Spring Football finally came to a close with a two-hour spectacle of tackling drills, position group training, plenty of promotional tee shirts firing into the stands, and then some scrimmage-style football.
It was hard to build the fullest assessment on USC's work to this point with 23 of the 88 players on the roster held out on Saturday by precaution or due to injury. What we did learn was that the Trojans have plenty of depth that will allow the coaching staff to keep the competition brewing come Fall Camp.
Plenty of walk-ons took center stage including some jarring tackles from Matt Lopes (son of Associate AD, Steve) and former Servite LB Joey Foy on defense. While the names moving the football, like former baseball OF Conner Sullivan and walk-on WR's George Katrib and YouTube sensation Aaron Minor provided nice glimpses.
Renowned for the fast-paced tempo that captivated conversation the past few weeks, Sarkisian's gang ran just 85 plays which you could argue was all by design. The coaching staff wanted Cody Kessler, Max Browne and diaper dandy Jalen Greene to be comfortable, prepared but also aware of what playing in front of that large crowd felt like. This time under new coaching, new weapons and new heights.
So for the last time until Fall Camp, take a look and listen to what Sarkisian called the "vanilla approach" on offense that featured no touchdowns but plenty of dazzling catches, tackles and in-game promos over the two-hour session.
WHAT DOES THE SARK SAY
FIRST HAND NOTES FROM THE PRESS BOX
The Spring Game was right on script. Much in the same way practice has been done with a purpose, USC's offense let it fly in the opening series, tried to establish some confidence in the read-option sets and wanted to spread the rock.
If we were in the betting business, I'd put all my money on the tight end position right now. Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick showed some impressive hands over the middle of the field, Chris Willson looks to be an emerging pass-blocking option that can do some things in the play-action game and even walk-on Teddy Baker could provide major toughness.
It looks like Toa Lobendahn not be wearing No. 55 the next time he steps foot in the Coliseum. When asked about the number, Willie McGinest said that "Fifty-five is a special number. We've got to have some conversations and meetings about that.''
Sarkisian recognized the prominence of players like Junior Seau, Willie McGinest and Chris Claiborne that have earned it over the course of their USC careers and believes a slight oversight handed the number away for Spring Football, but that hopefully talented recruits like Lobendahn will etch new historic numbers in history.
We've continued to harp on the presence of the Trojans' two-deep rotation, and that seems to be strongest at the defensive line spot where Claude Pelon, Antwaun Woods, Kenny Bigelow and Delvon Simmons give USC tremendous depth alongside the starting tandem of Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods.
The Trojans went down quite the bumpy road last season under coach John Baxter and now Johnny Nansen takes over a group dying for competition, and more importantly improved results. Senior Andre Heidari, coming off a 15-22 FG season, nailed four-of-five kicks on Saturday. Kris Albarado only punted in practice but its been made clear that both players will need to perform well to preserve their spots moving forward.