Notebook: Sarkisian era is underway

Noteboook, USC opens spring practice on Howard Jones Field...

No time to breathe
USC's first spring practice was slated to start at 4pm on Tuesday. By my watch, it started a 3:20 in the afternoon when specialists took the field, a few linemen, skill players and coaches weren't far behind.

By the 4pm horn, everyone was warmed up, had gone through some position work, and was ready to go.

The biggest difference watching the Sarkisian-led practice was simply the pace.

There's no huddle. There's no time to stop in between plays. There's barely enough time to follow the team down the sideline as they start in one end zone and don't take a breath until the ball is at the opposite end.

"I thought the guys really came out with a focus and an energy to want to come out and perform," Sarkisian said after practice.

There are, however, periods between up-tempo drills for instructional time. Sarkisian refers to them as "Teaching periods".

"If you notice, we don't have time to critique players in between plays because of the tempo we are operating at and that's designed that way," he explained. "That's why you see those walk-thru periods in the middle of practice.

"When it was time to focus on technique and fundamentals, they were intently focused on that. When it was time to really work the tempo in our fast ball period, they were flying around doing that."

For a few Trojans, they said after practice the pace was fast but fine, something that will take adjusting to but a change they like.

Junior offensive lineman Max Tuerk made no qualms about the speed, he was tired after the two-plus hour sprint. "Ahhh," Tuerk smiled. "The speed."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Browne chuckled when asked about the speed of team drills, explaining the speed is great after making a mistake because there is no time to lament… but there isn't quite enough time to celebrate a touchdown pass.

Quarterback battle take two
After practice, I asked Sarkisian to break down day one of the quarterback battle between returning starter Cody Kessler, redshirt freshman Max Browne, and freshman Jalen Greene.

It would appear from Sarkisian's response that Greene is no factor in the quarterback battle.

"I thought they both did some good, I think they both have some moments they'd love to have back," Sarkisian said, in reference to Kessler and Browne. "Quite honestly we have to look at the film.

"We are moving at a pretty fast clip out there and you're trying to assess everything at once and it's hard to do that, so we will look at the film, there is plenty of stuff for both of them to learn from and I know Coach Helton and myself are chomping at the bit to get up there and look at the film."

Oh my, o-line
With the early departure of center Marcus Martin to the NFL, Sarkisian was left to find a new leader to fill the position.

It's little surprise Sarkisian chose junior Max Tuerk, 290-pounds, to fill the spot.

Former USC coach Lane Kiffin tried Tuerk out at the spot last fall before settling on Martin. Tuerk and the quarterbacks often had trouble exchanging the ball.

Now in the shotgun, Tuerk's long arms are no longer a problem for himself or his quarterbacks.

"I think Max is a bright young man and for day one, we didn't snap any over the quarterbacks head and there were no grounders," Sarkisian chuckled. "That was the first thing I was concerned about coming out today.

"All in all, there's a long way to go. Max is a very talented player. He is very bright. He could probably play three different positions on the offensive line."

Tuerk said after practice he is willing to play whatever position is in the team's best interests. "This is the best for the team," he said.

Injuries, already?
No, no. No new injuries… kind of.

But plenty of USC players were sidelined or limited during Tuesday's practice including defensive leaders Leonard Williams and Josh Shaw.

Williams had an offseason procedure to clean up some issues in his shoulder. Shaw is dealing with a borderline stress fracture that the staff doesn't want to toy around with, but wants to ensure Shaw is 100 percent by the time fall camp rolls around.

Receivers Steven Mitchell and George Farmer are both coming off ACL injuries and participated in limited action.

Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker remains in a boot as he recovers from a broken ankle suffered at the end of the season; he arrived on Howard-Jones Field via a motorized cart.

Recruit central
Tuesday's practice was also a parade of recruits. A few familiar faces were in attendance, including 2014 USC five-star signees Damien Mama and Adoree Jackson. 2015 Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure five-star quarterback and USC verbal commit Ricky Town was at practice, too.

The new faces included 2016 Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake quarterback Malik Henry. In fact, Henry picked up a USC offer while on the unofficial visit. More details on that can be found here, where Henry discusses the Trojan unofficial visit and offer.

A few Sark terms
There's some new lingo Sarkisian is throwing around… "Team period" refers to the up-tempo drills during practices, 7on7, 11on11, when there is no down time between plays, reps, etc. and guys just have to keep playing no matter the outcome of the play. "Teach period" refers to the times during practice when drills get slowed down for instructional time.

DETAILED PLAY-BY-PLAY NOTES OF USC PRACTICE NO. 1


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