While the joshing around may not be as noteworthy as many MLB teams that mess with up-and-coming prospects this time of the year, USC Football is not afraid to have some fun while focusing on the big-picture task at hand.
The seventh day of practice brings new excitement, an emerging leader to the quarterback front and plenty of opportunities to keep the jovial spirits up as the team prepares for the Spring Football game on April 19th.
Today might be April Fool's Day…but more importantly it's PRACTICE #7 for the TROJANS! #fightonbaby— Tim Drevno (@CoachDrev) April 1, 2014
But on a serious note, even for just a second, USC will continue its frantically-paced practices focusing its efforts on a variety of position groups on both sides of the ball.
The first of which centers around Tim Drevno's offensive line which has rapidly seen the emergence of early enrollee Toa Lobendahn, redshirt senior Nathan Guertler and redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers gaining valuable reps on the first-team offense, along with the reliable contributions from now-center Max Tuerk, and Chad Wheeler.
It would also be important to note that while USC continues to shuffle in new depth on the offensive line, OT Zach Banner (who has come in healthier, smaller and stronger) continues to impress the coaching staff with his performance in practice.
We have also seen over the course of Spring Football that the running back position is back and fully loaded for another strong year. Buck Allen leads the class of the crop, following his team-awarded MVP performance last season.
Tre Madden, who rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first four games, along with bruiser Ty Isaac continue to work in the fold as powerful options, building off last year's success in their respective stints stints. The most relevant point though, that Sarkisian just noted on Saturday, was whether USC would use one or two-back sets on offense.
Obviously the quarterback battle (or whatever you make of the battle to this point) has been interesting to watch but it has very reassuring to recognize that Cody Kessler continues to develop as a pocket passer and leader on offense, showcasing why his final performance against Fresno State was certainly no laughing matter.
Max Browne is much more physically mature and confident than ever before in his USC career, and expects to play sooner rather than later. But right now, by what we've seen and heard at practice, his role seems to be best suited as the competitor to push Kessler to new heights and should be ready for the call at a moment's notice.
What might be most interesting however, is the growing emergence of bonafide threats to catch the rock. The big-time players like Nelson Agholor, the returning Steven Mitchell, and redshirt sophomore Darreus Rogers have all been getting plenty of valuable reps in this high-tempo practice slate, emerging as strong options to fill some voids left by Marqise Lee and Robert Woods of recent memory.
''The sky is the limit for Nelson,'' Kessler said after Saturday's scrimmage. ''He has learned, and he know what it takes to be one of the top receivers, not only to play this year but to ever play here. He definitely has that potential.''
While the TE position may be limited right now due to injuries and a lack of scholarship depth, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick has held his own at the position, Teddy Baker and Connor Spears have caught my eye with their effort and determination in one-on-one drills over the middle, and QB/TE Chris Willson (the former Wake Forest pitcher) continues to solidly contribute as a blocking and short pass-catching option that continues to be a reliable and trustworthy option.
So all jokes aside, USC's offense continues to embrace the frantic pace of play. Through seven practices, the group is responding rather well to what's being asked of them: in terms of spreading the rock, spreading the touches and spreading the football up and down the field in rather fast fashion. And we are not joking about this stuff!