The USC Trojans hit the field on Monday for the opening day of fall camp practices and the news was mostly good about the players who were available.
Steve Sarkisian made it a point of resting multiple players in spring and the result was a field full of bodies that was a welcome sight for a program that has battled so many roster limitations in recent years.
The news wasn’t all good, however, as Sarkisian announced after practice that junior tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible and would be forced to miss the upcoming season. Cope-Fitzpatrick was scheduled to be the No. 2 tight end behind senior Randall Telfer with an opportunity to shine in an offense that produced the Mackey Award winner last year.
"Jalen will be ineligible for the season but he will still be with us for practices,” Sarkisian said after practice. “It’s a bit of sour news coming into camp for Jalen but on the positive side, Randall Telfer looked great out there in his first practice back from injury. He competed, he provided good leadership, all that was good to see.”
The loss of Cope-Fitzpatrick to the depth chart opens up an opportunity for other players, primarily true freshman Bryce Dixon.
“Bryce is plenty good to be able to play for us this fall,” Sarkisian said. “I watched him out there today and he did everything you would hope to see. We also have Chris Willson available to us -- he’s a walk-on who is perfectly capable -- and we also have two good fullbacks in Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner who can play a similar role to what we do with the tight end. “
In what has to be seen as a tremendous positive for the Trojans, almost every scholarship player on the roster participated in practice on Day 1 of fall camp. In fact, besides defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee earlier this summer, the only other player who sat out the whole workout was junior cornerback Kevon Seymour.
Seymour, who started 11 games for the Trojans in 2013, watched practice from the sideline after recently spending six days in the hospital with a stomach virus/food poisoning. Sarkisian revealed that Seymour lost significant weight because of his illness, but also said that he’s in no hurry to rush the talented cornerback into action, due in large part to the experience that he possesses and his familiarity with the playbook.
Two players who were limited on Monday were offensive lineman Aundrey Walker and linebacker Lamar Dawson. Walker, who suffered a broken ankle last fall, took part in some early drills and saw brief action at left guard. Dawson, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in 2013, took limited reps at weakside linebacker.
But overall, Sarkisian and staff had what looked to be a fairly deep collection of players at their disposal on Monday.
Some of the performers coming off injury who participated in the entirety of the practice session included defensive linemen Leonard Williams, Greg Townsend Jr., Cody Temple and Don Hill; defensive backs Su'a Cravens, Devian Shelton and D.J. Morgan; running backs Justin Davis and Anthony Brown; wide receivers George Farmer and Steven Mitchell; tight end Randall Telfer; and offensive linemen Jordan Simmons and Nico Falah.
The Trojans ran 130 plays in practice, and 80 in a morning walk-through.
The wide receiver position was stocked on Monday as both Mitchell and Farmer were able to practice with knee braces. Both are coming off knee surgeries. There were some new faces including JuJu Smith, Rahshead Johnson and Ajene Harris, as well as spot duty from two-way performer Adoree' Jackson. Jackson wore a white jersey to signify defense, where he began the day, but he also took 15 snaps on offense and worked as a special-teams returner as well.