Picking a bowl and a position

For guys like Chris Hawkins and Su'a Cravens, it looks like some switching could be coming as the Trojans completed their third weekend bowl prep practice Sunday morning.

Kind of a retro look for the Trojans Sunday morning at 8 starting with a return to the plush grass of Howard Jones Field. There were 75 quick plays in full pads, lots of ones against ones, lots of chances for guys to step up.

Steve Sarkisian said three redshirts have jumped out, joining Max Browne who got some work with the ones. "Max had one of his best days," Sark said, noting "he made a couple of TD passes."

Then there were redshirts Rahshead Johnson at corner ("He really stood out," Sark said, Chris Brown on the O-line ("He's developing") and outside linebacker Malik Dorton ("He made some plays today").

"We just went out and played football," Sark said. This isn't a game "where you can turn on a switch" when the bowl game gets here. So no real drills, no bags, just ball.

And a reminder. Right before coming out to practice, Sark told them that "you're going out to play football" right now but a year from now, Sark said, "we don't want to be practicing on this weekend, we want to be playing . . . that's the plan."

Although with Sark flying off to recruit and the bowl game not announced until 2:30 by the Pac-12 with the Big Ten not announcing its teams until 3:30, that schedule may have to come later. Of note is how Arizona, despite the lopsided loss to Oregon, held on to a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, meaning no drop for the rest of the league in bowl pairings.

The word on the team after practice, for whatever it's worth, was USC in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against maybe Wisconsin. We'll know soon.

More on Chris, Su'a and places to play

Chris Hawkins said he just volunteered his move to safety Friday because the Trojans were out of bodies there for practice. Su'a Cravens said his earlier move to outside linebacker was more a case of being drafted by the coaches.

And now they're having time to think what this means. Nothing is set in stone, says secondary coach Keith Heyward, who was on the road recruiting Friday when it happened.

"We didn't talk about it as s ataff," Heyward said. "Chris just stepped in . . . Chris did it himself . . . I commend him on that."

"They needed somebody to go there," Hawkins said when Leon McQuay came in "banged up," that day. So Hawkins went there although he says "I've played corner all my life and I still feel more comfortable as a corner . . . I feel like I can grow into a safety."

That would be the case although Hawkins, playing at 182 pounds now on his 5-foot-11 frame, says he doesn't think USC would want him to put on more weight, "just more muscle . . . I still have a skinny frame."

"It can work if he works hard at it," Heyward says of the corner-to-safety switch. And something has to happen. "Right now we have two scholarship safeties going into spring," Heyward says. Which is why he's out on the recruiting trail.

And then there's the possibility of wide receiver Juju Smith as a two-way player coming over to safety. "I'd love that," Heyward says. "We'll talk about that as a staff."

One switch that's already been made and may now be almost written in stone is Cravens to outside linebacker. After practice Sunday, Cravens said it happened quickly when linebackers coach Peter Sirmon asked him where he'd make the most impact -- have the most success.

The answer there, Su'a said, is the same as the position he tells people he plays now when they ask him: "outside linebacker," he says with a big smile, "especially against the teams we play."

It wasn't always that way. "I didn't see it at first," Su'a said of the move from safety, "not the way the coaches did . . . everybody since high school had been telling me if I kept getting bigger, I was going to be a linebacker and I said, 'No I'm not' and now here I am."

That wasn't the plan. His personal goal this past season? "The Thorpe Award," for the best DB, Su'a said. He still wants to "be on the All-American lists." But the position will change now. Just as his body has.

"I started the season at 235, the biggest safety in the Pac-12," Su'a says. Now he's down to 215, after chasing all those all-out passing spread offenses every week. "But I can get back there -- in a week," if he had to.

He has no preference in who USC plays in a bowl game, just maybe not a team that runs a true triple option like Georgia Tech. "It's terrible to play against . . . and it's boring," he said. Especially for an outside linebacker.


With the USC bowl game not determined until Sunday afternoon, the Trojans' practice schedule for next weekend after exam week, had yet to be set . . . JuJu Smith, held out Saturday with an ankle he rolled late in practice Friday, was the star of the day Sunday with a number of catches but one incredible leaping grab over a defender . . . "We see it every day," Sark said . . . Just JuJu being JuJu . . . Su'a said the word he and his teammates have been getting about a bow pairing is the Holiday against Wisconsin, maybe . . . His preference, he said, would be one before Christmas so he could be home for the holidays with his family and friends but . . . only Trojan in a yellow jersey Sunday was McQuay, still in his left knee brace but able to practice . . . Sark revealed his coaches poll ballot top four: 1) Alabama, 2) Oregon, 3) Florida State, 4) Ohio State with special praise for the Buckeyes and not just for the 59 points the offense put up with a third-string quarterback but the shutout the defense threw at Wisconsin and the nation's top running back, Melvin Gordon . . . "Just shows you what you can do when you play as a team," Sark said . . . After saying how good he thought Max looked at quarterback, Sark said what he wants out of Jalen Greene, who got a good deal of work this weekend, would be not to have "the ball on the ground a bit too much at times" . . .

For a postpractice wrapup of Sunday's workout, check out See what USC Trojan fans are saying here

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