Trojans linebacker Hayes Pullard leads by example

Trojans linebacker Hayes Pullard leads by example
USC linebacker Hayes Pullard takes down Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey during a win in October. Pullard has learned plenty of lessons from his coaches and teammates over the years. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Numerous USC linebackers coaches helped Hayes Pullard on his way to becoming a projected four-year starter for the Trojans.

Joe Barry coached him as a freshman, Scottie Hazelton as a sophomore and Mike Ekeler as a junior. Now, Peter Sirmon is preparing the fifth-year senior for his final season.


As the Trojans completed their third week of spring workouts on Saturday, Pullard said he was looking forward to a few more practices before next week's finale at the Coliseum.

"I'm happy for having a coaching staff that's still pressing on my neck every time I mess up — or do something great," Pullard said, laughing.

Barry, who left USC to join the San Diego Chargers' staff after the 2011 season, was among the observers at Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on Saturday.

Dozens of high school and junior college coaches also attended practice as part of a clinic on campus.

In Pullard, they saw a seasoned veteran leading the Trojans' mostly young linebacker corps. The former Crenshaw High star refuses to sit out and nurse soreness that sets in after facing a no-huddle offense that runs about 120 plays during workouts.

About 20 players have been sidelined for all or a large portion of the 12 practices because of injuries or post-surgery caution.

Pullard said former Trojans teammates T.J. McDonald, Rhett Ellison and Ross Cumming taught him a valuable lesson about leadership.

"They were banged up, but they still practiced," he said. "I've tried to show or teach the younger guys that just because you have a little soreness, don't miss practice.

"That's something I inherited, so I'm trying to lead by example."

On the rise

Several players made large strides in the last week, and Coach Steve Sarkisian is eager to see them finish well.

Claude Pelon, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman who played last season at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, overcame early conditioning challenges and is playing well.

"We're starting to see his burst, starting to see him in the backfield more," Sarkisian said. "I want him to keep going because I know it's in there."

Sophomore receiver Darreus Rogers and senior safety Gerald Bowman also stood out in the last week, Sarkisian said.


Quick hits

The Trojans were in full pads, but they did not tackle during full-team drills. Sarkisian said there would be tackling during a portion of the final workout at the Coliseum. "We're not going to be able to play a game — that's just not feasible," Sarkisian said. "But I want to make sure we allow them to go out and compete."…. Tailback Javorius Allen, who suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago, returned and completed most drills…. Sarkisian praised receiver Victor Blackwell for making several impressive plays, adding that the junior must strive for consistency…. The Trojans resume practice Tuesday.