As the countdown to USC’s first football game continues, the Trojans participated in a full-pad practice on Tuesday morning.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian stressed the importance of focus as they prepare for the Trojans’ Saturday home opener against the Fresno State Bulldogs. The team’s ability to maintain focus is already being tested as allegations swirl regarding the events involving Josh Shaw on Saturday night.
First time for everything
Sarkisian was animated after practice and was noticeably excited about leading the Trojans on Saturday against Fresno State in his first game as USC’s head coach.
The Southern California native reminisced about watching the 1984 Olympic Games and many Raider games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as well as his time there as an assistant at USC.
“I joked with the players the other day during the mock game,” Sarkisian said. “Cody [Kessler], Hayes [Pullard] and I were kind of out on the field earlier, throwing it around and I said, ‘I don’t know who’s gonna be more excited, you guys or me the first time we come down.’”
Know yourself, know your enemy
As game day creeps ever closer for the Trojans, Sarkisian seemed pleased with his team’s Tuesday morning practice.
“I thought they were focused, competitive,” Sarkisian said. “I though Cody was extremely sharp throwing the ball and I think we’re in a good place.”
Sarkisian also noted that he is trying to make his team focus more on itself and its own strengths and weaknesses than on its opponent’s game.
The Bulldogs’ strengths might be tough to pinpoint anyway since losing their star quarterback Derek Carr to the NFL. Carr led the nation in passing yards (5,083) and touchdowns (50) in 2013 and was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter has yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game. Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette have been locked in competition since Connette transferred from Duke, and both are slated to appear in Saturday’s game.
“They’re both good athletes, they’re both good runners and can throw it,” Sarkisian said. “I’m sure we’ll have a couple wrinkles for each guy.”
Ajene Harris, a true freshman wide receiver out of Crenshaw High School, displayed more moxie than might have been expected at such a young age.
His dedication and work ethic landed him a starting spot as the team’s third starting wide receiver.
“The work that I put in paid off, but I’m not really settling on that,” Harris said. “I’m ready to work every day.”