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Trojans wrap up preparations for Holiday Bowl against Nebraska

As USC gets ready for trip to San Diego, coach plans a mixed schedule of football and fun

USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams wore a Christmas-themed necktie during practice Saturday.

The All-American was showing his holiday spirit as the Trojans marked the near-end of preparations for the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska.

"We would be ready to play if the game was this week," Coach Steve Sarkisian said.

After two weeks of developmental practices, coaches spent three days installing the plan for next Saturday's game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The Trojans will face a Nebraska defense that gives up 372.8 yards per game.

Nebraska's offense, featuring running back Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., averages 446.3 yards and 37.4 points per game.

Players were not made available to the media Saturday, but linebacker Hayes Pullard said this week that the Cornhuskers' offense was formidable.

"They have the big offensive linemen, the elusive running back and quarterback, and receivers that give them the ability to throw the ball down the field," he said. "So we're going to be on our toes."

USC players will be off Sunday and Monday, and then return on Tuesday for a practice on campus before departing for San Diego.

"They have a couple days now to enjoy their families, their friends and do their Christmas shopping or whatever they need to do," Sarkisian said.

Once the Trojans arrive in San Diego, they will mix workouts with activities such as trips to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World.

"That's the point of putting it all in this week, so that next week we find the right balance of game-planning and practicing but also enjoying the time together as a team, enjoying the bowl festivities, so that it's not all just about football," Sarkisian said.

Another three-way player?

Freshman Adoree' Jackson started at cornerback and also played receiver and returned kickoffs this season.

At several points before and during the season, freshman receiver JuJu Smith, who returns kicks and plays on other special teams units, hinted at a desire to also play defense.

"He wants to, I know that," Sarkisian said. "But I know that he's not going to play [defense] next Saturday against Nebraska. We need him to catch a couple touchdowns."

Sarkisian said Smith, who played safety in high school, was capable of taking on responsibilities on defense. The possibility will be discussed by coaches before spring practice.

"It's just a matter of, is that in the best interest for us?" he said. "That remains to be seen."

Browne ready

During the team awards banquet Monday, backup quarterback Max Browne was the offensive player who received the "Lifters Award" for his work in the weight room.

Browne, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman, got an extended opportunity to take first-team snaps during the first two weeks of bowl practices. He said he has continued to practice as if he were going to be the starter in the Holiday Bowl.

"Preparation is the key each and every week," he said. "And Nebraska is no different. It's the same mindset."


Twitter: @latimesklein

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