"I got a pep in my step," said USC coach Ed Orgeron, days before facing Arizona in a must-win game at the Coliseum. "They are smiling, walking around here enjoying practice. Very positive, recruiting is positive and its just a good vibe."
In the midst of positive vibes, yet another slight adjustment affected the tempo and energy on each and every play. Based on the recommendation of Coach O, the Trojans implemented a "pro-style practice" with the first team offense battling the second team defense, while the Trojans second-team offense took reps for the first-team defense.
Following the Trojans last padded practice, resorting to just helmets and shoulder pads on Monday, players responded positively to the quick-hitting changes. "We love it, our guys love it. It gives them a break, we go 10 hard plays and then give them a break," Orgeron said, explaining his teams reaction to switching up the looks in practice.
Back on the field, the defense came out firing working against four-string quarterback Conner Sullivan or as players like Leonard Williams calls him "Conner Football," implementing read-option looks to simulate the speed and elusiveness coming from Arizona's quarterback B.J. Denker, who has rushed for 280 yards while passing for 445 through four games.
While the mood continues to stay positive, piling injuries to the Trojans depth chart remain the only real concern moving forward. "Hopefully we cut loose on Thursday night cause that's when it counts...we'll see though, there are several guys that are not looking so good right now," said Orgeron, being realistic about playing with the "best 11" on the field.
Coach Orgeron believes some light looms large at the end of the tunnel however, for his squad looking to win their first game in Pac-12 play. "But hey, Thursday night is a long time from now but guys seem to make miraculous recoveries; so we will keep on working," Orgeron said after practice, describing Marqise Lee's chances for Thursday night.
First Thursday night game ever to be played in the Coli... Lets get the coliseum ROCKIN like it used to back in the day!— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard42) October 8, 2013
Since leaving the Boston College tilt early in the first half, injured WR Darreus Rogers returned to the practice field for the first time in weeks taking part in light drills with his position group. This good news comes for an injury-riddled corp which only features two other healthy scholarship targets in Nelson Agholor and Victor Blackwell.
Practicing in a high-tempo effort with less plays for each unit, the Trojans came out focused and determined to correct mistakes from Arizona State preparing to face another fierce dual-threat offense from Arizona. "We really want to simulate some great speed, and then our second offense bring even more speed for our first team defense," says Orgeron.
The extra-curricular treats and surprises may be out the door in the final days before facing Arizona, but the excitement and energy around merely practice itself comes as a rather refreshing nibble for everyone involved.
"Our meetings are different, everything as far as energy is up about 10 times you could say," Josh Shaw says, following his switch back to his more natural position of safety, allowing cornerback Torin Harris to take first-team reps at practice.
Players took to the stand once again, speaking about the change in philosophy and day-to-day operations watching the 11-year USC veteran coach Orgeron take to both sides of the field offering up plenty of encouragement for all to hear.
"He brings to the whole team what he brought to us," said sophomore defensive lineman Leonard Williams. "I like to see how the whole team reacts to how he treated us and I feel like thats a good experience."
Moving from his once comfortable position with the defensive line to a more team-centric philosophy in practice, coach Orgeron is beginning to put his foot down on the minute details by implementing his enthusiastic intensity.
Based on what we have seen through one week of practice, USC is surely embracing the chance to rectify a slow start to the season working towards a return to form that resembles the confident-yet dominant football program under Pete Carroll.