With Fall Camp officially coming to close as players have finally moved into their respective dorms and apartments for the upcoming semester, the mindset has shifted towards game-week preparations.
Nearing the final week for last-minute instillations, the Trojans are beginning to craft together the fine details that will perfect the entire package before next week's season opener. Thursday's focus: goal line plays and airing the ball out deep.
"Really effective practice for us today. I thought it was really encouraging, especially Cody [Kessler] -- the way he was throwing downfield, which was an emphasis in today's practice," head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "And guys were making plays downfield."
That big play ability was on full display Thursday afternoon on Howard Jones Field when USC took the field for a team-oriented scrimmage period.
The first play was snagged down by a leaping Bryce Dixon near the far sideline. Right back they came and Cody Kessler again fired down field for target JuJu Smith, who jumped right over Chris Hawkins and snatched the football for the score.
"That piece was encouraging...that we were able to stretch the field and test the defense," Sarkisian said, before noting that, "We have to run the ball well. And then our ability to run the football well, and our ability to throw the ball downfield will create one-on-one matchups and allow our guys to win."
As the Trojans continue to pump out preparations for 80-plus plays on offense, the possible risks associated with moving at such a pace throughout the course of a game does not worry Coach Sarkisian at this point, or any to be honest.
After taking a barrage of questions about tempo and the impact it can play, Sarkisian quickly responded to concerns over his team's overall level of conditioning one week away from the start of the regular season: "I'll be shocked if there is a better conditioned team in the country."
QUICK PRACTICE NOTES
- After dislodging his elbow brace last night due to some minor comfort issues, Antwaun Woods was limited in practice merely for precautionary reasons.
- Su'a Cravens ran with the first-team defense at safety, as opposed to his newly-developed "Dollar" role, which defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox describes as a rotating SAM outside linebacker, nickel cornerback and roaming safety.
- Cody Kessler was very effective throwing the ball deep in practice, the best of which came on a tremendous diving catch from freshman Adoree' Jackson.
- How does Adoree' Jackson manage all the expectations while balancing three different playbooks. Jackson told Max Meyer of Neon Tommy that he's laid off social media for a while and will continue to do so early into the season, just focusing on football.
- Sark praised the cohesiveness of his defense, especially with guys across the depth chart including Michael Hutchings at linebacker, Matt Lopes at safety and Lamont Simmons at corner.
- Khaliel Rodgers, who injured his knee earlier this week, was out walking around at practice gaining mental reps against the first-team defense. Damien Mama has gotten added reps at right guard during Rodgers' absence.
- Freshman OG/C Toa Lobendahn was given the practice off, much against his personal wishes. He's been working as a first-team guard and second-team center, and Sarkisian felt it would be fair to get him fresh and ready for the season.
- Sark feels the Trojans are three-deep at every wide receiver position, feeling really good about the nine guys ready to play week one. It all starts on the outside with All-American candidate Nelson Agholor.
- Andre Heidari, who battled blueshirt kicker Matt Boermeester throughout the first two weeks, has seemingly solidified the kicking job for the season. The big question right now is whether scholarship snapper Peter McBride can find his groove.
- Leonard Williams should never be questioned about his motor, but Coach Sarkisian sometimes critiques that his All-American needs to keep it light once in a while because he always to seems to fire out at 100-percent each snap.
- Kevon Seymour told me that he would love to see Adoree' Jackson on the defensive side of the ball, feeling that his athleticism and ball-hawking ability would make him an immediate contributor in the Trojans' secondary.
- Victor Blackwell looked sharp catching passes with the first-team offense today, impressing Sarkisian for his ability to read the opposing defense and find space to operate down field.
- Lamar Dawson continues to sit out of practice with a nagging knee injury, Tre Madden was not on the practice field today recovering from his turf toe and Nico Falah was held out from team activities.