USC practices end-of-game scenarios

The Trojans held a light practice on Friday morning that focused on specific end-of-game scenarios, and they will return to the field tonight for a more physical session.

“When it comes to double-day practices, we like to split things up,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We want to have one practice be physical and one mental. Originally we were going to go hard this morning, but we switched it up. We wanted to work a lot on special situations where the offense is behind at the end of a game, or if the defense is ahead. Those kinds of drills on specific situations are so important right now. You will see that in our scrimmages from here on out, we won’t just be calling plays, everything will be done with a specific scenario in mind.”

The day ended on a high note when kicker Andre Heidari hit a 49-yard field goal on the final play to “win” the day for the offense.

Following a scrimmage Wednesday night at the Coliseum, he team had Thursday off and spent part of the time going bowling and playing arcade games.

“The players are so appreciative of a day off, and I like to do a team activity to keep spirits up,” Sarkisian said. “At first the players were dragging a little from the scrimmage the night before, but once the bowling and pop-a-shot started, you started to see them battle. We’ve got some real competitors on our team and that’s the kind of kid we look for in recruiting.”

O-line update

The offensive line was one of the key areas to watch coming into fall camp with so many moving pieces and injuries to deal with in terms of finding a starting five. The situation has yet to resolve itself through this point in camp. But there have been signs of improvement.

“We’re not quite there yet on the line,” Sarkisian said. “I like the leadership of guys like Max Tuerk and Chad Wheeler, they have been awesome, and I like the way some of the young players continue to improve. We would like to have everyone healthy, but that hasn’t been the case all the time with Aundrey Walker, Jordan Simmons or Nico Falah. The good news is that we’ve been running the ball better, and I think coach [Tim] Drevno has done a great job of communicating with the guys. We’re not perfect, but we’re better now than we were at the start of camp.”

Special players on special teams

Sarkisian was asked whether it's a risk to have special teams drills featuring starters such as Buck Allen, Hayes Pullard and key reserves such as Tre Madden. The roster is limited in scholarships so there is concern about key players getting injured on special teams.

“We’re trying to find balance in that area,” Sarkisian said. “You don’t want to wear your best players out but, at the same time, they are your best players so it stands to reason that they would be the best on special teams as well. If you look at Buck last year, he was really good on special teams so we want to take a look at that. Hayes isn’t a guy who traditionally had been on special teams before but we are doing it now. It’s something we will continue to evaluate.”