Last year at this time, the question about USC's football gear centered on whether the Trojans would add an updated chrome helmet to what has become one of the classic looks in college football.
No such high profile topic this year. Maybe next year, says Todd Hewitt, the Trojans' director of equipment operations. That's when they'll work on getting the cardinal jersey and chrome helmet combination in exact color synch. It takes that long a lead time.
But right now, it's the more mundane stuff, as Hewitt gets in at 5:30 in the morning to be there for the 6 a.m workouts and stays through the start of the 5:30 throwing sessions in case the players need anything.
One question that's come up is the tradition for USC's incoming players to get workout gear with no SC logos, no cardinal and gold trim, just plain old unmarked black and white shorts and grey tees.
"That's a Pete Carroll thing," Hewitt says, who is following in the footsteps of his dad, Craig who was USC's equipment boss before moving on to the LA Rams with Todd working with the Rams for 44 years after starting as an 11-year-old ball boy. "Pete started it. They have to earn it," he says of that cardinal and gold SC.
Last spring, for example, the five incoming freshmen earned it by the spring game and had their logo gear put out for them that day. This summer's new guys will have to do the same.
This has all been in the works since Signing Day and even before, Hewitt says, as he follows the news and notes things like how many longer bodies the Trojans are recruiting and what that might mean for their shoe inventory. Right now, with the year's supply of 700 or so new shoes already in, you have to be able to accommodate the additional size 16s, he says.
Although it's not the new shoes that have been of interest here with players like Adoree Jackson, Su'a Cravens, Jabari Ruffi and Kevon Seymour preferring a Nike shoe, the Carbon Vapor model, that Nike no longer makes. "We found some on the East Bay catalog and then some at a Keokuk, Iowa sporting goods store," Hewitt says, and bought them sight unseen.
One problem. Some of those models were bright red, others pink. So they had to dye them. Head manager Anthony Machado, whose family has a dairy farm in Turlock, came up with the perfect solution. "We have a black marking pen for our cows that -- like a big Sharpie -- does the job and stays on forever," he says. So he ordered up some from their supplier and they did the trick.
But now that you know, those shoes you see Adoree outrunning opponents in might actually be pink ones.
Hewitt's history with the Rams and coming up with custom-made shoes for the likes of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk comes in handy now when they'll be doing the same for Tre Madden and Anthony Sarao, both coming off foot surgery.
The other shoe question for this USC team is always Cody Kessler's choice of a bigger, wider shoe. "It's actually the shoe T.J. McDonald wore," Hewitt says. "It's not a lineman's shoe, it's a shoe for skilled players like tight ends and linebackers from 225 to 260 pounds. Cody's had some ankle trouble so he likes it." It also gives him a wider throwing base than the lighter, narrower speed cleats.
The one other issue right now is something Hewitt has been working on since right after Signing Day when he sat down with Steve Sarkisian to go over the new numbers and see what was available for whom and any numbers that may have been commited in the recruiting process.
Here's what we know so far: There will be some single-digit numbers. Iman Marshall will wear No. 8, sharing it with freshman quarterback Ricky Town. Safety Marvel Tell will share No. 7 with Steven Mitchell. Linebacker John Houston arrived just in time to inherit No. 10 from a departing Hayes Pullard.
Isaiah Langley will get No. 17 with Aca'cedric Ware wearing No. 28, moving Christian Tober to No. 29. Porter Gustin had been No 7 in high school but Sark picked No 27 for him. Gustin didn't go for that one so he looked at the available numbers and is now No. 45.
Up front, Rasheem Green gets Leonard Williams' No 94 with Jacob Daniels wearing No. 92. As for a two-way possible player like Ykili Ross, he gets No 30 that he won't have to share since USC is not sure which side of the ball he'll line up on.
Quick take on summer throwing session No. 4
Not many incoming freshmen made it to the field Thursday as the ones enrolled have a number of required off-the-field sessions . . . but locals like Marshall and Deontay Burnett were here on their own since they don't enroll until the second summer session July 1 and both continue to impress, staying late for one-on-one work . . . also here was JC transfer De'Quan Hampton, who also stayed late for one-on-one and catching the ball off the Juggs machine . . . Put the number of players down to maybe 65 Thursday . . . No Sam Darnold, Daniel, Ware, Christian Rector, Noah Henderson, Caleb Wilson, Gustin, Ross or Houston, who were here in earlier sessions and have enrolled . . . Cyrus Hobbi appears to have been admitted to grad school in communications management and was working out officially running pass patterns and working with the lone other tight end -- Connor Spears -- on patterns now that Hobbi is a 245 pounder, down from the 285-pound center he was two years ago before retiring because of back problems . . . Impressive nights from quarterbacks Kessler and Max Browne and wide receivers Mtchell and Juju Smith, who also stayed late to catch dozens of balls off the Juggs machine . . . the lanky Burnett continues to impress . . . for the first time you had the holdover first groups on both lines all together -- with Toa Lobendahn at left tackle joined by, from left to right, Damien Mama, Max Tuerk, Vine Talamaivao and Zach Banner with rehabbing Chad Wheeler doing the prepractice work at left tackle with the second group while on defense, Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Claude Pelon also played as a unit.
CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Thursday's workout, check out THURSDAY SUMMER THROWING SESSION 4 GHOST NOTES.
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