubt. I didn't feel like I made many mistakes on the plays or anything but yeah, the speed. The speed's pretty fast." 

The speed may cause an offensive lineman to be a little sore after day one but for skill players like Farmer and Davis, the new offense is a dream come true. Davis jumped back into the steady running back core of redshirt juniors Tre Madden and Buck Allen giving them a little room to breathe as they rotate in and out. 

Farmer added that he may even like the fast-paced system more than most. "It actually feels better. I'm a big guy so I cramp up pretty easily after I get cold, so I like the tempo. I like to keep it going, keep the juices flowing and just keep up the enthusiasm of the team."

The Trojans are ecstatic to get all these players back providing the team with more depth than it had throughout the 2013 season. They will spend the next few weeks of camp getting everyone up to speed so that when August 30 comes around the Fresno State Bulldogs won't be able to keep up. 

Williams for Hendricks

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All-American DE Leonard Williams made the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which identifies the nation's best defensive end.

Click here for the complete list.

Williams has reported to Fall Camp in good shape after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.  He was second on the team last year with 12.5 tackles-for-loss including 5 sacks.


2014 Fall Camp #2: Notes

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Two night practices down and the Trojans will greet the summer sun Wednesday afternoon...
  • Freshman All-American safety Su'a Cravens was notably absent from practice tonight.  He is dealing with strept throat, but he could be back tomorrow.
  • 25-countdown.jpgWith the secondary down two starters (CB Kevon Seymour is still out as well), the passing game found its rhythm tonight.  Cody Kessler connected on a deep ball to Nelson Agholor and a perfectly placed deep out to Darreus Rogers. 
  • George Farmer also enjoyed another solid practice continuing his comeback.  "As I've talked to George about, everybody's path is different," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "To George's credit, he has had a really good attitude about it."
  • The tight end position is scary thin now with Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick academically ineligible for this season.  Senior Randall Telfer, who has had trouble staying healthy at times during his USC career, has to shoulder the largest burden without any other scholarship veterans.  "I try not to think about [staying healthy]," said Telfer, who declared himself 100%. "I try to take care of my body as best as I can, and it hasn't failed me yet."  Sarkisian said that the coaches will monitor Telfer's reps to keep him fresh.
  • Cope-Fitzpatrick continues to practice with the team.  "He was a little down in the dumps about it, but he is on the rise," said Telfer about his teammate. "He's out here. He's not at home playing video games. He's sticking with the team, and I'm really proud of him for that."
  • The onus is also on freshman TE Bryce Dixon to accelerate his learning curve and contribute immediately.  "I told him that one of the things we preach here for tight ends at 'SC is aggression," said Telfer. "That's something that Rhett Ellison taught me and that's something I am trying to teach him."
  • The defense did strike back tonight with a few turnovers including a great pick by CB Devian Shelton of a Max Browne pass.  The backup centers, Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao, struggled with shotgun snaps, which led to some loose balls.
  • Two veterans are looking for second acts in their careers by changing positions.  Anthony Brown has moved from cornerback to running back, while D.J. Morgan switched from running back to cornerback.  They are both listed as two-way players on the roster.
  • LB Scott Starr has legally changed his last name to Felix, which is his father's last name.
  • The Trojans officially added a new scholarship kicker, Matt Boermeester.  The left-footer is relatively new to the sport, but he has showed off a powerful left leg in the first two practices putting pressure on incumbent Andre Heidari.  Boermeester is a transfer from Saddleback College, and he'll have three years of eligibility at USC.
  • Here is Steve Sarkisian's post-practice press conference:

Photo Gallery: 2014 Fall Camp #1

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USC is back on Howard Jones and Brian Kennedy Fields as Fall Camp kicked off Monday night under the lights.

Here is a look at the first practice of the new season courtesy of John McGillen:

USC Football Fall Camp 08/04/2014 - Images by John McGillen

Charleston Classic Bracket

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USC men's basketball will open with Akron on November 20 in the first of three games as part of the Charleston Classic.  The Trojans will face either Miami or Drexel in round two and then Penn State, Charlotte, Cornell or South Carolina in their final game.

Click here for more info.

All games will be played at the TD Arena in Charleston, which was recently ranked as the No. 1 destination in the United States by Travel & Leisure.


Breaking the Mold

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USC and Jell-O have partnered up on a Trojans mold kit just in time for the new football season. Available in August at Ralph's and other retailers, each kit will contain two trays of school logo or mascot molds, along with boxes of Jell-O gelatin in team colors.

