Talking about a trip to The Farm

USC players look forward to a return to The Farm and the challenge of what could be a somewhat new-look Stanford team against an absolutely new-look USC team.

Sure, there are still health concerns for Cody Kessler, Leonard Williams and Damien Mama. But Wednesday was a time to talk about the Stanford game (12:30, ABC) and what a trip to Palo Alto for one of the Pac-12's and nation's more important early season games means when you're going against a team with a 17-game home win streak, the nation's longest.

So we'll leave it to Steve Sarkisian to have the final word here on that important USC trio. On Cody: "He's ready to go," Sark said. On Williams? "Ready to go." On Mama: "He'll probaby be a gametime decision."

And then one final Cody question after his somewhat limited Wednesday that saw him careful with his footwork and limited in his full-speed 11-on-11 work. Is he really ready to go? "We want to make sure he's ready to go Saturday," Sark said.

And there's that word: "Saturday." Which is where, on a day when only USC defensive players were available, the attention went.

Linebacker Anthony Sarao, once a Stanford commit, said he was all-in "with Coach Harbaugh and his former New Jersey high school coach Greg Roman. "But then they left and I came to USC," Sarao says. And despite the coaching changes here, "I fell in love with USC."

And now he's going back to where he thought he'd end up. "It's a trip, going back to The Farm," Sarao says. "I went there two years ago and like all the guys on this team who did, I won't forget their fans running on to the field. We don't want that to happen again."

Su'a Cravens has a thought on how to do that after last year's upset of Stanford when it was the USC fans rushing the field. "We're going to do our best to try to exploit their new guys," he said of a relatively inexperienced Cardinal front seven. "We're going to try to tire them out."

Against the more classic pro-style Stanford offense, Cravens may see more time as a true safety, where he picked off a pass a year ago against the Cardinal. That might also open up a place for outside linebacker Quinton Powell, a run-stopper who didn't get on the field in the defensive rotation against pass-happy Fresno State, just on special teams.

"Yes, definitely," Powell said after practice. "I hope so."

Although the question here might be whether Stanford is still that run-heavy, power-pounding team. "They have a lot of speed," Chris Hawkins was saying, talking about a receiving corps led by speedsters Ty Montgomery with Michael Rector and the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Devon Cajuste.

"They throw the ball a lot more," Cravens said, "at least that's what we saw in their one game," after Stanford passed for three long touchdowns in a 45-0 win over Cal-Davis.

But Hayes Pullard had a slightly different take on the role of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan. "He's a grinder," Pullard said. "You know he's going to try to run it against us."

But the word from senior Pullard to his younger teammates for a game that's become "a great rivalry" is this: "Make sure you stay calm before the storm."

And do your homework, which he says will be the way Kessler and Williams will stay in the game this week: "Extra film work," Hayes said. "It's like a test. Our coaches are giving us the answers."

One answer seems to be freshman Adoree Jackson, who despite his double or triple duties, is available to talk on defense day. although when Sark talks about him for the Stanford game, he hits all three parts. Adoree "matches up well speed-wise defensively," Sark said, "and we'll have a package for him on offense and we expect him to contribute on special teams."

Just like that. For a true freshman in his second college game. Although it's no big deal to Jackson. "I think lot of guys could do it," he said, "a lot of guys on this team."

The only problem, Adoree says, "is running from one end of the field to the other," to change from defense to offense, and "the coaches telling me to make sure I keep running." Which he does.

But Saturday, "I'm looking forward to going against their great receivers and their secondary." Just like that. This is a freshman talking here.

Jackson won't be alone in matching up against the Stanford wide receivers. Cornerback Kevon Seymour, Sark says, "was very active in our first game breaking up four passes and in practice, he's had an interception yesterday and one today."

Sark talks about the matchup


"It's a unique matchup," Sark says now that the teams won't look so much like one another. "We're going to go as fast as we can go . . . but I can't force them to run more plays."

One thing Sark can push is USC's ability to convert and keep getting first downs the way the Trojans did against Fresno State when they made their first eight straight. "Third-down conversions and extending drives are the key," Sark says.

And that comes down to Kessler's quickness in close quarters which could depend to some extent on how well his foot -- or toe -- feels. Better than it did Wednesday is the expectation from Sark.

"Ready to go," but we repeat ourselves here as Sark did, not all that pleased to get the same question a couple of different ways. He wanted to talk about practice instead.

"An awesome practice today," Sark said. "I thought the guys played their tails off . . . they're much improved from yesterday . . . some things to clean up on special teams tomorrow but all in all, a good Wednesday."

FOOTNOTED


Khaliel Rodgers will learn Thursday if he's cleared for Stanford . . . Jordan Simmons has been cleared . . . Tre Madden has a way to go with his turf toe . . . as does Lamar Dawson with his knee . . . Trojans will get back at it for a closed Thursday morning practice at 8:45.

For a complete wrapup of Tuesday morning's practice, check out WEDNESDAY GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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