Notebook: Bowl practice No. 1

USC returned to the practice field on Monday for the first time since hiring coach Steve Sarkisian and the departure of interim coach Ed Orgeron...

Sarkisian observes first USC practice
He's not allowed to step inside the lines yet, but USC coach Steve Sarkisian was certainly on the field to watch his first practice as the Trojans' head coach.

The current USC staff is tasked, or rewarded, with coaching the Trojans in their Dec. 21 Las Vegas Bowl game.

Sarkisian is only able to observe his new players.

The Trojans are under the direction of interim coach Clay Helton as they prepare for their bowl game.

Due to compliance, USC's new coaching hires have been designated to recruit while the current staff has been pulled off the road, designated to coach on the field.

"I thought for a team, with what they've gone through, I thought the spirit and energy at practice was awesome," Sarkisian said after the workout. "I thought they came out great.

"They looked energized, they looked refreshed, and they looked like a good looking football team," Sarkisian said. "I can't wait to coach them."

Practice energy?
There seemed to be an elephant in the room -- or on the practice field -- Monday when the Trojans began bowl preparations.

Or maybe it was just a loud voice missing.

The music was turned back on Monday, maybe to drown out the deafening silence left by the departure of interim coach Ed Orgeron and his Cajun howl.

The energy was noticeably different, noticeably down from Orgeron's eight weeks as the Trojans' leader.

Sarkisian thought the energy looked great, but maybe cut the new coach some slack. After all, it was only his first USC practice -- with no previous USC workout to compare it to.

Going for ten
What's left to play for at USC this season?

Ten wins.

It's hard to believe, but the Trojans could finish the 2013 season 10-4 despite playing for their third head coach of the season, while their fourth waits outside the lines to take them over.

"To think through all of this, this team has a chance to win ten games, it's a real tribute to the coaches they have," Sarkisian said.

"We said in our team meeting, we set a common goal, we want to get to our tenth victory" Helton explained after practice. "We're going to do everything preparation wise to be able to get there.

"No coaching staff in the country will work harder to help them get there and they would supply the effort."

Thin line
Helton announced the Trojans will be without center Marcus Martin and right guard Aundrey Walker for their bowl game.

Walker underwent surgery to repair a broken ankle following USC's Nov. 29 loss to UCLA.

Martin is out with a knee injury, Helton says it will be a "couple month" recovery period for the junior.

Sixth-year senior Abe Markowitz will play at center in Martin's absence. Former starter John Martinez will once again claim his spot at right guard with Walker out.

No decision for Lee, yet
Though it's widely believed junior receiver Marqise Lee will announce for the NFL before the Jan. 15 underclassmen deadline, Lee says he has yet to think about a decision.

The Trojans have accepted their bid to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, after which Lee says he'll make a decision about his future.

"I got to sit down with my parents," Lee said after Monday's bowl practice. "I haven't seen my parents since after the UCLA game."

Sarkisian out recruiting
Sarkisian left practice about 15 minutes early to return to the recruiting trail.

"It's going great, recruiting is going great," he said. "This is a tremendous place to recruit to."

Coaches were in the home of USC commit Uchena Nwosu on Sunday night. Nwosu tells Scout he is committed to the new staff and they are committed to honoring his scholarship.

2014 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei defensive back Jonathan Lockett committed to Sarkisian at Washington. The four-star recruit announced his decommittment to the Huskies on Monday. Sarkisian has offered him from USC.

Staff decisions
Sarkisian has hired three members of his Washington staff at USC, including running backs/special teams coach Johnny Nansen, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon. Sarkisian also made the decision to retain Trojans' receivers coach Tee Martin.

Through two seasons at Troy, Martin has proved to be one of USC's top recruiters. "Tee has such an impact on what's going on from the recruiting front," Sarkisian explained. "I've known Tee a little bit better than the other guys."

Sarkisian was Martin's quarterbacks coach for a brief period with the Oakland Raiders. "We've got a good relationship," Sarkisian continued.

"I feel like for the recruiting piece, the three coaches we brought in [from Washington] to go along with Tee and myself, we can get through the final two weeks here of recruiting before the dead period."

USC's top priority continues to be to fill its four mid-year scholarships spots.

Sarkisian has yet to hire coordinators and other key position coaches, though he says he is "getting closer".

"I think we're getting to a point now where we have a really good idea of what the staff is going to look like," Sarkisian explained. "Obviously can't comment until the ink is dry. We have some things to work through, but the staff is shaping up great."

Sarkisian says he has spoken with the majority of USC's current staff, adding there is a possibility he retains a few coaches from it other than just Martin. However, he says a few have been notified "this is their last shot here and to go make it a great one."

"All these guys are good coaches, the have done a great job," Sarkisian said.

Among those expected to be let go at the end of the season include John Baxter, Mike Ekeler, and Tommie Robinson -- based off position hires made by Sarkisian.

It is also plausible Mike Summers and James Cregg will not be retained based off the attempt by Sarkisian to land UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who re-signed with Bruins.

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