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Get to Know: Antwaun Woods

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Beyond the recruiting bios, stat columns, post-game quotes and jersey numbers, every one of USC's elite student-athletes possesses a unique personality. Whether it's their life motto, hidden talent or spirit animal, there's more that makes up each of our Trojan athletes than what's put on display come game day.


Get to know redshirt senior defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, whose cooking skills are the stuff of legend. The Los Angeles native became the first member of his family to graduate from college this spring, an accomplishment made possible by the support of his father, his life-long role model.

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2015 Fall Camp #3: Notes

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The grind of Fall Camp is starting to set in as the Trojans were forced to push through the afternoon heat.
  • USC put the shoulder pads on for the first time, which upped the physicality of practice. As a result, several Trojans visited the trainers, including freshman DL Noah Jefferson, who hyperextended his elbow, and freshman RB-WR Domonic Davis, who landed hard on his lower back after leaping in the air to try to make a catch.
  • USC_Football_Fall_Camp_080915_MCG9878.jpgAlong with bumps and bruises, mental fatigue led to more mistakes on day three. "Collisions can cause fatigue similar to running," explained head coach Steve Sarkisian. "With fatigue came a little bit of distraction and with distraction came a few more mistakes."
  • The offense won the "finish challenge" as Cody Kessler hit RB Tre Madden for a touchdown. Sarkisian craves versatility from his backs, so he was pleased to see Madden and FB Soma Vainuku, who made a great TD catch on a wheel route, impact the passing game.
  • The safety spot is a major storyline of Fall Camp as an inexperienced group sorts out its roles. Sophomore John Plattenburg, who missed today's practice with a hip pointer, is expected to be a key contributor, and Holiday Bowl hero Leon McQuay is also running with the ones. Several highly-touted freshmen are hoping to climb the depth chart. "I think all of them are in a battle right now," said defensive backs coach Keith Heyward. "Nothing is guaranteed. The new guys are playing pretty good. As we get going, because the number of reps for each guy decreases, the competition in those reps increases. The reps each guy gets become more important, and we're really going to see who is disciplined."
  • Sarkisian said that freshman CB Iman "Biggie" Marshall (pictured) had his best practice of Fall Camp because he was able to play his game in shoulder pads. "Iman is just so physical," said Heyward. "He has that swagger and he's strong at the point of attack."
  • Redshirt senior Cody Temple is working with the first team defensive line at defensive end after playing nose tackle behind Antwaun Woods last season. "I appreciate the opportunity the coaches are giving me. I've been, as we all know, dealing with a bunch of injuries my entire career," said Temple, who is taking yoga to improve his flexibility and quickness. "I really feel like it is benefiting me out here when it comes to one-on-ones and pass rush being a little more explosive out of my hips."
  • Temple now has to face USC's "big, 6-foot-9 Jurassic Park" tackles, but he learned a lot battling head-to-head with center Max Tuerk during the spring when Woods was out with an injury. "Me going up against Max every day made me better," said Temple. "I may have weighed more than him. I may be stronger in the weight room at points, but when it comes to technique and effort, which is what we all emphasize out here on the field, that man always gives it."
  • While Tuerk has center locked down, Toa Lobendahn started in place of Viane Talamaivao (hamstring) today at right guard. The sophomore's versatility makes him invaluable to the coaches. "He's so unique," said Sarkisian about Lobendahn. "Honestly, we could put him at center too. He's a very gifted guy. He's got a really high football IQ, a really versatile frame and an athletic build to him that he can go do all those things. That's the luxury of having a guy like that and that's the luxury of having depth on the offensive line."
  • Lobendahn did have to adjust to playing on the right side of the offensive line after a year on the left. "You have to feel your stance different, your vision is way different because most of the time I'm looking one way and now I'm looking to the right most of the time. You just have to keep the same mindset that you do on the left side, but it's the basically opposite on the other side."
  • Tuesday and Wednesday's practices were moved to 5:30 p.m., and both are open to the public. Here is Sarkisian after practice today:


Unplugged: Video Board Shoot

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Before you see the finished product at the Coliseum, go behind-the-scenes with the Trojans at their video board promotional shoot.


New Year, New Photo

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The annual "All 21" photo inside the John McKay Center lobby represents the best and brightest student-athletes from every USC sport. The photo, produced by John McGillen, is displayed as one long panorama, but below is the stacked version.

