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Final Roll of the Dice

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No. 12 USC men's basketball begins its quest for a Pac-12 Tournament title this afternoon in Las Vegas against No. 5 Arizona State. The Trojans and Sun Devils square off at 2:30 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks, and the game can be streamed live for FREE on the Pac-12 NOW app

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2015 Spring Practice #4: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

As they enter week two, the Trojans focused on third down performance in their first spring practice at the Coliseum.
  • Tuesday was also the first time the Trojans wore full pads, a factor that notched up the intensity on both sides of the ball.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian noted that as spring progresses, the team is rising to the challenges that have been posed to specific position groups. "The offense did a great job today," he remarked after practice. "The biggest positive from a defensive standpoint was creating five turnovers. It's been a point of emphasis, it's something I challenged the defense on after practices one and two because I thought they had missed some opportunities. Today, obviously, guys made some really good plays."
  • The defensive effort was highlighted by Adoree' Jackson, who had two interceptions, and Quinton Powell who forced a fumble. On the opposite side of the ball, the offense evened things up in the finish challenge, executing on the final three third down opportunities for a comeback victory.
  • As the Trojans' secondary continues to improve in its second year under defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, two players that stand out to the coaches in spring practice are junior Leon McQuay III and sophomore John Plattenburg. "They are both really critical and they've both elevated their games," Sarkisian noted. "They're both playing with a great deal of confidence, they're playing fast and they're playing physical. Both those guys are now in year two in the system and have the confidence that it takes to make the call, know the proper alignment and play fast."
  • Sarkisian added that because both safeties possess backgrounds at the corner position, they enable the Trojans to play with versatility in more "man-like coverages" especially against slot receivers.
  • Another position Sarkisian has been impressed with is fullback, as he sees both Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner as versatile options in the backfield. "Soma especially is a big, physical runner," Sarkisian explained. "He's faster than you think for a guy that big. When he gets going he's kind of like a big freight train, he's hard to bring down. He and Jahleel are versatile players, [Both Vainuku and Pinner caught touchdowns in Tuesday's practice] and it's a real luxury to have as we try to build the depth at the running back position."
  • Another luxury for the Trojans this season is returning quarterback Cody Kessler. After practice on Tuesday, the redshirt senior discussed his relationship with wide receiver JuJu Smith and the positive results that came from a couple field trips he and the sophomore made in the offseason. "Sometimes we'd work out at the school and sometimes I'd take him with me to work with my quarterbacks coach," Kessler explained. "He got a feel for how different it is to play quarterback. He kind of got to see what goes through my head as I'm dropping back, what my reads are and what I'm supposed to be doing. I think the mental side really helped him out and got us on the same page."
  • As Smith evolves to fill the No. 1 wide receiver spot left vacant by Nelson Agholor, Sarkisian noted that he's been continually impressed with the sophomore's leadership and professional approach to the game. "He provides a real sense of confidence and natural leadership even for a guy who's going into his second year," Sarkisian explained. "I don't know if I could have totally predicted the maturity that JuJu has. He's a really mature guy and he's really mature in his approach to the game and really, to life. He focuses on the things that are important to him. He has a fun time doing it, but he has a really unique ability just to take it all on."
  • Former USC DE Leonard Williams visited practice to hang out with and motivate his teammates before participating in USC Pro Day on Wednesday.
  • Here is Sarksian after practice...

2015 Spring Practice #4: Rapid Reaction

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Another year older and another year wiser seems to be the mantra of the USC secondary through the first four sessions of spring ball. Playing a starring role in the unit is sophomore Adoree' Jackson who gave his take on his first day back in the Coliseum, and then interviewed fellow defensive back Chris Hawkins for Tuesday's rapid reaction video...

2015 USC Pro Day Preview

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

A host of Trojan NFL-hopefuls will have one more opportunity to display their skills at USC in front of NFL scouts at Pro Day on Wednesday. Players will arrive at USC tomorrow morning with measurements and testing beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the weight room of the John McKay Center. The scouts and players will then move to Loker Track Stadium around 11:30 a.m. where the potential NFL draftees will run the 40-yard dash as well as participate in various individual position drills.

