Coaching up the young guys

Peter Sirmon has done this before and the USC linebackers coach is enjoying his chance to coach a group of special young players.

USC linebackers coach Peter Sirmon has had the good fortune to have been able to coach really good young linebackers in his career. Tennessee had two of them when the former Titans linebacker started out in Knoxville and when he got to Washington, there was All-American Shaq Thompson, waiting for him.

And now he's at USC and he has four young guns to get ready.

Two of them -- first game starter on the inside Cameron Smith and RUSH end Porter Gustin -- seem to be coaching themselves up despite their youth.

"Those guys are stone cold," Sirmon says. "There's a different way of coaching them. They're both very serious guys. It's important to them."

Gustin said of his opening game effort that had him with three tackles was good from the standpoint of "getting out to play on the Coliseum," he said, "but I didn't do as well as I should . . . I was thinking too much, not playing physical enough."

But his goal was simple: "I wanted to prove I could play," says Gustin, who came into the game at 254 punds on his 6-foot-5 frame. He thinks that's where he should be, he says, but he'll be "wherever the coaches think I should be. Wherever I have to be to be fast enough, to bend enough."

It's whatever it takes to "set the edge, rush the quarterback and play the pass," Gustin says. There's a common thread to the players he likes: "Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing when he played here," says Gustin, who would have been 11 years old during Cushing's final All-American season at USC in 2008.

That class would have been USC's previous four-linebacker class that challenges this one when you add in Osa Masina inside and John Houston, who may redshirt as Su'a Cravens' understudy at the SAM spot.

"We'll see how they develop," Sirmon says, but one thing he likes: As much as they're getting to play right away, they won't have to do what Hayes Pullard did a year ago at Arizona when he was in for 115 snaps or Anthony Sarao, on all the special teams as well, who answered the bell for a beyond-belief 121 snaps that game.

"We think all the guys will get significant reps," Sirmon says. "I think what you see that what all these guys have, as they should, a great desire to improve."

But Masina, who had a scoop-and-score 46-yard TD Saturday, had another Pick-Six in practice Wednesday with a couple of big stops in team run, "is a different personality," Sirmon says.

"He's a really physical guy," Steve Sarkisian said and the last couple of weeks "hes playing with a lot more confidence."

And if this week's practices are any indication, he'll be playing a lot more.

Enjoying the freedom a head coach has

"It wasn't just coachspeak," Sark said after Wednesday's full-pads practice. He really was going to become the head coach when he gave up playcalling.

He was going to take the time to talk to players and assistants on the sidelines during games, to stroll all over the practice field to get to see inside what the rest of the team was doing during the week and how that might play out on Saturday.

"It allows me to coach better on game day," Sark said, "knowing exactly what we're trying to accomplish."

JuJu just let it go and then got it back

As the leader of this team at age 18, Juju Smith-Schuster admitted that he wasn't crazy about how USC was practicing Tuesday. "Yesterday was kind of sluggish," he said. "It was getting back after a long weekend."

And at the end of a long practice, when fellow wide receiver Isaac Whitney did not get back to make a block before Cravens lit JuJu up almost before he caught the ball, JuJu had had enough. He double-shivered Whitney under his shoulder pads and left him with no doubt that this was unacceptable.

It wasn't all that was unacceptable. "I was frustrated. I got on him. I pushed him out of anger and frustration," JuJu said after practice Wednesday without a hint of defensiveness. He did it. He owned up to it.

And then he did something about it. "I went into the locker room after practice and talked to him about it." And that was it. It was over. Finished. Done. No hard feelings. But a message delivered.

WEDNESDAY QUICK-HITTERS: Secondary looks like it's developed an established eight deep now. Linebackers go 12 deep. Looks like the number for the D-line is 10. That's 30 first-line guys to get ready and get in there. Only the D-line right now doesn't have Scout teamers working with them. The five Scout team D-line guys stay away for early hitting the sled stuff . . . Lamar Dawson working on his own, in pads, looks good with all the movement stuff but those cracked ribs not cleared for contact . . . shooting for Stanford, Sark says . . . just a ton of kickoff work today with Adoree' Jackson, Dominic Davis, JuJu Smith getting return work and on a squib kick, Porter Gustin on a return . . . Damien Mama to the trainer's table early with a minor knee bruise. No big deal . . . later Aca'cedric Ware has one . . . freshman Scout teamer Isaiah Langley with a couple of nice deep catchup breakups.

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


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