Fall camp certainly didn’t begin as Su’a Cravens had hoped. Struck down by a case of strep throat, the USC sophomore strong safety labored through the team’s first workout on Monday, before being forced to sit out the majority of the next two sessions.
"It was hard," said Cravens, a 2013 Freshman All-American. "Just knowing that your guys are out there working, and you’re just sitting in your dorm room in bed, and you really can’t do anything."
But on Thursday Cravens’ health took a turn for the better, allowing him to take part in the entirety of the Trojans’ helmets-and-shoulder pads practice in the Coliseum. Still not fully recovered, however, he was anything but pleased with his performance.
"Everybody might think it’s a dream to get a couple days off of camp, but you’re behind," said Cravens, who specifically voiced his displeasure over letting freshman two-way performer Adoree' Jackson beat him across the middle on one play. "I’ve got all of these antibiotics in me and I’m still kind of feeling it, but I should be good by next week."
That is welcome news for USC first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. Cravens emerged as a budding star in the secondary for the Trojans last season, showcasing unique playmaking skills while collecting 52 tackles and four interceptions.
Continuing to stand out last spring under new position coach Keith Heyward and new USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Cravens was named to watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Thorpe awards in the days leading up to fall camp.
Despite all of the recognition, Cravens has refused to let it get to his head.
"I don’t like to think about it," Cravens said of the attention. "I just go out there and play my game. If I have some awards at the end of the year then I’ll be grateful, but you don’t think of stuff like that right now. I’m just getting ready for the first game."
Cravens certainly looks the part of an award winner. Standing 6-foot-1, he bulked all the way up to 239 pounds this summer before trimming his back down to the 228-pound mark that he sits at today. Listed at 215 pounds as a freshman, Cravens says the added weight hasn’t slowed him down a bit.
"I feel great," Cravens said. "I can still move and I can get off the hash."
Along with cornerback Josh Shaw, Cravens is one of the primary headliners of a USC secondary that is significantly deeper than it was a year ago, thanks in large part to the coaching staff’s most recent recruiting haul that saw players like Jackson, Lamont Simmons, Jonathan Lockett and John Plattenburg added to the fold.
"We definitely have a lot more numbers at safety and corner," Cravens said. "A lot of the guys are getting a lot of reps, and the younger dudes are doing a great job."
It’s no wonder, then, that expectations are starting to mount when it comes to this group’s potential for the upcoming season.
But Cravens is focused on bouncing back from a tough day, and working hard to perfect his game, even as he continues to recover from his recent illness.
"By the end of camp I will definitely be that guy that you guys all know," Cravens said. "I’m just moving forward, taking it day-by-day, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll be better, and show that I’m better on the field."