Trojans living for the weekend

USC is working on all sorts of preparations this weekend to get ready for next Saturday's Coliseum opener against Fresno State. And lining up ways to go if Tre Madden and Khaliel Rodgers can't go.

Tre Madden and Khaliel Rodgers will be game-day decisions for the Fresno State opener next Saturday and Lamar Dawson might not be back for a month. But Friday's two-a-day workouts weren't focused on those who weren't here.

With quarterback Cody Kessler getting his first day off in -- well, forever -- the focus here was on next week, and how does a team that looks like it's almost ready to go right now get there.

There are three parts to that, Steve Sarkisian said. He wants 1) "a fresh team" that will show up with a clear focus for Fresno; 2) a team with "their bodies" taken care of so they show up with fresh legs and feeling good for Game 1; and 3) "with everybody on the same page," which is what this weekend is about.

But interestingly after practice, a revised schedule for next week was sent out and it not only has this USC team off Sunday, as scheduled, but also off Monday, the first day of class, when it had been scheduled to practice. Now that's the norm in game week but often teams will take that extra day in Week 1 when they can. USC could but it won't. So two days in a row off for the Trojans.

That almost certainly says something about where the coaches think this team is right now -- pretty far down the road to being ready apparently.

There are several health concerns now: Madden's turf toe and Rodgers' sprained knee, neither of which we'll probably know a final answer until next Saturday afternoon. Not that the Trojans don't have other answers at those positions.

Buck Allen and Justin Davis say hey're ready to go at running back by themselves if they have to and freshman Damien Mama has made it clear he can handle right guard right now even if USC can't quite figure out how to get the 377-pounder into a cardinal blazer for the team's traditional head shots.

"We try not to worry about that," Davis said. "If it's me and Buck, we can handle that. The coaches have prepared us for that."

Allen was talking about how pleased he's been in his ability to carry the football in his left arm when running left, which USC likes to do with him, and not expose it in his right arm.

"It's all about repetition," he said, "it wasn't hard. I did everything with my left arm"

And now going left, he can use "a stiff arm," Buck says, "and not take all that punishment." But maybe he'll give some out. "It can be worth an extra five yards."

Madden was headed Friday to see another specialist for his turf toe that had him in a boot the last time he was at practice Tuesday and Rodgers has a "10 to 14-day" return diagnosis for his knee sprain, It's pretty clear they're not going to be counted on for Fresno State. If either is back, it's a bonus. The following week when USC heads to Stanford, although unspoken, is clearly the goal for them.

Kessler, meanwhile, after getting the day essentially off, was headed to get a haircut today and then a shave of his "camp beard" tomorrow before Salute to Troy. "Sark told me to get mental reps today," he said after showing up ready to go. "It was nice. Obviously I've been throwing a lot. Sark knows that."

The last time he didn't participate in a practice? Cody couldn't recall. Not the last two years, at least. So this was Max Browne's day and the end of what's been a good week for the redshirt freshman.

And he'll get the chance again Saturday when USC, as part of a mock-game walkthrough will "manufacture injuries," Sark said, One of those will be to Kessler with Browne having to step in quickly. From a hotel walkthrough in the morning after a Friday night stay and meetings, to the mini-prepractice Trojan Walk through an Exposition Park music festival crowd estimated at 40,000 to the pregame lockerroom and warmups, Saturday will be as close to game conditions as possible -- except for the football itself.

Quick hits from 2 wide receivers

Darreus Rogers on all the people pushing for playing time: "I like the young guys . . . everybody knows Nelson [Agholor] is the guy and then . . . the player most impressing him among that group, he said, is "Ajene Harris, he came in as a quarterback . . . his football IQ is high . . . it's incredible."

Victor Blackwell on his re-emergence as a serious, consistent and more explosive threat: "I'm more confident, more mature, I'm a redshirt junior . . . that's what USC is all about."

Say "Sark'

Asked about having his name -- "Steve Sarkisian" not "Sark" -- trademarked, Sark said that was a question you'd have to ask his agent, who made the call and is much smarter about that stuff than Sark is, he said. But then he added this rationale with a laugh: "I don't want people taking my name in vain."


The Trojans returned to Howard Jones Field for the first of two practices Friday that was open to fans and media and a practice that resembled what will be the regular Thursday game week practice -- in shorts, shells, helmets and no pads . . . The afternoon 45-minute walkthrough will be closed as a typical Friday is in game week as will tomorrow's 4 p.m. Coliseum walkthrough after spending the night at the hotel, again as preparation for next week's Fresno State opener . . . And now we learn that Sark will give the team off Sunday, as scheduled, and Monday, the first day of class, with no media availability either day for players or coaches . . . USC will then go to game-week practice schedule starting Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. with Tuesday and Wednesday practices open to the media with Thursday closed and Sark only available to the media afterward.

For a complete wrapup of Friday morning's practice, check out FRIDAY MORNING GHOST NOTES.

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