By Johnny Curren
It’s officially Stanford week for the Trojans, but for the mass of media in attendance at USC’s rainy Tuesday morning practice, the real story of the day was Jake Olson, a blind freshman long-snapper who, after a long wait, practiced with the Trojans for the first time.
With Olson having been awarded a Swim With Mike scholarship, given to physically challenged athletes, USC had to request a waiver from the NCAA in late August so that he wouldn’t count toward the 85-scholarship roster limit. That request was recently granted, paving the way for his debut on Tuesday.
“Jake Olson had his first practice with us today, and he did a great job,” said USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. “I’m proud of the work that he put in. It’s a real credit to a lot of people to get this done. It’s a credit to our compliance office to work with the NCAA, and it’s a credit to the NCAA to understand that this is a special situation to allow Jake to be a part of our football team.”
Of course, Olson is no stranger to Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field. The Orange (Calif.) Lutheran product grew up rooting for the Trojans, and after forming a friendship with former USC head coach Pete Carroll, he’s been a frequent visitor on campus and to games since the age of 12.
The media was not permitted to talk to Olson following Tuesday’s practice, but reserve quarterback and holder Conner Sullivan did a good job of relaying his feelings.
“He’s stoked,” Sullivan said. “He’s been waiting for this his whole life. He’s been around this team since Pete Carroll welcomed him here, and Sark has done the same thing, so it’s been great. It’s good to see him out here.”
Still not cleared for physical contact, Olson wore a yellow jersey during the two-and-a-half-hour session, but he was dressed in full pads and spent time working on his snaps with the other specialists.
“He did a great job,” said starting long-snapper Zach Smith. “I hadn’t seen him snap before but he was really impressive – laces out, which I can’t do sometimes. It’s just really inspiring.”
And the Trojans special teamers aren’t the only ones who are feeling a positive impact from Olson’s addition to the team.
“It kind of puts a different perspective on things, and how much you really appreciate the game” said USC senior quarterback Cody Kessler. “I respect so much what he’s doing. He never makes excuses, never complains about anything, and he’s out here working his butt off. It’s cool for me to see. He’s a great kid.”
Trojans gearing up for Cardinal
After starting off the season with consecutive victories over a pair of opponents that were clearly overmatched in Arkansas State and Idaho, the Trojans face their first legitimate test this Saturday in Pac-12 foe Stanford (1-1).
“We’ve got a Pac-12 opener on Saturday,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got a really good opponent coming to town in Stanford. A disciplined team, very well coached – David Shaw – the whole thing. We know a lot about it. It’s been a really kind of cool rivalry that has somewhat developed over the last few years, with all of the tight ball games that we’ve been involved on with them. So, we have our work cut out for us.”
Kessler is well aware of the competitiveness that has marked those games in recent years. He’s 2-0 against the Cardinal as a starting quarterback, with each of those victories having come by way of a late USC field goal.
“I was talking to Matt Leinart yesterday, and we were just talking about how every time we play it’s always fun,” Kessler said. “The Stanford-USC games the last couple of years that I’ve been a part of, and even when I wasn’t playing, have been intense. It’s a great game, it’s a great atmosphere and it’s a great way to start off conference play. It’s going to be a real test for us early. They’re a great team. They pride themselves on how physical they are, and watching their film, they’re every bit of that again this year.”
News and notes
– Senior cornerback Kevon Seymour was limited after tweaking his knee against Idaho according to Sarkisian. Freshman Iman Marshall spent a majority of the day running with the No. 1 defense at the cornerback spot opposite Adoree’ Jackson. Jonathan Lockett also received reps there, and freshman Isaiah Langley, who had been going with the scout team up to this point, went with the No. 2 defense, and Sarkisian said that they would be taking a closer look at him this week.
– Senior linebacker Lamar Dawson, who missed the first two games of the season with a rib injury, returned to full action on Tuesday. Moving well, he ran with the No. 2 defense at ‘mike’ linebacker throughout the day. When asked if Dawson would play against Stanford, Sarkisian said, “We’ll see.”
– Defensive lineman Jordan Simmons (knee) did not participate in practice.
– During a late field goal period both Alex Wood and Matt Boermeester went 3 for 3 on their attempts.
– Kessler hit Tre Madden outside for a gain of five yards before Osa Masina made the stop.
– Kessler hit Steven Mitchell Jr. outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Delvon Simmons stopped Madden after a short gain.
– Kessler tried to hit Christian Tober over the middle, but Matt Lopes broke up the pass.
– Justin Davis ran for a short gain before Dawson and a collection of others made the stop.
– Ronal Jones II ran up the middle for five yards.
– Anthony Sarao stopped Dominic Davis for no gain.
– Max Browne connected with Christian Tober outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Aca’Cedric ware picked up around seven yards on a run up the middle.
– D. Davis darted up the middle and gained close to 10 yards before John Plattenburg made the stop.
– Cameron Smith stopped D. Davis for no gain.
– Madden picked up six yards outside before Marshall made the stop.
– Smith stopped J. Davis after a short gain.
– Jones bounced a run outside and gained 10 yards.
– Kessler hit Taylor McNamara outside for a gain of over 10 yards.
– Jones ran outside for a gain of around 15 yards before Marvell Tell made the stop.
– Kessler hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a gain of 11 or 12 yards with Jackson in coverage.
– Kessler hit D, Davis over the middle for a gain of seven yards.
– Kessler hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for close to 10 yards before Su’a Cravens made the stop.
– Kessler went deep to Isaac Whitney over the middle, but Plattenburg broke up the pass.
– Browne tried to throw outside to Tober, but Uchenna Nwosu was in coverage and deflected the pass.
– Browne connected with Deontay Burnett outside for a 10-yard gain.
– Browne hit De’Quan Hampton for a 40-yard touchdown over the middle.
– Kessler hit Jones with a quick pass outside, but Chris Hawkins came up in a hurry and dropped him for a loss.
– Kessler hit Darreus Rogers outside for a gain of eight or nine yards.
– Rogers made a nice leaping 20-yard catch along the sideline on a pass from Kessler.
– Browne hit Hampton over the middle for a gain of close to 20 yards.
– Browne connected with Jalen Greene for a gain of 10 yards with Jalen Jones in coverage.