5th year seniors bringing it

Cody Temple, Soma Vainuku going out on top if it's up to them.

Cody Temple has been preparing himself for this moment since the end of the Holiday Bowl. The fifth-year senior knows it's now or never and why not put together a final season he'd be proud of. And maybe would take him somewhere on the next level.

But first things first for the 294-pound defensive lineman from Bakersfield who has been elevated to the first group on the defensive front with nose tackle Antwaun Woods and end Delvon Simmons playing the four technique lining up across from the offensive tackle.

"The guy is playing with a lot more confidence," D-line coach Chris Wilson said Sunday after USC's second August practice, still just in helmets, no pads, and shorts, "with a lot more effort. He's taking care of his body. You can tell he realizes he's invested a lot into this process."

And now that he's healthy, and quicker and much more flexible and explosive as the result of offseason yoga work, he's ready.

"I believe I'm as prepared as I could possibly be," Cody said after learning he'd be going at the tackle spot which has him directly opposite Zach Banner every day.

"I knew I had to be more explosive, have more bend through my hips, use my eyes better, my hands, it's a whole different way of playing out there than at nose," he says. No longer are you in a phone booth drawing the double team.

"I really appreciate the coaches giving me the chance. This is the opportunity I've wanted."

It's all part of the plan, Wilson says. "We're going to be working on a lot of combinations. We want to see players with a lot of different groups out there . . . we want to see how comfortable they are with what we're doing."

And so that could include some of the freshmen in the near future? "They're only freshmen in college," Wilson says, "not football." So yes it could.

They're going to get their chance, he says. "It's only Day 2," Wilson says with a big grin. They don't want to get ahead of themselves.

And now that you ask, he answers the question everyone has for this defensive front minus one Leonard Williams: How can you possibly improve on last season losing Leonard?

"We can have great rotations with athletes who can play and when I say that, I'm talking about big bodies, guys who can do things," Wilson says.

"Definitely," he says, this team does. Maybe, like Cody Temple, some of them have been here all along.

Steve Sarkisian talked about that later. "What I like about our defense is not so much individually but guys playing as a team . . . not waiting for the next guy to make a play . . . I don't know that we always played that way . . . now they're not waiting for Leonard to make that play."

More senior leadership from Soma

There he was again, all 265 pounds of him rumbling on offense a number of times Sunday when Soma Vainuku got the chance in USC's power-run game with tailback Justin Davis sitting out with a minor hamstring issue.

"That's the luxury of our depth," Sark said on a night when Tre Madden showed he just may be all the way back. And freshmen Dominic Davis, Ronald Jones II and Aca'cedric Ware all got a chance to show what they could do.

And yet the memory of this night could be of the fifth-year senior Soma getting it into gear on a number of carries but with one 30-yard highlght-reel run where you're forced to realize just how fast he can move. "I never wanted my weight to be an excuse, Soma says. "I always wanted to be able to run."

It's something we hadn't seen this summer because of Soma's internship with a major real estate development group that had him missing the player-run practices. "I loved it," he said of the business experience.

But at the same time, "even though the guys knew what I was doing," he said, he didn't want to give up the "practice-hard, prepare-smart" torch he says "Rhett Ellison passed down to me and Randall [Telfer]" and now Randall's gone.

"It's just Cody [Kessler] and me left," Soma says. So instead of getting to the summer workouts after the team run and lifting, Soma would call guys up on the phone to see how they were doing. "I really do want to pass it on," he says of the mentality Ellison brought to that 2011 team that finished 10-2 and just kept getting better.

"I don't know how many plays and reps I'm going to get," Soma said. "But I'm building a book to show them what I can do."

Leon III liking what he sees

The ability of this offense to keep challenging them is really helping the defense says safety Leon McQuay III, who says his role is as much coach and cheerleader for the young guys. And for the early part of fall practice, he'll be staying at safety after working at corner in the summer.

"We want to get the freshmen all the work they can get at corner right now," he says. "I'll get back there [to corner]. But those young guys can play . . . they've all made plays -- Ykili [Ross} had an interception, Martel [Tell] and Biggie [Iman Marshall]."

Making plays is what it's all about now, says the junior from Florida. "You can go all out now when you know what you're doing and don't have to stop and think about it," he says. That's the difference this year.

SUNDAY QUICK TAKES: Trojans move to the afternoon Monday at 2:30 and add shoulder pads to the practice mix . . . Sark says he's going to announce the four blueshirts all at once when all the paperwork is done on their grant-in-aids which hasn't happened yet . . . the four are Oklahoma transfer Taylor McNamara, Florida transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe who will sit out this season and a pair of freshmen -- WR Deontay Burnett from Serra and OT Clayton Johnston from Servite . . . Weight time: JuJu Smith-Schuster says he'd like to get down from 215 to 205 but during his break at home before the start of fall camp, he may have eaten too well and is still at 215 . . . Injury list: John Plattenburg left practice with a hip pointer but when he returned, he didn't seem too bothered by it . . . TB Justin Davis missed Sunday with a hamstring that USC's depth now lets him sit out . . . and freshman DT Rasheem Green clearly not ready to go yet. He does the walkthroughs, Sark said, and he's out there with his hands and wrists taped but much of the time without his helmet on and just observing . . . he's still walking with a limp . . . both freshman RBs, Dominic Davis and Ronald Jones, were singled out by Sark for stepping in and stepping up with Davis out . . . still very competitive through all three-plus rotations with the defense winning its second straight "final five" plays, this time 3-2 on close call on the final play . . . WR Darreus Rogers had maybe his best day as a Trojan . . . freshman LB Osa Masina got his first INT on a leaping grab of deflected ball . . . WR Christian Tober just keeps making plays . . . the mastery of the offense, even by the freshman QBs, is pretty special. They manage to run a ton of plays even down through the fourth teams . . . crowd not as big as Saturday but still large . . . O-line looked like you'd expect with TE Connor Spears, RT Zach Banner, RG Viane Talamaivao (slight hamstring), C Max Tuerk, LG Damien Mama and LT Toa Lobendahn with freshman Tyler Petite getting in at TE behind Spears . . . he's the lone freshman to run with the ones . . . D-line starting out for the second straight day with Cody Temple, Antwaun Woods and Delvon Simmons . . . 16 players, six of them freshmen, worked on catching punts and kickoffs.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Saturday's workout, check out FALL PRACTICE 2 SUNDAY GHOST NOTES.

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

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