Though interim head coach Ed Orgeron has switched up the team’s practice style, the Trojans’ schedule has forced them to adjust their weekly routine, as they had their last practice on Tuesday before their Thursday night game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“I couldn’t tell you what day it was,” Orgeron said. “It feels like Thursday, but it’s actually Tuesday.”
According to Orgeron, the team is in a good place mentally despite all of the changes and distractions that have taken place in recent weeks.
“Walking through the meeting room, to feel the energy and see them smiling … they’re loving practice, but now we have to go out there and perform,” Orgeron said.
Ground and Pound
With senior running back Silas Redd set to make his season debut against the Wildcats, the rotation of running backs remains uncertain for the Trojans.
“We’re going to play all of those guys,” Orgeron said. “Silas has looked pretty good, Tre [Madden] as well, and Justin Davis is ready to go.”
Freshman tailback Justin Davis, who has been nursing a sprained ankle, appeared to be moving at full speed during Tuesday’s practice.
Orgeron said he has been very impressed with freshman running back Ty Isaac, who has not yet had many opportunities during games but could work his way into USC’s already crowded tailback rotation.
As for who is going to start the game, Orgeron said he would stick with Madden, despite Redd’s return.
“Tre seems like the logical start, unless you’ve got any better suggestions,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron announced Tuesday that veteran defensive line coach Pete Jenkins will be joining the USC coaching staff as the team’s new assistant defensive line coach.
The hire seems logical due to the fact that USC has only three defensive assistants, one of them being Orgeron, who, in addition to his job as interim head coach, also serves as the defensive line coach.
This hire will allow Orgeron to focus more on overseeing all aspects of practice rather than only the defensive line.
“After a week of being the head coach, defensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and the guy in charge of discipline, I felt like I could use a hand,” Orgeron said. “Pete is a good friend of mine and he is an excellent defensive line coach.”
Jenkins has coached with 11 NFL and college teams over his 45-year coaching career, and he has produced 17 All-SEC defensive lineman and a plethora of players who have moved on to the NFL.
“We were initially planning on hiring him as a consultant before all of this happened, but when we couldn’t find a guy on offense, we looked to Pete,” Orgeron said.
Jenkins will not be filling the position immediately, however, as the hire is not yet official.
Former Trojan great and Heisman trophy winner Marcus Allen delivered a speech to the team about being a Trojan before practice on Tuesday.
“We have to set the bar high, and we’re not going to lower it for anybody,” Allen said. “It is up to you guys to not only reach it, but go beyond it and set a new standard.”
Orgeron had talked to Allen several times to get him to come to practice and talk to the team, and emphasized the importance of bringing former Trojans back because of USC’s appreciation of its storied tradition.
“It’s amazing to see the love for the university and what they have inside of them as Trojans, and I thought he did a great job for our team today,” Orgeron said. “We need to lean on these guys, and a lot of times they are able to listen to them a lot more than they listen to us,” Orgeron said.
The player whose status remains most in most doubt is junior wide receiver Marqise Lee, whose condition is “very questionable” while recovering from a knee sprain, according to Orgeron.
“We still have a couple days, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to play,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron also reported that senior linebacker Morgan Breslin is not expected to play on Thursday night because of a hip injury. Redshirt freshman Jabari Ruffin, who has six tackles so far this season, will take Breslin’s spot in the starting lineup.
Freshman wide receiver Darreus Rodgers’ status for the game is also questionable, despite being more involved in practice earlier this week.
“Some of these guys are going to be game-time decisions and some of them are looking good. Others, not so good,” Orgeron said.