Getting back on track

From Steve Sarkisian's day after to getting the run game right, Wednesday was a step in the right direction for USC.

Steve Sarkisian seemed genuinely relieved and relaxed. He was back to coaching, he'd made it through Tuesday and even better, his team, with the way it worked in Wednesday's full-pads practice, was back as well.

"I'm proud of our guys," Sark said, "proud of the way they embraced the day."

Sark looked like it was back to business as usual but it was "a balancing act," he said. "It wasn't easy, I'll be honest with you . . . I was able to do it. I was able to get through it . . . all in all, just moving forward."

And getting it done with his team. "I'm not here to make excuses," Sark said. This was a good practice.

Cody Kessler agreed. "Assignment wise," he said, there was real progress in blitz pick up for Arkansas State, a top 20 sack team, and third-down offense.

Sark said this was as good a job this team has done running the ball this fall. And that's with just three tailbacks -- Tre Madden, Dominic Davis and Aca'cedric Ware. Ronald Jones II "isn't feeling well," Sark said, with no further clarification. Justin Davis still has that rib cage cartilage issue and he's not back in pads yet. And James Toland was in a noncontact yellow jersey.

Although 265-pound Soma Vainuku did get off one big run Wednesday.

The short run game is something USC has "to figure out "by Monday," Sark said. "What's great is having Tre who's over 230 pounds." That alone changes the name of USC's short run game according to Sark.

"The first time we're third and one, third and two, we have to know what we're going to call," Sark said -- who's going to get the ball, who's going to be pulling. They're not there yet.

But there's another part of this equation. For the first time since his knee surgery nine months ago, last year's left tackle Chad Wheeler was 100 percent and fully cleared for contact and back in there with the first group.

And doing so despite the odd concussion that he got last week from a misthrown medicine ball that either hit him in the temple with -- or without -- his helmet on. His coach, Bob Connelly, said he thought Chad had his helmet on. Chad said he didn't. Whatever, it may have slowed him down the last couple of days. But now he's back.

"I've got to get in better shape and get ready for Arkansas State," Wheeler said. His big concern: "Endurance," he said.

He was joined by right tackle Zach Banner, who said when it comes to Sark's situation, he'd like to "tell you guys who never sleep not to ask questions [about it] and move on to football." But Zach knows that's not happening. The questions will come.

But the answer to those questions came from the normally taciturn Wheeler, who said simply: "It's all about winning."

Indeed.

Mitchell likes the work


He's had a sports hernia and rolled his ankle on top of his knee surgery as a freshman and wide receiver Steven Mitchell has those out of his mind. What's he thinking about?

On a day like Wednesday, when ball after ball came his way, allowing Steven to plant and take off in one direction or another, he was thinking he'd like "as many balls as I can get." Keep 'em coming.

"That's always been my game," says Mitchell, who thinks he's running a 4.3 forty time now. It's called being explosive. And turning short throws into long plays.

"I think I've always been well-conditioned," he says with a look to the NFL player whose game he likes best -- the Steelers' Antonio Brown. Well conditioned, maybe, but not well known.

With just seven receptions in an injury-plagued 2014, he says "a lot of schools don't even know who I am . . . that has to be good for me."

Just as coming out of the slot alongside Juju Smith-Schuster or Adoree' Jackson has to be good for Steven with a linebacker or safety having to cover him. Get into space, get the ball and make something happen.

WEDNESDAY QUICK HITS:


Pac-12 Networks day at USC for the full-pads 8:15 a.m. workout. Show will air tonight at 9 with Yogi Roth, Curtis Conway, host Mike Yam and former Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti . . . Toa Lobendahn moved to right tackle with the first group for several possessions in O-line coach Bob Connelly's never-ending attempts to get Zach Banner with the program . . . senior D-lineman Claude Pelon out in full pads again after arthroscopic surgery last week . . . Jordan Simmons out again (fluid on his left knee) . . . Antwaun Woods working to get back from a shoulder issue . . . Sark says he's hoping he'll be back for Arkansas State . . . Woods said "next week" he returns . . . Ykili Ross had his right arm in a sling, no pads, with an ice pack taped to that shoulder . . . also out of pads with his ribcage cartilage injury is Justin Davis . . . the same for Lamar Dawson and his cracked ribs . . . freshman Ronald Jones is out in pads but not feeling well and gets just a little position work but no team work . . . hard to block freshman Noah Jefferson coming in from his DE spot and disrupting the play in the backfield . . . Jacob Daniel also notable out there . . . big offensive days for Dominic Davis and Steven Mitchell.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Wednesday's workout, check out WEDNESDAY WEEK 3 GHOST NOTES.

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

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