The USC Trojans hit the practice field for the second week of spring ball, and no major new developments have surfaced as of yet. On Saturday, the team will take to the Coliseum for their first practice in full pads this offseason. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has said that there will be a live scrimmage during the session, but they will not go hard for the full duration.
While the plot continues to thicken in Troy, here's a rundown of what happened in Week 2:
Quarterback Tango Resumes
Sark has told the media that he doesn't have a timetable for when he wants to name a starter, but he has also admitted he hopes to do so by the end of spring camp. That gives the head coach 12 more practices to observe the best of Cody Kessler and Max Browne and to render what will be the most important decision of his coaching career at USC.
After practice on Tuesday, Sark spoke favorably to the media about how the battle is going:
Today was essentially a repeat of the first practice in structure. Sark says QB's looked sharper overall— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) March 26, 2014
Clearly, the training wheels are still on, but things are looking crisper than they were in the first week.
“Today, for the quarterback position in general, was our best day,” Sark elaborated during Tuesday night's Trojans Live broadcast.
Despite having had the previous week off, Sark went on to praise the effort of all three quarterbacks—including early enrollee Jalen Greene—noting the increased speed of their decision-making and their management of the new scheme.
The Trojans are staying on pace with about 120 plays per practice, and the starting quarterback will reveal himself by how he controls the offense while still keeping the tempo at high levels.
Buck Allen Dazzles in a Different Way
After emerging as a feature back for the Trojans in 2013, Javorius "Buck" Allen had fully impressed us all. He further impressed during Tuesday's practice when he made an eye-catching play not as a running back but as a receiver.
Buck Allen was able to get down the field on a few wheel routes. Says he always wanted to be a WR and looked up to Randy Moss growing up— Rahshaun Haylock (@RHaylock) March 26, 2014
The Trojans have enough going on in the wide receiver corps with both current and incoming talent that Allen won't be needed there, but it was impressive to see just how versatile of a talent he is.
Due to depth concerns, the Trojans had been using a stable of talent to get the job done under the old regime, while Sarkisian relied on a featured-back system at Washington. His plan for the running backs in Troy has been up in the air, and he shed some light on it during the Trojans Live discussion:
When you’re a run first [uptempo] offense like we are…you start talking forty-five to fifty carries a game and one guy can’t handle that alone. We’re at a luxury that we have a talented group of running backs that can carry that load for us.
That said we can expect to see lots of Allen, Tre Madden, Ty Isaac and the injured Justin Davis in the fall.
Musical Positions Is Still the Name of the Game
Aside from the quarterbacks, nearly all positions in Troy are open to some form of competition. The offensive line is arguably the most important, as it just hasn't held up to truly be dominant on the ground in the way USC needs it. Sark and offensive line coach Tim Drevno have been shuffling guys along the line, trying to come up with the perfect combination of talent.
Last week, early enrollee Toa Lobendahn got reps as a center with the second team, but this week he lined up as the first team as a left guard. The former 4-star talent was expected to come to USC and contribute immediately, and due to so many injuries to others, he's really able to take advantage of his opportunities.
After practice on Tuesday, Sark noted how coachable of a player Lobendahn is, and he offered this gem of a compliment—which also doubled as a warning to older guys on roster—about the young offensive lineman (via Alicia De Artola of Reign of Troy): "We came out of the first week thinking this guy’s got a real chance."
If he continues to impress, we can expect that Lobendahn will earn a regular job in the rotation at the very least.
As previously mentioned, the Trojans will suit up for a fully padded practice on Saturday in the Coliseum. That practice will be an even better indication of where the team stands now, but injury woes will indicate how much of the new uptempo scheme is actually carried out with contact.