Top row (L-R): Giuliana Olmos, Tera Novy, Whitney Pitalo, Chelsea Chenault, Nikola Jovanovic, Andre De Grasse, Kyung Kim, Garrett Stubbs, Andrew Malone, Cody Kessler, Stephania Haralabidis and Jordan Adams

Bottom row (L-R): Kelly Claes, Max de Vroome, Jaide Stepter, Brooks Varni, Samantha Bricio, Dashiell Enos, Bobby Gojuangco, Courtney Tarleton, Mac Carden, Haley Ishimatsu, Katerina Berdousi and Kristztina Gyimes

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2015 Fall Camp #2: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom and Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The Trojans matched the intensity from day one as they returned to the field on Sunday night pleasing USC head coach Steve Sarkisian...
  • "I think it was pretty evident today that the guys came out again in a really competitive atmosphere," commented the head coach. "They were intense, and at times a little too intense for not being in pads yet, so we had to keep coaching them that way, but I was impressed with that."
  • The defense clinched its second finish challenge, something Sarkisian was impressed with after the offense came out to an early 2-0 lead.
  • With the departure of defensive standouts Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard, the head coach noticed the entire unit is coming together to form a new, less individualized identity. "I don't feel like guys on the defense are waiting for another guy to go make a play. They're understanding the accountability aspect of it. It's my job to do my job. If a play comes my way or if I have to go make that play through sheer effort, I'm going to go do that because that's my job and that's what my brothers are expecting me to do," he said.
  • Redshirt senior LB Anthony Sarao echoed the head coach's assessment, adding that the freshmen are helping the entire unit grow even more. "I see a lot of sponge in them, as in, they like to listen," he explained. "They like to ask a lot of questions too. A lot of young guys get scared to ask questions but they're embracing it. They like to take advice. They're going to be good players."
  • On the opposite side of the ball, Sarkisian is encouraged by the way redshirt senior RB Tre Madden looks in his first official practices in nearly a year. "I thought Tre had a really good night. I thought he looked sharp and ran well. I thought he showed good patience, but then good burst through the hole."
  • Madden is thrilled to be back at full speed with the opportunity to build on what he described as his best summer of conditioning. "I feel good. I'm a little sore, a little tired but I feel great being out here," said the running back. "We've never had this many numbers at RB. Our individual drills are giving us a lot of breaks so we're able to go as hard as we can when we get our reps."
  • The depth is evident in nearly every position group as pointed out by junior Darreus Rogers, who raved about the wealth of options at wide receiver. "We've all got roles we're trying to play. Every play I feel fresh. I'm not worried about running a play tired, going 50 percent. Every play I'm going 100 percent, and it's just a better opportunity for me to make plays," he said.
  • In the first two days of practice, the junior is already noticing an improvement from last season. "I'm focused on playing faster, thinking less and more of me just playing naturally," explained Rogers. "Now I have a second year under my belt with Sark's playbook. I feel too good out here. The game has slowed down tremendously for me. I feel great. I feel like I can just go out there and play without thinking."
  • A few Trojans are a little nicked up after two days, including junior RB Justin Davis and sophomore OG Viane Talamaivao who are nursing sore hamstrings, as well as sophomore S John Plattenburg who sustained a minor hip pointer.
  • Here's the head coach after Sunday's practice...

Gifford the Great

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

IMG_3813.JPGUSC All-American Frank Gifford died of natural causes on Sunday at the age of 84 in Greenwich, Connecticut. The former back was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame just two years later in 1977.

The back was a member of the inaugural class of the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994, recognized for his legendary performance during his three-year Trojan career. In his All-American and All-Conference season in 1951, Gifford led USC in total offense, rushing yards and scoring. The running back played 12 seasons as a New York Giant after being selected in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft. Gifford led his team to five NFL Championship games and one NFL title in 1956, earning him league MVP honors. 

After Gifford's football career ended, he turned to sports broadcasting where he was best known for his role as a play-by-play announcer on ABC's Monday Night Football from 1971 to 1977 with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. He is a legend in not only the football community but the broadcast community as well. Many honored Gifford on Sunday including CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz who learned of his passing on air. 


Gifford is survived by his wife, television personality Kathie Lee Gifford, and his five children and five grandchildren. 

By Any Other Name

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith legally changed his name to JuJu Smith-Schuster this summer to honor his stepfather. The wide receiver decided to make the change last season but the process took several months to become official.

Click here to read Gary Klein's profile on Smith-Schuster's name change in the LA Times.

"I'm very proud of it," explained Smith-Schuster. "He came into my life when I was four years old and taught me right from wrong, without him I wouldn't be here today."

