USC football players put aside NCAA issue

USC football players put aside NCAA issue
Linebacker Su'a Cravens is well aware that USC might not have deserved to be penalized so harshly by the NCAA. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Su'a Cravens grew up watching USC teams that featured Reggie Bush and other Trojans stars.

The junior linebacker was 10 when the NCAA began investigating the program in 2006, and he enrolled at USC in the spring of 2013, nearly three years after the NCAA slammed the Trojans with some of the most severe penalties in college sports history.

Cravens, 19, and other USC players said Saturday that they were aware of the reaction that was ignited last week when inflammatory emails and memos written by members of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions were unsealed in the Todd McNair defamation lawsuit against the NCAA.

"Turns out maybe we didn't deserve as much punishment as we got," Cravens said after practice.


USC emerged in June from four years of probation and penalties that included the loss of 30 scholarships over three seasons.

USC fans and administrators angrily responded to revelations that committee members compared evidence to the Oklahoma City bombing, mocked USC's response to the matter and derided the hiring of Lane Kiffin as coach.

The school said there was evidence of bias against McNair and USC, and Athletic Director Pat Haden said the documents confirmed that the school was treated unfairly.

But Cravens and his teammates sounded as if they had moved on.

Quarterback Cody Kessler acknowledged that he would welcome an immediate return to 85 scholarships — "I'd love to be at full strength," he said — but noted that the Trojans had 10-win seasons despite the sanctions.

"I think our guys are better for it," he said, adding, "You always hear people outside say, 'We don't have enough guys. We don't have this.'

"But inside this facility and this family and this team, the guys never made excuses. ... You can only play 11 on the field at a time so it doesn't really matter how many you have."

The Trojans are moving forward, junior tailback Justin Davis said.

"It just makes us that much hungrier, that everybody's trying to shoot SC down," he said. "We're just trying to show everybody that we're not this completely out-of-order team that's getting bogged down by the NCAA."

Said Cravens: "It's in the past. We'll just do whatever we can to move forward."

Davis carrying load

Junior tailback Tre Madden will not participate in contact drills until training camp, so Davis is taking most of the first-team snaps.

Davis did not participate in spring practice in 2014 because he was recovering from ankle surgery. He rushed for 595 yards and four touchdowns as Javorius Allen's backup.

"This is the best I've felt since I got on campus," Davis said.

Madden, coming back from a toe injury that sidelined him all of last season, is using individual drills and seven-on-seven drills to regain confidence in his cutting ability.

"By the time fall comes around, there should be no problems," he said.

Quick hits

Players who enrolled in January — linebacker Cameron Smith, quarterback Ricky Town, receiver Isaac Whitney, and offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley — all have had good moments while adjusting to college speed and schemes, Coach Steve Sarkisian said. The new players have not been made available to the media. ... Tight end Bryce Dixon remains absent for what Sarkisian has described as a student-conduct issue. ... The Trojans have completed nine workouts. They have six practices remaining, including the April 11 spring game at the Coliseum.