All quiet on the USC front in Rivalry Week Thursday. Just another game. Practice working out the way it did the last game for Cal with a bonus "Monday" workout in pads thanks to back-to-back weekends off surrounding that Thursday game.
There's been a "real buy-in" by his guys here who have "embraced" and "enjoyed" the new format, Steve Sarkisian said after a practice he described as "very sharp . . . with lot of energy."
The idea is to get the physical stuff out of the way early in the week, then do the fine-tuning and cleanup work Wednesday and Thursday in shorts, shells and helmets.
At least Sark will have a couple of more defensive backs -- and RUSH defender J.R. Tavai -- to go after the Brett Hundley-led Bruins. First of course is Josh Shaw, the former captain just back from suspension Wednesday and trying to find a place to play.
"He was good . . . He''ll play," Sark said. "He'll have some role in the game." What that role will be is for USC to decide, for Shaw to show he can handle and for UCLA to figure out.
The more Sark talked, the more it seems that role hasn't been determined or defined as it probably shouldn't be after two days of practice. "He was good," Sark said of Shaw's Thursday practice.
"He isn't new to this. He's played a lot of ball. He came back today and was effective in contributing," Sark said. "We're narrowing down his role. A lot of his role is going to be dependent on how he looks on game day . . . obviously things change on game day but we're feeling good he'll have some role in in the ball game."
Asked to describe a scenario of Shaw's role, Sark said: "Everything's a scenario."
And everybody's a help against a UCLA offense Sark described as having "an explosive passing game, a plethora of receivers . . . " which is why he'll take "another able body" back and even better to have freshman safety John Plattenburg back from his hamstring pull as well.
Just don't ask him about playing a "spy" on Hundley. You're not getting that answer. What you'll get is this: "On every call we essentially should have all eyes on the quarterback," Sark said.
And yes, Sark has had to face athletic multi-talented quarterbacks before, most notably Robert Griffin III in that record-breaking 67-56 Baylor romp over Washington in the 2011 Alamo Bowl. In that game, the Huskies basically seemed focused mostly on the moving digits of the scoreboard, not RG III.
Sark said there may be "at times guys assigned to Brett" but he's "not sure one guy is enough, it's going to take a group effort."
But don't ask him about last year. "I wasn't here last year," for the UCLA game but his focus this time is on doing what this team has "done really, really well since the Boston College game."
And it involves Bruin tailback Paul Perkins more than Hundley. "We have to do a really good job on first and 10 against the run," Sark said. That's where it starts for this team.
And where that starts with USC, Sark said, is with Leonard Williams, whose numbers may be a bit down this season but not his play. "We rely heavily on him in the two-gap scheme to be able to shed the blocker and make the play."
Still no answer on the availability of Bryce Dixon, who got a full workout again as if the freshman tight end was certainly going to play . . . But after missing the Cal game for what has been called a "student conduct" issue, and practicing all week with Sark saying he thought he might know Wednesday, the process is working its way out very slowly . . . no answer by Sark when asked what helmets USC will wear with their cardinal home jerseys . . . he said he'd check . . . USC will have a closed walkthrough Friday afternoon . . . the media blackout for Josh Shaw, until a USC bowl game, will remain no matter what he does in the UCLA game, a winning Pick-Six or whatever, and also through a Pac-12 championship game as well, should USC get so lucky.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.