Starting Monday, USC fans will have at least a dozen chances to view the 2014 Trojans at practice. The dates, times and viewing policies/locations are listed below. But those are just the basics.
Here are some tips for viewers to get the most out of practice much as I'll tell my nephew who will be visiting from Australia in late August and looking forward to his first USC football practice.
Get there early
We'll call this the Eddie and Candi Bubar rule. Catch the players coming out of the McKay tunnel at the Trojan Sword. You can say "Hi," and wish them well. And you can really pick up on some things especially on the ones you don't recognize since they've changed so much since the last time you saw them. Or get to know the new guys.
Get there earlier
Catch Leonard Williams on his skateboard manuevering his 305 pounds around the corner as he arrives in a hurry while having fun doing so. See Hayes Pullard and Cody Kessler leading their guys even before they hit the field. Nelson Agholor, too. There's a carryover here that will continue through practice.
Watch their feet
One of the surest ways to get a sense of a team's athleticism is to watch their feet, watch them walk by and see how they they pick up and put down their feet. Tells you a couple of things: The first is how athletic they are, the second is how enthusiastic they are, how much they want to get there and get going.
Catch up with the coaches
Coaches are Trojans too. And unlike at the start a year ago, this head coach will talk and smile and be glad to see and might even say "Hi" as he goes by. And you can start to ID the new guys, as well.
Decide where to watch
At least for the first four workouts, you'll have a choice: the Dedeaux Deck or the East sidelines where the media and many of the players' families will be. We're not supposed to talk to the players' families but you can. And you can talk to us. Dedeaux might give you a better view from above but it's more sociable on the sidelines. One consideration: Afternoon practices will have the setting sun in your eyes so be prepared.
Be ready to move
You can get up close and personal along the sidelines but our advice here is to be ready to follow the flow of practice from the Brian Kennedy Field end to the main part of Howard Jones as the team goes from prepractice loosening up and walk-through stuff. They call it "explosive offensive transition" -- a run-through really that should tip you off to what they'll be working on later in practice. Pay attention here. You're close to the action. Turn away and you're inviting a play to come your way and there's very little place to go to get out of the line of fire.
Don't miss warmups
See if you can pick up on all the quick little things they get done in the first couple of minutes (it's different from a year ago) then watch guys do some of the stretching especially as they extend their feet, one then the other, over their heads. Check out Adoree Jackson here.
This is going to go fast. It's not just hype, there really is an "up" in the "uptempo" here. Get that picture from the spring game out of your mind. That was a sandbag of monumental proportions with no connection to how this team is going to play. And while you're at it, see if you can figure out the signs and hand signals.
Get a feel for this team
Sit back and just watch them go from here to there -- and see how fast they do it and with what kind of enthusaism. Don't focus so much on the details and specifics but just get a sense of the team -- how it runs, how it moves, watch them with one another, listen to the back-and-forth, see the smiles -- for a part of practice. Teams have personalities. figure this one's out.
Follow the football
One of the great indicators for a practice during the glory days the last decade and during the undefeated run for me were those practices where the ball didn't hit the ground. No drops. No mis-timed passes. No missed throws. Precision was the watchword. You just came to expect it. This team has shown some of that in the summer. See if it extends to playing in pads.
See if you can count to 90, the number of plays USC likes to get in each time out. And see how many players regularly rotate in on both sides of the football. How many are they getting ready? How many of them are freshmen? How many of them will be playing come Aug. 30? Here's your chance to figure that out.
Keep an eye on Cody, Buck and Nelson
Hey, it's Hollywood. Stars matter. Watch them do their thing. Just watching Buck run could be as much fun as you have all day. Then see who else will step up to share billing at the skill positions. Lots of possibilities here. See who you think is next.
Don't forget the linemen
Here's a reason to stay on Dedeaux. You're closer to the linemen, especially the O-line guys. See what you see from the guys coming back and the ones who have a chance to step in. Same for the D-line. Who's next?
Focus a bit on the freshmen
Except for the D-line and the running backs, they'll be in every position group so you'll have to keep your head on a swivel here. As will some of those freshmen. But from the O-line to the tight ends, the wide receivers to the D-backs, the linebackers to special teams guys, you can catch a freshmen with a chance everywhere you look,
Public viewing of practice
Many of USC’s on-campus practices during fall training camp are open for public viewing (see schedule below; times subject to change). Public attending practice must sign in and present a current ID. Fans can watch the open practices from the deck at Dedeaux Field (the public can also view the Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday (Aug. 4-5-6-8) practices from the east sideline of Howard Jones Field. It is still being determined whether any Coliseum practices during fall camp will be available for public viewing. Once USC begins game week practices (beginning Aug. 25), practices will be closed to the public, except invited guests of the USC athletic department at Tuesday and Wednesday practices.
Aug. 11—2:30 p.m.
Aug. 15—8:45 a.m.
Aug. 16--1:45 p.m. Coliseum practice (public viewing to be determined)
Aug. 17—2:30 p.m.
Aug. 18—6:45 p.m.
Aug. 20—9 a.m.
Aug. 21—2:30 p.m.
Aug. 22—9:15 a.m.