Click here for more.

"We are excited to fun up tailgates and viewing parties with our expanded line of University Mold Kits," said Hermes Risien, Jell-O Brand Assistant at Kraft Foods. "College football fans will score a touchdown at their tailgates with these delicious Jell-O treats."

JELL-O U Mold Kit University of Southern California.jpg

2014 Fall Camp #1: Notes

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USC opened Fall Camp with a long night session clocking in at just under three hours...
  • Howard Jones Field was flooded with new faces, returning veterans and interested spectators.  All three made for a different atmosphere than the quiet spring.  The Trojan Family packed the sidelines and Dedeaux Deck as four of the first five practices are open to the public.
  • Josh_shaw_insta.jpgThe veterans returning from injury along with the influx of freshmen talent raised the competition level, according to head coach Steve Sarkisian.  Of note, DL Leonard Williams shoulder "feels great" and he suffered "no tweaks", while WR George Farmer, WR Steven Mitchell, OL Aundrey Walker, LB Lamar Dawson, OL Jordan Simmons and RB Justin Davis were all notable returnees from season-ending injuries suffered last year.
  • Farmer on his knee: "I wasn't thinking about my knee. It's just as good as my right leg, even better."
  • Walker was limping around some, but he is fully healed, reported the head coach.  He just needs to push through soreness.  Dawson was still unable to practice fully, while CB Kevon Seymour sat out entirely as he recovers from the effects of an illness which hospitalized him last week.
  • As for the new faces, WR John "JuJu" Smith made the play of the day on a diving catch.  Smith is one of several two-way candidates along with Rahshead Johnson, who played offense today, and Adoree' Jackson, who primarily worked at cornerback although he got 15 plays at wide receiver.
  • Josh Shaw (pictured) on Jackson playing both ways: "I can only imagine from day one it has to be tough, but Adoree' is a hard worker. His room is actually right next to mine in the dorm, and we were up late last night just studying. Adoree' is really a guy that just wants it."
  • Seymour described the much-hyped Jackson as "a freak athlete," but Lamont Simmons "really impressed me," said the veteran corner. "He'll be big for us."  The Trojans are loaded at cornerback as freshman Jonathan Lockett was impressive today as well.
  • USC's talent pool is shallower at tight end where Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled out for the season due to academic ineligibility.  He is still able to practice with the team, but Randall Telfer and freshman Bryce Dixon are the only scholarship tight ends left.  Sarkisian is not concerned though saying that walk-on Chris Willson is "adequate" and fullbacks Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner are versatile.
  • Telfer on Dixon: "He had a pretty good day for a first day. I know it was a lot better than my first day. We are going to need him this season."
  • On the offensive line, freshmen are providing a major boost at least in terms of numbers.  Viane Talamaivao is working at center, which is a new position for him. Toa Lobendahn is also taking reps at center to increase his "versatility" in case starter Max Tuerk goes down.
  • We'll have a complete feature on USC's Navy SEAL leadership training from the past weekend, but Josh Shaw called it the "toughest thing I've ever done" and his take seemed unanimous across the dozen or so players that were given the opportunity to participate.
  • Practice ended with a little rookie accountability drill as the freshman already lost the "rookie ball" that they are tasked with protecting all month.  Apparently, QB Jalen Greene was to blame, said Williams.
  • Our post-practice press conference video glitched after three minutes today, so we apologize for the abbreviated clip.  Typically, we'll have the entire Sarkisian presser.

Year in Troy: Final Look

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The 2014-15 begins tonight as the Trojans start Fall Camp, but first, here is one final look back at 2013-14 Year in Troy.

White Mamba Coming Home

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USC men's basketball alum Brian Scalabrine never fails to entertain.  The charismatic commentator announced his return to Boston with a LeBron James-esque essay.

Click here to read it.


Hall of Fame Start

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The NFL preseason kicked off last night with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, and Trojans littered the field including the end zone.  The Giants started two USC alums in LT Charles Brown and rookie OLB Devon Kennard plus reserve DT Mike Patterson, while the Bills have WR Robert Woods, LB Keith Rivers and CB Nickell Robey in their regular rotation.

On the night, Woods was the star with 4 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.  Kennard had two tackles, including one for loss, in his first game as a pro.

In all, 55 Trojans reported for training camp with NFL teams, but those numbers will surely dwindle by opening kickoff as roster cuts and injuries fill out the month of August.