Adversity or opportunity?
Or maybe a bit of both Sunday as a USC football team that had pretty much avoided injury issues thus far, even getting players back a bit ahead of schedule, ran headlong into the reality of tackle football in full pads.
Dinged up were Jabari Ruffin (knee), Leonard Williams (shoulder), Adoree Jackson (foot) and Darreus Rogers (achilles) joining a concussed Cody Temple and Antwaun Woods (with his left elbow in a sling), both from Friday, and a not-yet-able-to-play-in-pain Aundrey Walker and a once-a-day Jordan Simmons who sat out the full-pads morning workout on USC's first two-a-day.
As a result, a trainer's tent that at times needed a take-a-number lineup last season got a whole lot busier.
"We kind of got nicked up," Steve Sarkisian said after practice. But he's hopeful there's "nothing serious," although we'll know more Monday after Sunday's 7 p.m. closed practice in helmets, no pads.
And yet, despite the defense taking many of the hits, and against an offense that jumped out quickly behind a sharp quarterback Cody Kessler in its best August effort with a rested Buck Allen and Tre Madden running the ball with Justin Davis, they did what good teams do.
"I hate to see Leonard on the sidelines," Kessler said, "because he can't hit me even when he's in there. But having him in there makes [Max] Tuerk better, makes me better."
Led by Claude Pelon, the defensive front bucked up and stopped the offense twice inside the 2 on the goal line without Williams. "That's what good teams do," Kessler said echoing Sark of coming back after you get beat.
And the offense came out quick here with slants to Nelson Agholor, one of which could have gone for a 60-yard touchdown, and power stuff from Tre and Buck.
"We definitely had fresh legs," Madden said after a day off Saturday and getting rested Friday.
"In the past we didn't get a day off and were just hoping for one," Allen said. "Coach Sark has a good plan for us."
"It's something we're not used to," Randall Telfer said of the Saturday off.
Speaking to the adversity or opportunity theme, offensive line coach Tim Drevno touched on the Walker situation and the senior's not being able to practice with the team much despite being cleared by USC's doctors.
"You just keep encouraging him," Drevno said. "We gotta' play." And Walker will have to play through the pain after February surgery on his ankle. Freshman Toa Lobendahn is playing on both first and second teams at guard and center.
And, Drevno noted, two more freshmen, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao are taking the opportunity with Toa going both ways for first-team reps. Playing with three newcomers, Drevno said, does "not concern" him.
Concern isn't what seems to be on anyone's mind with Walker. Either he finds a way to get back and get some of the reps the freshmen are getting or just be content to not really be among the group that Drevno and Sark say they're looking for with this O-line: "the best five."
As to stepping up, with the D-line depleted, Sark talked proudly of how senior walkon Teddy Baker, a 265-pound transfer from UConn and Wesleyan, jumped in as a backup with Delvon Simmons in for Woods at nose and Greg Townsend Jr. in for Williams.
Adversity or opportunity?
After their first double session Sunday, the Trojans get back into action at 2:30 Monday afternoon at Howard Jones in a workout open to fans . . . Much longer injury list here with a half-dozen nicked and tweaked Sunday morning with Ruffin's knee the most serious appearing as he was carted off with a swollen left knee after practice, Rogers tweaked his achilles, Williams dinged his "other" shoulder, Jackson had his foot stepped on, Jordan Simmons is on a one-a-day schedule and was held out Sunday morning so he could go in the evening and Temple missed Sunday completely after a concussion suffered Friday while Walker worked out late with the trainers in a yellow jersey but did no team stuff and finally, Lamar Dawson (knee) was still limited.
For a complete wrapup of Sunday's morning practice, check out SUNDAY GHOST NOTES, FALL PRACTICE DAY 6.