It was a practice that felt more like your average baseball game, lasting 2:49 from first snap to the final whistle. The Trojans ran 130 plays, along with 80 more in walk-through periods, leaving everyone on the field tired, yet thirsty for more.
When the Student Manager finally blew that whistle three times, which most of the media swore was bound to happen at about three or four other times during the night, players rushed to the far North-West corner of Howard Jones Field.
Instead of sprinting for the showers after a long day at the office, the team stayed an additional 15-20 minutes after to work on minor details in their first official practice with the coaching staff since the Spring Game.
The coaching staff broke down the team for some quick discussion on the practice, but not before some camaraderie-building activities took place to fire up these teammates that will spend the next three weeks together in USC's dorm rooms right next to Howard Jones Field and the John McKay Center.
The Trojans have a tradition of giving a freshman a prized football that must be protected and kept safe during the entirety of Fall Camp. Well needless to say the football, which had belonged to Jalen Greene, was reported to be missing in the shortest amount of time in memory. The squad was forced to initiate "Rookie Hazing" which resorted to multiple up-downs and the chilling fate of getting dumped with two large buckets of ice water.
All jokes aside, the long night of practice brought back chilling memories of a packed Howard Jones Field for USC Football practice, the Trojans showed us why the early-season excitement could be both warranted and completely off point.
Got a text from a veteran player post-practice. His thoughts on Day 1?: "It was like a Pete Carroll Practice today." #USC— Trenise Ferreira (@TreniseFerreira) August 5, 2014
Biggest Talking Points
1. The Trojans tight end situation got a whole lot more difficult and also clear at the same time. The healthy and vibrant return of Randall Telfer brings hope that the senior pass-catching target can finally play at a productive level over the course of an entire season. Walk-on contributor Chris Willson (1 catch for 5 yards last season) has proven himself a reliable option and he could be an excellent mentor --both on and off the field-- for talented freshman Bryce Dixon.
2. Kevon Seymour was in the hospital last week after suffering a bad reaction to food he ate, which he believes could've been a minor food sickness concern. The coaching staff kept Seymour out of drills recognizing that his long-term health is more important and that missing one day would be better than when USC plays four weeks down the line.
3. JuJu Smith, one of the many fascinating players that can contribute both ways, is an absolute specimen out there. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff continues to challenge these two-way players day in and day out. I'd imagine that Smith continues to get reps at WR along with the other 13 scholarship pass catchers on the roster, unless the Trojans three-headed monster at safety (Gerald Bowman, Su'a Cravens, Leon McQuay) suffer any major injuries before the start of the season.
4. In the first full-team session the offensive line went as follows: (R-L) Zach Banner, Viane Talamaivo, Max Tuerk, Toa Lobendahn and Nico Falah. Plenty of young, un-proven names were on the list but the addition of Nico Falah really turned some heads during practice. Chad Wheeler (one of the most consistent lineman) was limited in practice but it would still really behoove the staff to give Falah, Banner and Nathan Guertler as many reps as possible at that position.
5. Speaking of lineman, everyone is now required to wear knee braces. Coach Chris Wilson and Tim Drevno have brought their brand of toughness from the SEC and NFL, which could drastically affect the way USC plays on both lines of scrimmage. This health-driven initiative did bring one interesting moment as freshman OLB/DE Malik Dorton noticeably hobbled around the field trying to chase after current running Anthony Brown, but couldn't find the best groove to plant and fire off to his right.
6. The befuddling Conner Sullivan saga continues. After shifting his attention from starting in USC's outfield (2013) to his life-long dream of playing quarterback at the collegiate level, Sullivan was taking reps at both wide receiver and wild cat quarterback. While his presence mirroring dual-threat quarterbacks is nothing new, never really sure where to peg this kid once he finishes out his career. The 6th-string QB, the other walk-on WR or that flamed out baseball prospect?
7. When Justin Davis catches the football, everyone should stop and take notice. When the now 18-year-old running back gets the ball in open space, he can reel off some eye-popping fireworks. Watching the entire RB group, I was most impressed with how Davis caught the ball --without losing stride-- bursting down the sideline with incredible jolt. If Davis can provide an added piece to complement Tre Madden and Buck Allen, things could get real dangerous in the Trojans backfield.