USC fans return to view football practice

USC fans return to view football practice
A group of USC fans look on as the Trojans take part in the first day of training camp Monday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It did not approach Pete Carroll-era standards, but the crowd of fans that lined the sideline at USC's Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field for the start of training camp Monday hearkened to pre-NCAA sanction days.

USC, which ended four years of probation in June, opened its doors to fans as Coach Steve Sarkisian put the Trojans through a 2-hour 45-minute workout in preparation for their Aug. 30 opener against Fresno State.


"It reminded me of back in the day, coming out here as a kid," Hayes Pullard, a fifth-year senior linebacker, said of practicing before a crowd of about 300.

Though the pace was quick, it appeared slower than spring practice as coaches instructed new players through their first full-squad workout.

The practice gave veterans such as quarterback Cody Kessler and lineman Leonard Williams a chance to show how much they have matured since last season, when the Trojans finished 10-4.

Players sidelined because of injuries in 2013 — including receivers George Farmer and Steven Mitchell — showed they were ready to contribute.

And it marked the debut of freshmen such as Adoree' Jackson, who played cornerback and receiver, and JuJu Smith, who made several outstanding plays at receiver.

Kessler said some players were "a little hesitant" at the outset but performed well during a day when the Trojans ran a combined 210 plays during an afternoon walk-through and evening practice.

"A good starting point," senior cornerback Josh Shaw said.

Pullard, Williams and Shaw helped direct the defense, which is operating out of a 3-4 scheme.

"Everybody had great energy," said Williams, who added that his surgically repaired right shoulder felt fine.

Sarkisian was an assistant under Carroll for seven seasons before leaving to coach Washington for five seasons.

After he was hired by USC in December, he oversaw spring practice. Monday's workout did not hold special significance for him personally, he said.

It was a first step toward the season opener.

"Mentally, our guys were much better the first time around for a first practice than we were in the spring," he said.

Not everything was good news.


Sarkisian announced that junior tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was academically ineligible for the season.

That leaves the Trojans with two scholarship tight ends — senior Randall Telfer and freshman Bryce Dixon, who practiced for the first time Monday. Senior walk-on Chris Willson also has experience.

Jackson, who starred at Gardena Serra High, began the practice at cornerback and spent most of the workout on defense. He participated in about 15 plays on offense, Sarkisian said, and also worked as a kick returner.

"He kind of lived up to what we thought," Sarkisian said.

Quick hits

Kevon Seymour, a returning starting cornerback, did not practice and there is no timetable for his return. Seymour was hospitalized for six days last month for what he described as a stomach ailment. The 6-foot Seymour appeared much lighter than his listed 180 pounds. He said he was feeling much better and that he would return soon. But neither Seymour nor Sarkisian said when he would be able to practice. Redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins worked with the first-team defense in Seymour's place…. Senior Anthony Brown, who has started six games at cornerback, worked at tailback…. Freshmen Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao worked at center as backups to junior Max Tuerk…. Sarkisian listed freshman defensive backs Jonathan Lockett, Lamont Simmons and John Plattenburg among players who stood out with good performances.