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55 Enshrined

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

On Saturday, the late USC All-American and NFL legend Junior Seau was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the first-ever Polynesian and Samoan to have his bust forever immortalized in Canton. His enshrinement makes it a record-tying 12 Trojans in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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No. 55 is one of USC's all-time greats, receiving All-American honors in 1989 before being drafted fifth overall by the Chargers in the 1990 NFL Draft. The linebacker played in San Diego for thirteen seasons, as well as for the Miami Dolphins (2003-05) and New England Patriots (2006-09). Seau played in twelve Pro Bowls in his 20 seasons in the NFL and is the only player with at least 50 sacks, 15 interceptions and 15 opponent fumble recoveries since 1982.

Seau's daughter Sydney, a former USC women's beach volleyball player, gave an emotional induction speech on behalf of her father, a player who inspired generations of football players and fans both on and off the field.

"His athleticism and talent made him extraordinary enough to make it into the Hall of Fame, but it's his passion and heart that make him truly legendary," his daughter said at Saturday night's induction ceremony.

To watch Sydney Seau's entire presentation speech in honor of her father, click here.


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Bust photo credit to Ben Liebenberg, NFL Staff Photographer.

Photo Gallery: Fall Camp #1

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The Trojans were full of energy on Saturday for the first practice of Fall Camp 2015. Intensity was high on both sides of the ball for veterans and freshmen alike who were eager to compete alongside each other for the first official time this season.

Check out all the John McGillen photos from the first day, including a look at many of the talented players in the Class of 2015...

2015 Fall Camp #1: Notes

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Fall Camp is officially underway as the Trojans hit the practice field in front of more than 300 spectators.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian said that 105 players practiced, and two more are injured, so the numbers, albeit with walk-ons included, look a lot more like pre-sanctions USC. "It just feels so different," said Sarkisian. "The depth is great, but it's the quality of the depth that's so great."
  • image1.JPGThe talent level is rising as the massive freshman class finds its feet. The highly touted group featured several day one standouts including TE Tyler Petite, who Sarkisian highlighted for making catches over the middle, RB Ronald Jones II, who had at least one eye-popping run, and LB Porter Gustin and DB Ykili Ross, who each had an interception.
  • QB Cody Kessler loves the weapons now at his disposal, especially with the three new freshman running backs. "[Dominic Davis] is so fast and Ronald and [Aca'Cedric Ware], those guys are so athletic," said the senior quarterback. "I was telling Sark, 'We've really got some weapons now.' It's going to be so fun to see those guys play."
  • At the receiver spot, Steven Mitchell and QB-turned-WR Jalen Greene reeled in deep balls.
  • Turnovers are an emphasis for Sarkisian, so the head coach was happy that the defense hawked the ball all night. Along with Gustin and Ross, Chris Hawkins made a pick at his new safety position.
  • Three-way talent Adoree' Jackson will spend the first 11 practices solely on defense and then the next six exclusively on offense. After that, he will flip-flop back-and-forth like he did last season.
  • The defense won the "finish challenge" despite a great catch by sophomore WR JuJu Smith to keep the offense alive. "I can't wait to get the pads on and see who's really ready to play," said OLB Su'a Cravens, who complimented Smith on the offensive side. "The defense won today so we're in no rush, but as soon as the offense starts getting under our skin, we're going to love to get those pads on."
  • Defensively, Sarkisian noted the activity of redshirt junior OLB Jabari Ruffin. "It feels amazing to be back," said Ruffin, who missed a full year to rehab from knee surgery. "When I was first post-op, that was the roughest part. Throughout the months, throughout the days, it got easier and easier. It was for sure the hardest thing that I had to deal with in my entire life."
  • Ruffin is part of a key group of veteran players lost to injury last season that should provide a major boost this fall including OT Chad Wheeler, RB Tre Madden, LB Lamar Dawson and DL Kenny Bigelow. "Chad has been my roommate since the season ended, and so we have been grinding literally every day together," said Ruffin. "I love Chad. We all got love for each other, and we make sure to always push each other."
  • While Cravens looked unblockable in spring and picked up another sack of Kessler tonight, Ruffin is part of an important competition on the opposite side to fill the shoes of J.R. Tavai. "I am a bit faster and stronger than typical outside linebackers, so I can bring the pass rush to the table," Ruffin said. "I know that, so I have just been working hard every day to embrace this role for my teammates."
  • The Trojans are back at it Sunday night at 6:30. The practice is open to the public. Here is Sarkisian's first post-practice press conference of the new season: