Despite the whirlwind of rumors surrounding senior cornerback Josh Shaw’s actions this weekend, USC’s football team tried its best to stay focused at Wednesday morning’s practice.
The No. 15 Trojans are gearing up for their first game of the season against Fresno State on Saturday.
Redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler looked in tune with his wide receiving corps Wednesday morning, highlighted by a long touchdown to sophomore Darreus Rogers.
Rogers is listed as junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s backup on the current depth chart but flexed his muscles in a few games last year, putting up a total of 257 receiving yards.
Kessler also completed a number of passes underneath to redshirt junior wideout George Farmer, who is looking to make a big impact in 2014. Farmer was competing for a starting job last year before tearing ligaments in his left knee.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian was impressed with his offense’s fluidity.
“Great Wednesday,” the first-year coach said. “Awesome Wednesday practice. I thought the guys came with a real intense attitude. You could feel the energy in the air, you could feel their passion.”
Redshirt junior running back Tre Madden did not practice and was still wearing a protective boot on Wednesday.
Though the Trojans are deep at the running back position, Sarkisian is treading lightly with Madden, who has been prone to injury in the past.
“I don’t want to use the word concerned,” Sarkisian said. “I’m always hesitant with a running back or a big guy that has a toe injury because I want to make sure that that toe is healed. So we’re just being very cautious with Tre because we want him healthy. This is a long season.”
Sarkisian also noted that two offensive guards, redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers and redshirt sophomore Jordan Simmons, are on the road to recovery.
He noted that Rodgers will probably be a game-time decision on Saturday, while Simmons will probably have to miss the game.
“We’re starting to get on the mend with those guys that were coming off some of those major injuries,” Sarkisian said. “We’re starting to get our depth back to where we feel comfortable for Saturday.”
Sarkisian was impressed by the play of his scout team on Wednesday, many of whom are new to their roles after spending much of the spring and summer playing with starters and backups.
The scout team players mimicked Fresno State’s formations and personnel to better prepare the Trojans for Saturday’s game.
“I thought the service periods were excellent,” Sarkisian said. “I thought the service kids did a fantastic job. That was one of the challenges coming out of training camp. Making that transition from guys getting reps with the ones, twos or threes to now being part of the service team.”
Sarkisian further expanded on the importance of these role players on a successful football team.
“Their role in our program, their role in providing looks to the offense, defense and special teams, gets them prepared for Saturday,” he said. “All in all I thought they did a tremendous job of that today and in turn made us better the last two days.”
Sarkisian said the hard, physical work is over for the team this week, and Thursday’s practice will focus more on technique and cleaning things up.
Fresno State’s quarterback situation is still in flux. Brian Burrell or Brandon Connette could start.