Summer signs for a team that could

Some summer ways to feel good about how these Trojans could live up to the high expectations here.

It's hard to say which of these was more impressive Monday night at the USC players-only throwing session.

*** There was three-way player Adoree Jackson leading the DBs in drills and talking them up just days after his return from an All-American effort at the NCAA Championships. Wasn't he supposed to take some time off?

*** Or maybe it was preseason All-American center Max Tuerk leading a skull session for the offensive line going over situations and explaining the rationale for why USC does what it does and showing them how.

*** Or it could have been just as simple as the accuracy and improved arm strength of Cody Kessler, who also runs the show exactly the way you'd hope a fifth-year senior Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback would with the best returning stats in the nation.

*** Or maybe it's the way unheralded freshmen receivers like blueshirt Deontay Burnett and tight end Caleb Wilson just keep making play after play. No one expected to see that. They may be lean and young but they can get open and catch the football.

*** One thing that is quietly understated here since there's not much emphasis on the run game is the way Justin Davis can get it into gear and get to his top end speed -- which seems to be at a higher top end than we've seen before -- so effortlessly.

*** And surely it's the 15 Trojans who stayed late to work on their routes, their throws, the Juggs machine, all of it.

*** But maybe more than anything it's the numbers. A dozen D-linemen huddle before moving off to Howard Jones Field to work on the grass there and you realize you haven't seen that many big guys who could play here in a long, long time.

*** Or or the O-line, despite missing three starters/former starters on this night, there's still a nine-deep rotation that you could go into the season with and feel pretty good about things -- athough you're not going to have to do that.

So as much as we look this summer for team leaders to step up, we have to think this might just work better here when everybody steps up. And when there are enough of them to do just that and compete with one another to see who it will be.

For a team whose center of gravity still seems pretty young, it's interesting to see this dynamic between leaders and players work itself out.

And it's not all going to happen the same way. Kevon Seymour leads without saying almost anything. Chris Hawkins doesn't stop talking. Both seem to work here.

And of course, this is the time of year when some of us choose to seize on the No. 3 preseason ranking Phil Steele has conferred on the Trojans not the ones that have them finishing third in the Pac-12.

It's good to aim high and expect a lot -- if you do it day after day after day. What we're seeing thi summer is a start.

Quick take on 5th summer throwing session Monday

The only "new" incoming freshman here was Marvell Tell who did get into action a bit as a DB . . . but at least three other inoming freshmen who have been here but not in team on the field in 11 on 11 got their first chances -- Porter Gustin at RUSH end/OLB along with defensive tackles Jacob Daniel and Noah Jefferson . . . big dudes all . . . Gustin's 6-foot-5 frame just jumps out at you . . . he really is that tall . . . no DB Iman Marshall here with his graduation coming up tonight . . . DT Rasheem Green here and observing but also still rehabbing his knee from high school . . . Incoming freshmen Burnett and TE Wilson just keep catching everything thrown their way . . . impressive stuff from those two . . . Another freshman who got lots of work was Aca'cedric Ware on a night when the running backs caught lots of checkdown passes . . . Kessler's accuracy is eye-popping this summer . . . Most extensive work we've seen for Hawkins, who does much of the talking for his quieter teamates beside -- Kevon Seymour and Leon McQuay . . . Another INT for Lamar Dawson who jumps routes the way you'd hope a fifth-year senior MLB would be able to do . . . Cameron Smith is also very active and around the football at MLB . . . doesn't look like a freshman any more . . . Looked like 65 players here with O-linemen Viane Talamaivao, Toa Lobendahn and Khaliel Rodgers not here . . . freshman QB Ricky Town clearly working on his delivery and ability to lock and load the football even when he can't get his entire body lined up to make a throw . . . a total of 15 players, including all three freshman QBs, most of the wide receivers and TEs, stayed for extra work after the 75-minute throwing session.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Monday's workout, check out MONDAY SUMMER THROWING SESSION 5 GHOST NOTES.

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