If any phrase could perfectly summarize the message being pumped out by the Trojan coaching staff to this point in Fall Camp practice, it would be to approach every aspect of the game with great tempo.
"We definitely gonna be the fastest team in the Pac-12," junior fullback Jahleel Pinner confidently proclaims. "We got the personnel to be the fastest team and we have the mindset to be the fastest team, so it's just about executing."
Head coach Steve Sarkisian started Spring Football bursting out the gate...and hasn't slowed down, topping the spring tempo with 200-plus walk-through and full-speed plays on the first day of Fall Camp. That frantic pace continues to power through with an added twist. USC wants to run an efficient, fast-paced attack that capitalizes on this squad's plethora of versatile players.
USC has kept an average pace of about 12-14 seconds in between snaps. This lofty goal has been accomplished not only to pressure opposing defenses, but also as a challenge to absorb that great deal of information. It can be mentally taxing for players at times, but when it all comes together, the results have been quite fun to watch.
"We're just trying to play to the strengths of our players," Sarkisian says. "If we get [Buck] Allen and [Tre] Madden with the ball in space they're tough to tackle," which has certainly been the case up and down the Trojans' depth chart.
These efforts have mostly materialized during team 11-on-11 activities as the action really amps up on both sides of the ball for the first, second and third-team squads trying to succinctly push the football down the field.
On the first-team unit, quarterback Cody Kessler, wideouts Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers and George Farmer align the outsides while tailbacks Buck Allen and Tre Madden catch the ball out of the backfield.
Bring along the second-team and Max Browne makes solid connections with Justin Davis, JuJu Smith and Bryce Dixon, giving the coaching staff another added dimension to the attack. Drives don't always convert into scores but the message remains constant. Continue to work with tempo and spread the ball out to a variety of versatile weapons.
As the Trojans strap up for their first fully-padded practice on Friday, the seeds of four instillation-based practices will shift towards plenty of vital competition.
"We don't want the guys thinking about new plays or new formations or any of that. We want those guys coming out confident in what they can do and playing football tomorrow," Steve Sarkisian said.
While the lack of scholarship players on the roster has typically been a hangnail to increased reps, added versatility on this roster has afforded USC the luxury of playing fast, but also with a sense of purpose.
"The leadership on this team is very unique," Sarkisian said following Wednesday's practice. "These guys come out ready to practice every time as if you wouldn't know the difference. They keep reinforcing my thoughts about them."
That confidence, which stems directly from veteran players, has rubbed off well on many of younger players as well. Especially for a guy like freshman Adoree' Jackson who could be one of the major cogs in USC's fast-paced attack because he has both embraced the opportunity and found ways to thrive in a variety of roles.
What the Trojans have attempted to do on offense, to this point, slightly resembles Chip Kelly's philosophy with Oregon. Spread the rock between a number of different players, all while dispersing both sides of the field with quick and talented players that require extra defensive bodies on the perimeter to account for all that speed.
"It actually feels better," George Farmer said about working in this offense. "I'm a big guy so I cramp up pretty easily after I get cold, so I like the tempo. I like to keep it going, keep the juices flowing and just keep up the enthusiasm of the team."
These moves create matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators, especially when you account for USC not huddling. The Trojans work swiftly from the shotgun set, getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly.
Maybe Jahleel Pinner is on to something. Even if he's not, and say the Oregon Ducks or Washington State Cougars run a faster attack among Pac-12 teams, the Trojans are certainly embracing the idea of playing fast for all the right reasons.