Coach Orgeron's First Fun-Filled Act: "Compete, Compete, Compete"

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Coach Orgeron regime has officially taken flight on the practice field and while early in the process, things are starting to resemble the good old days under Pete Carroll.

The post-Lane Kiffin era is now off and running at Howard Jones Field, and in what only could be described as classic Orgeron, USC's interim head coach cracked jokes with reporters while walking onto the field, mentioned the influx of cookies as fuel to his players' success and as always, got up in people's faces about competing on every play.

"We just weren't out there going through the motions. Football is there to be fun," said Orgeron, perfectly summing up the feelings around the entire team following a fully-padded practice during the lone bye week of the season.

When the entire team gathered for stretching, Orgeron led the team period with one epic blast: "Get your minds right, everybody!" loud enough for students and fans who were not permitted in practice, to easily recognize around campus. While never lost for words or intensity, players have already bought into intense yet fun-loving demeanor the hefty-set Coach Orgeron always brings to the field.

"Its awesome (working with O). He is a lot more competitive," said quarterback Cody Kessler, who perfectly summed up the mood surrounding the entire course of practice. Compete, compete, compete, all of which were active Wednesday.

Once the warmup period began, he quickly ran back over to his vaunted defensive and offensive line periods to coach up his traditional unit, the one he has assisted with each of the past four seasons. Regardless of where he traveled, the upbeat mood around practice was palpable.

"I think Coach O did a great job, exactly what we are supposed to do," said wide receiver Nelson Agholor. "We came out with intensity, concentration and we got better today."

That they certainly did, with AD Pat Haden strolling into practice with his motley crew of several senior athletic department officials looked on as the Trojans worked out for the first time since a 62-41 loss Saturday to Arizona State.

Practice may have been longer than par the course under Lane Kiffin, but the intensity and emotion translated into a quick-hitting session filled with team activities and plenty of physicality.

What stood out to most players on the team was what Coach Orgeron brings to the table in terms of intangibles, and none stronger than allowing his guys to engage in a light Oklahoma Drill before the start of team drills, what always seems a rallying cry for uniformity. Players embraced the opportunity to bring some fun back to the game they love.

"They were really positive, they have been really upbeat," Silas Redd says of the first few days working under Coach Orgeron and his staff.

The difference from last week to this current one was immediately recognizable on the first drive of team 11-on-11 drills, when once again the USC offense was treading in the ground against a physical adversary across the way.

Orgeron, looking to rile up his unit and gain control of the ship by the wheel, quickly pulled aside his starting unit for some words of encouragement about giving maximum effort. Needless to say, the Trojans came out firing on the next snap, running right up the middle to convert for a first down.

As for the rest of the play calling, that lied upon offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who is embracing the first opportunity to get his firm grasp on the playbook since calling plays with Memphis back in 2009. Helton told reporters after practice that he will be on the sideline calling plays on offense for the Trojans' next game against Arizona.

What really stood out from practice however, was Orgeron's almost jovial stance on reporting injuries. "We have our team. It's what it is. It's what we are. We're Trojans. We put 11 out on the field and we fight," Orgeron proclaimed after practice.

Orgeron let it be known right away that this new regime will not be backing down from any challenge. So call it what you may but come next Thursday, players will be firing next from the Coliseum Tunnel with an ultra-competitive state of mind.

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