For the second consecutive day the name of the game was competition at USC as Steve Sarkisian’s squad took part in their second bowl game practice of the season.
A physical, full-pads workout, it featured some big collisions and number of highlight-reel plays that were made not only by the usual suspects, but also by some of the younger, less experienced players on the team, many of whom have received increased reps over the course of the last two days.
“The guys were competitive again today all the way down to the last rep of practice,” Sarkisian said. “For our front-line guys it is critical to keep our competitive juices flowing. I don’t think you can just shut that off, and then expect to turn it right back on two, three or four days before a ball game. I think you need to keep those competitive juices going. That’s why we’ve practiced so hard the last two days. Also, when I look at our younger players I see a fire in those guys’ eyes to say, ‘Hey, here’s my chance to show something.’ And again, some guys showed up today, which was great to see.”
Tuerk, Kessler and Allen talk draft decisions
USC first-team All-Pac-12 center Max Tuerk provided Trojans coaches and fans with some good news following practice when he said that he will return for his senior year.
Two other draft eligible players in quarterback Cody Kessler and running back Javorius “Buck” Allen, meanwhile, aren’t at the same stage in the decision-making process.
Kessler admitted that, after the big year that he’s had on the field this season, he has decided to seek an NFL evaluation, but he also emphasized the fact that he hasn’t had a chance to discuss the matter with his family yet and that no decision will be made until after USC’s bowl game.
“I think any junior will tell you, you want to get your draft report back and hear all of your options to make the best decision,” Kessler said. “And yes, I think how this year went kind of bumped me up and helped me out a lot, but at the end of the day I haven’t really thought about it.”
Like Kessler, Allen will also get an evaluation, but he is also nowhere near making a final decision.
“I’m going to wait until after the bowl game, talk to my family and go from there,” Allen said.
Hawkins spends another day safety
Chris Hawkins, who has spent the entirety of his career at cornerback up to this point, lined up at safety for the second consecutive day on Saturday. The second-year freshman performed solidly for the most part, coming up with an interception during an 11-on-11 period and returning it for a touchdown.
Following practice, Sarkisian alluded to the fact that the move could potentially be permanent.
“I think with Adoree’s [Jackson] development and Josh [Shaw] being back, and our lack of numbers at the safety spot, we’re giving him a shot,” Sarkisian said. “He’s made some plays. He’s been active. He had a big interception here today which he returned for a touchdown. I think that’s his football IQ. If that becomes a full-time move we’re going to have to change his body some and get him a little more physical — get him a little stronger that way.”
Smith sits out
– Freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith did not practice on Saturday after rolling his ankle on Friday.
“He didn’t think it was bad at all in practice, but it got pretty sore yesterday afternoon,” Sarkisian said, “and so, I just want to get him healthy again by the time we’re getting ready for game-prep.”
News and notes
– All six of the Class of 2015 prospects who are currently taking an official visit to USC this weekend were at the Trojans’ practice on Saturday. The group is comprised of a pair of USC commits in quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) and linebacker Cameron Smith (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay), as well as athlete Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway), running back Ronald Jones II (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North), safety Marvell Tell (Encino, Calif,/Crespi) and wide receiver Isaac Whitney (Riverside, Calif./Riverside City College).
– Also in attendance was Class of 2015 defensive tackle Dillon Faamatau (Norwalk, Calif./Norwalk).
– Kessler opened things up by hitting Nelson Agholor for a pickup of around 20 yards.
– Kessler hit Allen outside, and the talented tailback darted off for a gain of around 25 yards before Gerald Bowman made the stop.
– Claude Pelon stopped Justin Davis for a loss.
– Max Browne tried to hit Robby Kolanz outside, but Rahshead Johnson broke up the pass.
– Jalen Greene connected with Christian Guzman for a gain of 15 yards before Ryan Dillard made the stop after a loud collision.
– Jackson made a nice play on a Cody Kessler pass downfield and tipped the ball in the air, but George Farmer was there to corral it in for a 35-yard touchdown.
– Browne tried to hit Bryce Dixon outside, but Kevon Seymour read the pass and picked it off.
– Kessler connected with Agholor outside for a pickup of around 10 yards before Shaw made the stop.
– Kessler hit Steven Mitchell for a gain of 20 yards.
– Greg Townsend Jr. stopped Davis for a loss.
– Townsend Jr. sacked Browne.
– Greene hit Ajene Harris for close to 10 yards.
– Greene connected with Aaron Minor who leveled Johnson before going down.
– Soma Vainuku ran left for a gain of seven or eight yards.
– Kessler found Mitchell over the middle for around 15 yards before Shaw made the stop.
– Hawkins had a pick-six on a Browne pass intended for Harris.
– Allen with a seven or eight yard run before Hayes Pullard made the stop.
– Kessler hit Agholor with a quick strike over the middle, and he outsprinted everyone for a 55-yard touchdown.
– Pelon sacked Browne.