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.).


2014 Fall Camp #8: Notes

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The Trojans eased off the gas with a lighter practice before tomorrow's Coliseum scrimmage, which is closed to the public.
  • On the injury front, DB Su'a Cravens strained his groin, and TE Bryce Dixon tweaked his groin. DL Leonard Williams, DL Antwaun Woods, OL Jordan Simmons, CB/WR Adoree' Jackson and WR Darreus Rogers are all among the sidelined.
  • The coaches were much happier with the offensive tempo today as Steve Sarkisian would like to see his team play at a faster pace.  He expects the Trojans to run only 10 to 13 seconds between plays when the offense is pushed to warp speed.
  • USC is able to play faster in part because "the terminology and the verbiage is a lot less for the kids right now," said offensive coordinator Clay Helton. "They're learning concepts rather than being told each person what to do."  Plus, the simplicity enables skill players like Nelson Agholor to line up at multiple spots within the offense.
  • The base package of the offense has been installed through a week and a half with only specialty situations still to be introduced. However, especially with the young guys, minds will go blank when the bullets start flying Wednesday night. "We have a saying, 'Assume nothing and coach everything.' Act every day like you are teaching them from brand new," said Helton.
  • Helton has nurtured Cody Kessler's career from his first days on the USC campus, and he has seen his greatest growth in his "anticipation level." In this camp in particular, Kessler is hitting his running backs not just as an outlet but as playmaking receivers in space, he said.
  • Any questions about Kessler's arm strength are a thing of the past.  "He can make any throw on the field," said Helton.
  • As a unit, Helton would like to see his quarterbacks display "decision-making, timing and accuracy" during the scrimmage. "Those are the three things that we set our standard by.  Protecting the ball, getting it to the right guy, getting it out on time and then being accurate, so he can do things after the catch."
  • As for the entire team, Sarkisian wants to see the Trojans "put it all together" in a live setting.  Today, wideouts JuJu Smith and George Farmer stole the show with touchdown catches.
  • Here is Sarkisian after practice today...

How Do You Do

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Pete Arbogast, the voice of the Trojans, has been selected for the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame joining his predecessor Tom Kelly (pictured together) in legendary company. 

Arbogast took over for Kelly in 1989 as the radio play-by-play man for USC football, but his resume shows a depth of broadcasting talent including the Olympics, USC men's and women's basketball, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cincinnati Bengals and more.

The induction ceremonies are set for January 26, 2015 at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake.


Sark and Rece

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The ESPN "Bus Blitz" is in town for Fall Camp today, so Steve Sarkisian gave Rece Davis a tour of the new Heritage Hall and previewed the upcoming season.

Pete Takes the Challenge

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Steve Sarkisian passed the ice baton on to Pete Carroll in support of ALS awareness, and the Super Bowl champion head coach took his chilly challenge in front of the media before calling out fellow NFC West head coaches Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher and Bruce Arians. 

Click here to watch the video.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is more than a fun viral sensation.  Since July 29, the national ALS association has collected $2.3 million in donations compared to $25,000 during the same period last year. 


Top Heavy Conference

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The Pac-12 boasts three of the Top 5 teams in the initial AVCA Women's Volleyball Top 25 with USC starting the season at No. 5 in the nation. No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Washington and No. 25 Arizona State also made the rankings cut.

Click here for more.

The Women of Troy are in full grind mode as training camp began last week, but they took some time out to enjoy photo day and introduce us to a couple members of the squad.

2014 Fall Camp #7: Notes

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The Trojans have hit the "dog days" of camp as the coaches push for more energy on the practice field.
  • As we reported last night, OLB Jabari Ruffin is out for the season with a torn ACL.  "The news about Jabari was disappointing," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "There's going to be some injuries and how we respond is critical."
  • Powell-Fall-Scrimmage3-McG.jpgThe Trojans were also without the services of DL Leonard Williams (shoulder), DL Antwaun Woods (elbow), WR Darreus Rogers (Achilles) and CB/WR Adoree' Jackson (foot) in today's practice.
  • In the absence of Ruffin, who was in line for a starting role, the coaching staff has come up with several contingency plans.  First, sophomore Quinton Powell is a direct replacement, although a slighter build than Ruffin.  "It's just that nature. You know that you are up next," said Powell. "They didn't have to tell me, I already knew."
  • Second, the rush ends, namely J.R. Tavai and Scott Felix (formerly Starr), are versatile enough to play the SAM position.  "All of us kind of learn the same thing.  We just have to watch a little bit more film and go into the playbook," said Felix, who describes himself as a "hybrid" linebacker and defensive end.
  • Third, everyone moves up one on the depth chart, so freshman Uchenna Nwosu could see a role this season. "He's a good player," raved Powell about his teammate. "They recruited some good athletes this year.  Uchenna is just like me and Jabari honestly.  He's explosive.  He has a swagger about him and I like that."
  • Finally, DB Su'a Cravens is big enough to push into the box and play a linebacker role in nickel situations, especially against the spread teams in the Pac-12 like Arizona or Cal.
  • Overall, the defense made more plays today with three interceptions stemming mostly from wide receiver mistakes.  Cravens and CB Josh Shaw had picks on dropped passes, and Matt Lopes took advantage of a wideout running the wrong route.
  • Offensively, Sarkisian explained that the entire unit needs "to pick up the tempo" and is "just not fast enough."  However, freshmen TE Bryce Dixon and WR Ajene Harris made big touchdown catches late in practice to salvage the afternoon.
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice presser: