Head coach Steve Sarkisian was very pleased with the USC Trojans' effort after Wednesday's practice.
"I was really pleased with our energy that our guys brought today," Sarkisian said after practice. "They practiced really hard today."
That's a great sign for the Trojans as they get prepped for a tough road trip to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes.
"We have some natural leaders in that department that kind of set the tone for the way they practice -- Nelson Agholor, JuJu Smith, Buck Allen, Leonard Williams practiced his tail off, J.R. Tavai -- all those guys," Sarkisian said. "I think they really set the tone and the other guys do a great job of following."
USC continues to battle through some injuries as several key players are still trying to get back to 100 percent. After being limited to bike duties on Tuesday, safety Gerald Bowman (sprained foot) and middle linebacker Hayes Pullard (knee bruise) did return for the Trojans and look to be on track for Saturday's game.
"We got a lot more out of Hayes today, which was encouraging," Sarkisian said. "We got more out of Gerald Bowman."
Adoree' Jackson practiced full speed and told reporters after practice that he plans to take on a full workload against Utah despite the hip flexor injury he re-aggravated against Colorado.
"I feel great from a physical stand[point]," Jackson told the Daily News. "I'm 100 percent. I've just been doing a lot of treatment...I've just been stretching a lot and that's what I didn't do because I thought just rest would help me get better."
The outlook isn't as positive for some of the other Trojans.
"I still think that Ajene [Harris] and George [Farmer] are somewhat limited on offense," Steve Sarkisian said. "Soma [Vainuku] were just trying to get him as healthy as fast as we can and Steven Mitchell got a little twinge today too."
If for some reason, Harris, Farmer and Mitchell are unable to go on Saturday, USC would be down to three recruited scholarship wide receivers (Agholor, Smith and Darreus Rogers) as well as former walk-on George Katrib. If the Trojans weren't so thin at tight end, freshman Bryce Dixon could slide out more often. But Dixon and Randall Telfer are the only two scholarship tight ends available.
Former wideout Victor Blackwell would likely have had an opportunity to get some playing time this weekend, but he has long since departed the program and is dealing with more serious concerns after his arrest on domestic violence charges.
Vainuku's injury is more pressing for the Trojans. Steve Sarkisian said during Tuesday's Trojans Live program that the one area Utah really stands out is the Utes' special teams.
Besides being a great blocking fullback, Soma Vainuku excels on special teams.
"He was reigning Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Year. Any time you lose a player of that caliber, it takes its toll," Sarkisian said. So how will USC try to fill the void if Vainuku is unable to go? "All hands on deck for us on special teams this week. The more anybody can do for us, the better."
One positive for the special teams unit is the continued progress of senior kicker Andre Heidari, who took the first kicks on field goals, according to the OC Register's Michael Lev.