Kickoff in a new era of USC football is one week closer, with the Trojans capping their first round of fall camp Friday.
"A good starting point," is how cornerback Josh Shaw described the opening of practice to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
Practices started at Howard Jones Field Monday through Wednesday, then moved to the Coliseum on Thursday night. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian opened camp with spectators welcome part of the time, music and a frenetic pace.
Operating with a roster of almost 20 fewer players than most Football Bowl Subdivision programs, USC avoided losing more of its ranks to injury. But the Trojans did not come out of the first week of practices unscathed.
The passing attack lost a potential contributor this week when tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible, per USC's official athletic Twitter account:
USC TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick is academically ineligible for the season leaving the Trojans with only two scholarship tight ends.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) August 5, 2014
Cope-Fitzpatrick shined in spring practices as the Trojans' only available scholarship tight end. Randall Telfer was injured, and 4-star signee Bryce Dixon had not yet arrived on campus.
Cope-Fitzpatrick's departure means a much steeper learning curve for Dixon, but Telfer told Michael Lev of the Orange County Register he's prepared to take the freshman under his wing.
"He’s a great athlete. He’s got so much potential. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do for us this year," Telfer said.
Two more freshmen hit the ground running in the first week of preseason workouts. Five-star recruits Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith made the most of their first opportunities in cardinal and gold.
The duo even went head-to-head, as Scout.com's Gerard Martinez captured via Twitter:
The two most highly rated prospects of the Trojans' 2014 signing class are making an immediate impact that's catching the attention of their new teammates.
"JuJu Smith, Adoree' Jackson, these true freshmen are out here balling," wide receiver Darreus Rogers told Sarah Bergstrom for USCTrojans.com. "It makes everyone have to step their game up a notch."
Sarkisian is also watching their production closely—in part to avoid overworking them. The coaching staff is evaluating their abilities on both sides of the ball, particularly Jackson. Sarkisian told the Los Angeles Times that keeping Jackson's plate full without overwhelming the newcomer is key.
We've done everything in moderation, really counted his reps, so we know exactly what he's doing in every phase. If you look at sheer number of reps, his reps aren't more, necessarily, than other guys but it is a lot mentally.
Fellow freshman Toa Lobendahn continued his progress from a standout spring, remaining with the first-string offensive line.
Guys who started off as 1st-team OL today at #USC practice: LT C. Wheeler, LG Toa Lobendahn, C Max Tuerk, RG Khaliel Rodgers & RT Z. Banner.— Max Meyer (@TheMaxMeyer) August 5, 2014
Lobendahn was one of five early-enrollee freshmen from the 2014 signing class and made the most of his immediate opportunity. He talked to 247Sports' Scott Schrader about this performance thus far and his fit at USC.
Like Lobendahn, cornerback Chris Hawkins impressed coaches before camp. Sarkisian sang the redshirt freshman's praises at last month's Pac-12 media days, saying "Hawkins had a really good spring."
With Lamont Simmons also impressing in the first week of practices, the Trojans are looking at potentially going into Week 1 with a very deep secondary.
USC's linebacker corps features a new name, though not a new face. Scott Felix, formerly Scott Starr, changed his name to his father's this week, per USC's official athletics Twitter account:
USC LB Scott Starr is now Scott Felix. He legally changed his last name to match his father's.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) August 6, 2014
The 2014 season also brings changes to USC's longtime home, the Coliseum. Via USCTrojans.com on Thursday, the university announced plans to "enhance the fan experience."
While these changes primarily entail new concession options and minor facilities upgrades, one new feature of note is that Sarkisian will participate in interviews before and after the game, as well as halftime, aired on the Coliseum's video board.
That's quite the departure from the days of 29-second press conferences.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores.