USC Sports

USC’s Steve Sarkisian tells draft-eligible players to embrace bowl

Nelson Agholor, Cody Kessler
USC starts Nelson Agholor (15) and Cody Kessler (6) have been told by Coach Steve Sarkisian to embrace the Holiday Bowl game since it could be their last as Trojans.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Seniors might not be the only players making their last appearance for USC in Saturday’s Holiday Bowl against Nebraska.

Quarterback Cody Kessler, tailback Javorius Allen, receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive lineman Leonard Williams also could be playing their final game.

All are draft-eligible juniors who could make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday that he recently told the players to embrace and enjoy the bowl-game opportunity.


“You can’t get caught up in what’s down the road — and I think they’ve all done a really good job of that,” Sarkisian said after a workout at San Diego State.

Sarkisian met with the players a few weeks ago to review timing for decisions.

The deadline to apply for the draft is Jan. 15, about three weeks after the Holiday Bowl.

None of the players has said whether he would return to USC for a final season of eligibility or turn pro.


Williams is projected as a top-five pick and is expected to declare for the draft.

Allen seriously considered turning pro after last season.

Kessler and Agholor are regarded as more likely to play for the Trojans next season.

Sarkisian said the players have been able to “compartmentalize” the impending decision.

“Right now it’s about this game and it’s about putting their best foot forward and being with teammates, enjoying this experience, playing a great game Saturday night and then, OK, now we can move on to the next step,” Sarkisian said.

Marquee defensive linemen

Williams isn’t the only top defensive line prospect in the game.

Nebraska’s Randy Gregory is projected as a possible early-round draft pick.


Gregory, 6 feet 6 and 240 pounds, has 10 tackles for losses, including seven sacks.

Asked whether he was motivated to show he was better, Williams said, “Not really.”

“I’m always just going to try to be myself, be my own player,” said Williams, who has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, including six sacks. “I don’t really try to compare myself to other people.”

Respectful measures

Memphis and Brigham Young brawled after Monday’s Miami Beach Bowl.

“My alma mater,” said Sarkisian, who played quarterback at BYU. “I wasn’t very proud of ‘em.”

Sarkisian said he addresses proper conduct with USC players.

“Football is an emotional sport and it only takes one guy, sometimes, for a spark to light up to get others involved,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when things like that occur. We obviously don’t condone it.”


Quick hits

The Trojans practice Thursday and will have a walk-through Friday…. Freshman linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) is possible for Saturday’s game. Receiver Ajene Harris (hamstring) is doubtful, Sarkisian said…. Former USC coach Ted Tollner attended the practice. Tollner serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Bowl Game Assn…. A few Washington players also attended and visited with former coaches and administrative personnel. Washington players were given a holiday break before they were scheduled to travel to Arizona for the Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl against Oklahoma State.

Twitter: @latimesklein

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