We will have video interviews with players and scouts to go along with a full recap of Wednesday's events. For behind-the-scenes access throughout the day, be sure to follow us on Snapchat @usc_athletics!

Leonard Williams has been the talk of this NFL draft class and is projected to be one of the first five players drafted according to analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr.  The defensive end - who shined at the Combine - will go through a brief workout on Wednesday, serving as one final opportunity to flash his skills on his home turf. Nelson Agholor, another Trojan looking to be drafted in the early rounds, hopes to impress scouts with his fieldwork after injuring his finger at the NFL Combine before the receiving session began.

To see the results of the seven Trojans who participated in this year's NFL Combine, click here.

Agholor and Williams are two of the four USC players who elected to leave school early to enter the draft, along with running back Buck Allen and wide receiver George Farmer. Allen gave an impressive performance in Indianapolis and will most likely have a short Pro Day, focusing primarily on the position drills portion. Farmer participated in a regional combine, but will be hungry to show scouts his renowned speed on his own campus.

Pro Day is especially important for the Trojans who were not invited to the NFL Combine. They hope to use their time in front of the scouts to make an indelible impression that will pay off on draft day.

Check out the special gear Coach Sark and his staff had made for the participating Trojans...


Photo Gallery: WWP Loses in OT

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USC women's water polo comes into every season with championship aspirations, and now the Women of Troy know what it will take this year after battling defending champion Stanford in an overtime classic last Sunday. No. 3 USC ultimately fell to No. 2 Stanford, 12-9, but the Trojans fought out of a four-goal deficit to force the extra session.

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy remain home this week to host Arizona State on Friday at 6 p.m. inside the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Here are the John McGillen and Rachel Bennett photos from the Stanford clash:


Photo Gallery: Dominating at Dodger Stadium

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The USC baseball team capped off a winning weekend, beating No. 6 UCLA, 8-4 at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. Junior AJ Ramirez accomplished a childhood dream, blasting his first home run in a big league ballpark and Timmy Robinson added two RBIs.

John McGillen captured every exciting moment from Sunday's victory. Enjoy his photos here...

Vote Ishimatsu for Sullivan

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USC senior diver Haley Ishimatsu has been named one of 14 semifinalists for the 2014 AAU Sullivan Award, but she needs your help to win it. The two-time NCAA champion and four-time Pac-12 title holder is pushing for a spot in the Top 6, which is determined by an online fan vote.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE!!!

The 14 semifinalists include Ishimatsu, Simone Biles, Shawn Barber, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Ezekiel Elliott, Adeline Gray, Erin Hamlin, Micha Hancock, Katie Ledecky, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Marcus Mariota, Jahlil Okafor, Ollie Schniederjans and Maggie Steffens.

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Then and Now

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No. 3 USC women's golf is loaded with star players, including former NCAA individual national champions Annie Park and Doris Chen, but sophomore Gabriella Then is swinging the hottest clubs on the team. The Women of Troy finished second at the Darius Rucker Invitational in Hilton Head, S.C., over the weekend thanks to Then, who posted her second consecutive Top 3.

Click here for the recap.

Then tied for first in her previous tournament and has recorded three consecutive Top 10 finishes. She only started six times as a freshman, but the Rancho Cucamonga product has become a lineup mainstay in season two as the Women of Troy push for another national championship after finishing in the Top 2 at the NCAA Championships in each of the last three years.

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Checking on 'Twaun

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian pointed to senior DL Antwaun Woods as one of the players who needs to be an emotional leader for the team this season. While the nose tackle is sidelined with an injury (rehabbing a torn pectoral muscle), he is doing his part to keep the energy at a championship level.


Recognition for JMac

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USC point guard Jordan McLaughlin was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team today as the conference announced its end of season award winners.

Click here for all the awards.

McLaughlin finished third on the Trojans in scoring (12.1 points per game) and tops in assists (4.5 per game) during a strong initial campaign, which was unfortunately cut short due to a shoulder injury. Among conference freshmen, he was third in scoring behind only Arizona's Stanley Johnson and UCLA's Kevon Looney, and the leader in assists, ranking fourth overall in the conference.

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