The transition from preseason camp to game-week preparation approaches for USC. Saturday's Salute to Troy officially welcomes the 2014 season with a fan barbecue and an autograph session.
Before the fun on Saturday, however, the Trojans are putting in work—especially on Tuesday.
"Tuesdays are lunch-pail, hard-hat kind of days," head coach Steve Sarkisian said, per Sarah Bergstrom of USCTrojans.com. "We've got to work and there's no easy way around it. We've got to get a lot done and it's going to be a physical practice."
Bringing some of that physicality this week, per Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, was linebacker Scott Felix.
Felix has continued the momentum of a standout spring game through fall camp. His emergence gives defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox options in the Trojans' blitz packages, as Sarkisian explained to Wolf:
When he’s playing like that and with [J.R. Tavai] on the other side, those guys are two forces. It made it difficult for us at times. Scott is really starting to come into his own. Maybe he will remind us of a couple other guys that came off the edge in the past.
On the topic of options, freshmen John "JuJu" Smith and Adoree' Jackson offer USC plenty. The two 5-star gems of Sarkisian's Pac-12-leading recruiting class have been working on two-way roles, practicing on both offense and defense.
But this week, each demonstrated the capacity to play three-way football in the 2014 season.
Sark was pleased with special teams tonight in all aspects. Great returns from Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith. #USC— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) August 19, 2014
Adoree Jackson had a long punt return for a TD while Juju Smith had a long kickoff return at tonight's Coliseum scrimmage #USC— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) August 19, 2014
A role in all three phases is unlikely for Smith, however. Sarkisian said via Bergstrom that Smith is establishing himself as an invaluable asset in a wide receiving corps seeking playmakers.
"He's going to play so much for us offensively and he's earned it, it probably wouldn't be fair to him right now [to play defensive back]," Sarkisian said.
With Smith strutting his stuff on offense, Jackson showed off some on defense. Jackson's prep alma mater, Junipero Serra High School in nearby Gardena, California, tweeted the below image of Jackson breaking up a pass attempt to Smith.
Former Serra Cavalier Adoree Jackson showing Juju Smith this is why I play both sides of the ball. SFG pic.twitter.com/hHcUxzz5rO— Serrahighfootball (@Serrahighsfg) August 20, 2014
Considering their immediate acclimation into USC's plans, it's no wonder USA Today's Paul Myerberg includes Jackson and Smith among his Trojans to watch.
Myerberg tabs USC as the nation's No. 13 squad in his complete Football Bowl Subdivision rankings. Of course, as is the case for any preseason projection for the Trojans in 2014, meeting this benchmark requires staying healthy.
Tuesday's physical practice Sarkisian touted brought it with a few dings. Evan Budrovich of ConquestChronicles.com reported that freshman defensive back John Plattenburg, a standout last week, as well as linebackers Anthony Sarao and Michael Hutchings suffered minor injuries.
The biggest injury news of this week's practices is that running back Tre Madden appeared at practices Wednesday wearing a boot, per The Orange County Register's Michael Lev:
Sarkisian did not have a timetable for RB Tre Madden, who has turf toe. Madden had a boot on his right foot during practice tonight.— Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) August 21, 2014
USC is loaded at running back, with last year's breakout star Javorius "Buck" Allen back in the fold and sophomore Justin Davis impressing through fall camp. However, Madden's injury takes away some of the possibilities for the Trojans' rushing attack.
Some good news for USC on the injury is that defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, who had been facing Week 1 uncertainty after suffering an elbow injury, is once again practicing.
The sooner Woods returns to USC's lineup, the better; teammate and All-American Leonard Williams said Woods is a potential difference-maker for the Trojans.