New helmet, young O-line, same old officials

Trojans talking Thursday of the new helmets that will be introduced Saturday at Homecoming against Colorado as well as the new-look O-line and the old-look Pac-12 officials.

There's a new format for Thursdays, Steve Sarkisian said, and we'll have to trust him since we're not there with the practices closed. But in the interest of conserving his players through the season, Thursdays are done "in a different format" where the emphasis is on "more attention to details" at "not quite the tempo" because Sark said he "wants to be sure our legs are fresh."

He thinks it worked much better this week than last and the players are getting it now. No mistakes. Total focus. And a team, Sark says looking to Saturday's 3 p.m. Homecoming against Colorado (Pac-12 Networks), with "guys excited to get back out there."

And from the tone of some of their tweets, pretty excited to be wearing their new helmets. "The new helmet for us is a way to update our look," Sark said of the brighter, shinier cardinal helmets with the same logos and a new-look shiny silver/chrome facemask.

"It's a way to freshen things up and honor our past," he said. Does he like them? "Yeah, I do," he says, "but I'll like 'em a lot more if we win."

It's something Sark said he "had to deal with this a lot the last five years (at the University of Washington) where they went to an alternate look a fair amount. "You're not going to please everyone."

Indeed, there will be those who say it's too much and others who want much more. And Sark knows that "with two of our top rivals" big proponents of it. We're thinking he's talking of UCLA and Oregon as recruiting rivals which often motivates the alternate look.

The general takeaway from seeing them up close in the sunlight is that USC hit it just right here and Director of Equipment Operations Todd Hewitt can take the credit here. he worked on it since the start of the summer, found a company in South Carolina to do the facemasks and after color trials with both the cardinal helmet and the facemasks, seems to have hit the sweet spot.

It's new and updated. It's the Cardinal and Gold USC fans love. Just brighter.

Speaking of officiating

Sark has heard back from the Pac-12 officials, we can assume, on the many plays that were screwed up in the Arizona game but he's not saying. Nor is the Pac-12, which informed Wednesday that conversations between the coaches and the conference are private.

Meaning of course that the Pac-12, once again and as usual, must have screwed up plenty. And does not want to tell anyone.

"I try to be respectful to them," said Sark, who said he was not surprised that the Pac-12 would assign the same crew of referee Land Clark for a second straight USC road game after the issues USC had with them at Stanford.

"I was OK with that," Sark said. "I apologized to each and every one of them and I've moved on."

Only there is this. And it's hard to move on from, said Sark who says he "usually submits from five to eight plays" a week for conference clarification. It's not any one play, Sark said.

"But when we have 13 penalties and they have four, if the conference has a true gripe from me, that's where it is."


And that's where it matters. As ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller noted Thursday, USC has been called for 21 penalties this season leading to opponents' first downs, the most in all of the FBS.

So USC opponents not only are given more time to prepare for the Trojans, they're also given more first downs as well.

How 'bout the O-line

Sark ticked off his quick thoughts about a young offensive line that's getting better: "Max Tuerk is playing really good football for us," he said of the leader grading out the best right now. "He's a mainstay for us.

"And the left side with Toa [Lobendahn] and Chad [Wheeler] has been impressive . . . and Viane [Talamaivao] is the guy who's probably improved the most . . . Zach Banner has been "steady" and Aundrey Walker you'll be seeing more of and Damien Mama has been figting back from injuries.

But all in all, from Day 1, this is the group, Sark says, that "may have come along farther and improved the most." And when asked what he's learned about them, one thing is this: "when we have Toa and Viane in there at guard, those are very athletic guys with high football IQ's and we can do a lot of pulling with them -- with Max as well -- and get them out and let them run."


With Leonard Williams now listed as No. 1 on some mock drafts, Sark says of course they have been and will be talking to him and other juniors who will be listed high on the draft lists. He only wishes, he said, he'd been able to know last year's players in the declare-early-for-the-draft category sooner and been able to head off what happened to some of them, without naming any names, but players like Dion Bailey, George Uko and Xavier Grimble, all of whom went undrafted and are out of football with a year of eligibility left. "Things change so much between now and when is it, April some time," Sark said. "You just don't want it to affect Leonard now." And it hasn't. Sark said that "when he doesn't practice," it's no Jadeveon Clowney deal, "it's because we hold him out of practice." . . . Looks like only Soma Vainuku (hamstring) and Ajene Harris (also a hamstring) are questions for the Colorado game Saturday -- with neither probably able to be back. Everyone else should be good to go although with "close monitoring" for the likes of Adoree Jackson and Kevon Seymour . . . George Farmer looked like he'd practiced and without an issue after having ice on his hamstring Wednesday.

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