With sidelines frequently clearing, players coaching and one defensive captain attempting to look the part, Thursday’s practice was anything but ordinary for the Trojans.
Here, interim head coach Ed Orgeron kicked off USC’s inaugural Trojan Bowl, where the players got to call the plays and the shots for the majority of a fun-filled practice that seemed to boost team morale. The word “fun” seems to be a common thing when talking about the Trojans practice style in just their second practice with Orgeron at the helm.
“I want the guys to come out and enjoy the game of football,” Orgeron said.
Throughout practice, there were guys running around, jumping up and down while dancing to music and hyping up their fellow teammates.
The Trojan Bowl is born
Orgeron stole the idea of the “Trojan Bowl” from his time at the University of Miami. This opportunity for the older, more experienced players to coach some of the younger players who don’t get as much playing time really brought a new sense of electricity and excitement to the Trojans.
“Our younger players and some that redshirted got an opportunity to play with the older guys coaching them,” Orgeron said. “Everyone had fun doing it and there was a lot of energy and excitement.”
Redshirt junior linebacker Hayes Pullard was decked out in a camo shirt and a “Crocodile Dundee” hat as he, sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams and redshirt junior safety Josh Shaw tried to inspire their defensive teammates.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler, senior running back Silas Redd, and junior wide receiver Marqise Lee were just a few of the players calling plays on offense.
They were coaching primarily the third and fourth stringers along with the scout team, as the starters and second stringers got some rest seven days before they face off against Arizona in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“It was great getting to go out and coaching the guys today and feeling what our coaches always feel on the sideline,” Pullard said. “We got to coach some great players and they are the future of this team.”
Both sides were able to put on a show, not as much as for their play on the field, but more for their sideline antics and trash talking. When one side made a big play, they made sure the other knew by running across the field and throwing hats up in the air.
A competitive feeling was in the air as the offense and defense traded big play for big play, although the defense ended up winning in the end.
“With the offense having great offensive players like Cody and Silas on their coaching staff, our game plan was just to take the offense out of their comfort zone,” Pullard said.
The Trojan’s 62-41 loss last Saturday leading up to the firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin may be a thing of the past, but the current coaching staff continues to use the game as a teaching point on what the team needs to repair going into next week.
The main goal of the coaching staff during their bye week is to diagnose just what went wrong.
“First of all, I didn’t think we played very good defense,” said Orgeron. “We kept giving up big plays, we didn’t do our assignments properly, and we were very off balanced. I thought the offense played well, but there is a few things that we need to fix on both sides that we will go over this week.”
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast also addressed the defense’s sudden issues against the Sun Devils.
“We had some mental errors that we hadn’t previously had, but you have to give Arizona State a lot of credit,” said Pendergast. “They draped all over us in the passing game and their quarterback made a lot of good, quick throws into the boundaries.”
Pendergast also confirmed a rumor that he took out his defensive backs to dinner earlier on Wednesday.
Though USC players had their fun today, they’ll get back to work on Friday when they’ll begin preparing for their Thursday night date with Arizona.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time, regardless of the outcome, and we’re going to enjoy our eight-game season together as a team,” Orgeron said.
Veteran leadership is something that Orgeron has also attested to bringing up the team during a tough stretch.
“The leadership has been great and they have all been walking around like they want to be here and start this journey of our eight-game season,” Orgeron said.
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