Having fun 'hitting people'

Trojans got back on track with their 7th full-pads workout in 8 bowl practices Thursday. Sark said he liked the look of how this went.

Max Tuerk was not surprised that the workout went well Thursday.

The seventh full-pads practice of USC's first eight Holiday Bowl workouts, it drew nothing but positive reviews -- just like the others did. Only Wednesday's work in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads was not up to snuff.

Seems to be a pattern here. Practice in pads works better for this team. They like to go all out.

"I think we do," Tuerk said. "We definitely like hitting each other . . . the offensive linemen certainly do. When we're in pads, we get to hit . . . it's a lot funner (saying that kids' word with a big grin) when we get to do it."

And they're getting to do it. "The competition here is the best part for us."

"They do (like it)," Sark said of the chance to compete here -- and hit. "They are really competitive."

So the philosophy for the first six bowl practices before the Nebraska gameplan installation began Wednesday was short meetings and "we just put the ball down" and got out of the way, Sark said.

"They love going Goods on Goods," Sark said of the first-team offense against the first-team defense.

There is a downside, of course, and the injury to Antwaun Woods that will have him out of the Holiday Bowl is an example, Sark said, so it's not something you can do as often as you'd like. But for now, it's what they're doing.

And for what it's worth, it keeps players like All-Pac-12 center Tuerk, a junior, happy and lets him talk up his thoughts about next year to his classmates, teammates and roommates considering leaving early for the NFL.

He's made it clear he'll be back. And they should join him to make a run for a national championship. That's his No. 1 talking point.

"We have so many good young players," Tuerk says, "I think we can do it. I'm definitely talking to them about it."

Although not right now. "The Nebraska game is all we're thinking about," the South Orange Countian says. "It's a great game against a good team and I'm really looking forward to going to San Diego . . . I'm going to have a lot of my family there."

Say what . . .

Nelson Agholor talking about the arrival of freshman Juju Smith as a team leader: "There's never a down day with JuJu . . . he's not trying to be loud . . . he's just having fun." And figures out ways to do so like arriving early for last week's practice in a downpour and dancing and sliding in the rain as his teammates arrived. "Whether he's last or first," Agholor said, "he's always having fun."

Randall Telfer on being named winner of USC's Inspirational Award at the Football Banquet Wednesday: "It's something I wasn't expecting, that players would tell me I'm an inspiration to them . . . I guess it's because I stuck in here, I could have decommited, I could have left early, I stayed with it."

And Sark on a couple of topics:

*** On advising players about leaving for the NFL: "I don't know of anybody who is totally ready . . . it's a big adjustment on the field and a big adjustment in lifestyle . . . some are more ready than others."

*** On Buck Allen's impact: ". . . tremendous . . . what people don't know is he's the leader in total yardage in the conference . . . and such a good receiver he forces teams to defend all five positions."


Trojans will practice the next two mornings at 10 before taking off two days Sunday and Monday, then practice Tuesday morning before busing to San Diego that afternoon . . . WR Steven Mitchell returned after missing Wednesday studying for an exam and played with an elastic sleeve on his right knee and made a number of plays . . . Ajene Harris tried to go in pads but ended up taking them off and joining the Rehab Island crew with Chad Wheeler, Jabari Ruffin, Tre Madden, Kenny Bigelow, Jordan Simmons, Christian Tober, Jordan Austin, Chris Willson and Uchenna Nwosu (in a boot) in the rope pull workouts and bike riding during practice . . . Sark said the absence at practice now that exams are finished by academically ineligible tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was not an indication of his not going forward with USC but that it was strictly a matter of Jalen concentrating on his academics for now and then getting back to football in the spring.

For a wrapup of Thursday morning's practice, check out THURSDAY HOLIDAY BOWL PRACTICE 8 GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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