Saying goodbye to seniors and 1 more

As Hayes Pullard and Co. prepare to say goodbye as Trojans with the Notre Dame game Saturday, USC will almost certainly be saying so long to at least one more special Trojan -- Leonard Williams.

They'll be missed. Only Hayes Pullard officially gets to say goodbye this week but as junior All-American Leonard Williams is saying so long to senior middle linebacker Hayes, the rest of Troy will also be saying goodbye to Leonard.

Chances are it's the last trip down the Coliseum for both of them. It's not always been a smooth trip.

"I cherish every one of the ups and downs," said Hayes, who will end up leading USC in tackles three of his four seasons and is 30 short of the career record of 396 by Marcus Cotton. His biggest "up" he says is the win at Oregon where his 14 wins led the Trojans' upset.

He was recruited "by Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr." he says "that was three or four coaching staffs ago." His first season "with [Lane] Kiffin and Joe Barry, we went 10-2."

And all along, he was the happy warrior, the upbeat leader who did it by example. "I just tried to be No. 1 in everything and call guys out," Hayes said, "our DBs and the offensive line."

Who will succeed him? "I can't call it just yet," he said. Too bad it won't be Williams, even though he says "I try not to think about it being my last game . . . that'll come after the season."

But there's no problem thinking about how it will be the last game for starters Pullard, Gerald Bowman, Randall Telfer, J.R. Tavai and former starter Josh Shaw.

"My teammates were always there for me," Leonard said, "I'll be there for them. We'll be friends for a long time after this is over. These seniors have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this program."

So has Leonard. "I've never beaten Notre Dame," he says. But there's an even more important number here for the seniors who are now 0-5 the last three seasons against their archrivals. "It's hard for the seniors not to get a win against UCLA [last week]."

But he and the seniors are in the same place here and in the same place as Notre Dame's 7-4 Irish who have lost four of their last five: "We've both lost games we should have won," Leonard said.

That's an echo of Steve Sarkisian's scouting report on the Irish as he talks of their "losing on the last play at Florida State, in overtime against Northwestern and in a close one to Louisville" last Saturday.

The motivation here is clear: "We've just got to go out strong and get a win for the seniors."

And for Leonard, who was lionized by Sark after practice who has assigned is players to come in for a team meeting Thursday before practice with a list of things to be thankful for. One of the things on Sark's list, we're guessing, will be Leonard Williams.

Take Wednesday, for example. And the USC coaches urging of the defense, in the wake of the UCLA game, to be "more physical." And let Sark describe it, "it's about 80 degrees and Leonard picks up a running back [James Toland] on the second play of team and slams him . . . that's the great thing about Leonard."

The coaches wanted "physical," Leonard gave them "physical." But as always, with a smile on his face.

"I'm a big family guy," Leonard said. He was just doing what the family needed here.

Although we'll let Sark say what he thinks had to happen for this USC team to have gotten where it could have -- and maybe should have.

"Good teams find a way to win," Sark said. "Unfortunately we found a way to lose. I'd love to be 10-2 or 9-2 but we have four losses.

And they're saying goodbye to a guy like Hayes who says "I never had a negative mindset . . . not at all. I just accepted all my coaches here."


Freshman Bryce Dixon is on schedule, Sark said, to be ready to go Saturday but the freshman tight end has yet to be finally cleared after post-concussion symptoms from the UCLA game . . . he's doing everything prescribed to be able to play . . . only Trojan regular in a yellow jersey for the second straight day was Leon McQuay III . . . The one Trojan senior wearing his high school jersey was Pullard, although he said wearing the black, blue and gold Crenshaw High jersey might have been a "mistake," Hayes said in the 80-degree weather . . . "It''s too hot" . . . J.R. Tavai said he'd wear his Thursday "if I can find it" . . . Amazing catches in Wednesday's practice were made by George Katrib and Steven Mitchell . . . Trojans' Thanksgiving morning practice is now at 9:45 with the promise it'll be over by 11.

For a postpractice wrapup of Wednesday's workout, check out Wednesday Notre Dame Week Ghost Notes.

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