Saying 'bye' to the bye week

Lots of chances for lots of players who wanted to compete and needed an opportunity to show what they could do in Thursday's "developmental group" going against one another to finish up the bye week for the Trojans.

Bye week finished up Thursday morning with a "Backups Bowl" that offered plenty of full-contact opportunities for all sorts of Trojans, even a starter or two. But mostly it was for what Steve Sarkisian called USC's "developmental group,"

It was a chance for Jalen Greene to show what it would be like to have a quarterback take off and run -- by design.

And for tailback James Toland to show how he maybe didn't really belong in this game, how the redshirt freshman walkon from Indio may be just a cut above talent-wise.

And for corner Lamont Simmons to show what the 6-foot-2 freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., can do, which on this day was a strip of the football and a scoop-and-score with it.

And for offensive guard Jordan Simmons to take more conditioning steps to show that he's ready to go into the rotation.

And for Khaliel Rodgers to get a number of valuable snaps after his return to center.

And for Steven Mitchell to make the kinds of plays we knew he could make as he trusts his surgically repaired knee more and more.

And for freshmen linebackers Uchenna Nwosu, Olajuwon Tucker and Malik Dorton to get the kind of full-speed, full-tackling 11-on-11 work they need to get up to speed even if it meant Nwosu getting steamrolled on one play by tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who maybe deserves to get some game-action playing time for all the practice time the academically ineligible junior puts in.

And after the BC game, for freshman co-starters at right guard, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama, every rep, every situation they see right now has to help.

And a chance for Soma Vainuku to run the football, submarining up the middle, all 255 pounds of him leaning and churning and making you realize this team could have a power run attack maybe.

And in stepping up for all the walkons here, Robby Kolanz beating double coverage on an improbable TD grab does that just fine.

And finally, for captains Hayes Pullard and Cody Kessler who got to call the signals for their respective sides on the final series, and as Sark said, learned all the issues involved in doing so under game pressure, we can only hope -- after the BC game -- that maybe this also carries over to the next USC game.

Hey, we kid because we care.

But on balance, this was a good day for a team that could make good use of a pick-me-up as the Trojans head into a long bye weekend when all the football they'll be doing is watching. They get a day back on a "bonus Monday" next week to start the Oregon State preparation work so giving the first-line guys off would seem not to be a problem.


On a day when only Sark was available to the media, here's what we learned:

*** Long weekend: After a full lift Friday morning, the team is off until Monday at 7:30 a.m. when they get a "bonus practice" to start Oregon State week, Sark said. And as he sent them off with "of course" admonitions to make smart decisions, Sark said he'll "have his phone on all weekend hoping it doesn't ring," on the first weekend off this team has had in nearly two months.

*** Catching his eye: With a return to August-like, full-speed, uptempo competition this bye week, Sark ticked off the names of wide receiver Ajene Harris, who returned to his early playmaking ways, and Adoree Jackson, who is "starting to show everything he can do," as two players who jumped out at him.

*** Also noteworthy: Others mentioned by Sark were Jordan Simmons on his return, Nwosu on getting more action, Greg Townsend Jr. on getting healthy after the chicken pox, Rashead Johnson after his switch from wide receiver to corner and Greene getting back out there at quarterback.

*** Doubtful: for next week were linebacker Lamar Dawson, doing more but not anything in team, and running back Tre Madden, still not back or doing anything yet on the field.

*** Scholarship numbers:: Sark said the low numbers "really haven't affected" him or his team, other than maybe adjusting practice length, there's not been any real impact. He said USC's "active squad" size is about the same and it allows him to reward more walkons with playing time than the Nos. 55-85 on a regular roster.

*** Pace of practice: One issue that his team does have to work on now that the season is here and game-prep matters so much is "when we go to our Scout periods we do slow down a bit," Sark said of a team that all summer including the first four weeks of August went fast, fast, fast, running uptempo from beginning to end. That's why they go "ones against ones in the beginning, the middle and the end of each practice," Sark said, to try to keep the pace up.

*** 3 recruits signed: Thanks to a new NCAA rule, Sark said he could talk about three early-entry recruits who have signed financial aid scholarship agreements that bind USC to them but not them to USC, with the latest from Georgia offensive tackle Chuma Edoga Wednesday night. Edoga, Sark said, is "a premier athlete at his position," and a high-IQ prospect "who could have gone to any school in the country:"

St. Bonaventure quarterback Ricky Town reminds Sark of Cody Kessler with his "great leadership" and "gritty intelligence" and middle linebacker Cameron Smith out of Granite Bay, is "smart, tough, a classic middle linebacker" and "more athletic" than he's given credit for, Sark said.

For a wrapup of Thursday morning's practice, check out THURSDAY BYE WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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