Deep, young . . . and 'paying dividends'

USC linebackers coach Peter Sirmon likes the idea of getting a young group in numbers like this. It's going to pay off by the end of a long season.

Linebackers coach Peter Sirmon is right in the middle of USC's youth -- and depth -- turnaround from last fall. And he likes it a lot, having all those young guys and newcomers to work with.

For the record, USC's 33 first-time players are second in the nation to TCU's 36, tied with Kansas and Boston College. As to true freshmen, the 15 USC has played are behind only Tennessee, Georgia and Army.

For all sorts of reasons, those numbers are not a problem for Sirmon. Not at all.

"I'd say it's just the opposite," Sirmon was saying of his young, and deep, roster after practice Monday, especially that young part. "It's my personality that impacts them now. There's no one else to impact them, no one else for them to listen to."

Then there are the numbers. "We played 10 guys last week," Sirmon says of the ASU game. Three of those were true freshmen in starter Cameron Smith along with Osa Masina and Porter Gustin along with sophomores Olajuwon Tucker and Uchnna Nwosu.

That group had 11 of USC's 62 tackles at ASU with Smith USC's leading tackler after four games.

"I want guys that are tough and very consistent," Sirmon says, "I like knowing what to expect every day."

But Sirmon isn't looking for "emotional" guys. "I wasn't overly emotional myself." And that works with the consistent, play-every-day part of this.

And yet he's not looking for emotion-free folks out there. His message to his players is that he wants "great passion and perseverance for long-time achievement."

The obvious talent that USC has was on display as Sirmon, a former high school quarterback, tossed fades into the end zone in a one-on-one drill. Su'a Cravens, of course, and Masina make extremely athletic interceptions look almost easy.

But it's not just about stars. "Those ASU reps were well-divided," Sirmon says. "It's been such a drastic difference from what was available last year" when guys like Anthony Sarao were playing 110 plays in some games.

"We don't have to do that and it's going to pay dividends," Sirmon says, although maybe not everybody will play every game as playing time sorts itself out.

Su'a is an exception," Sark said Monday. But even Su'a played just 53 plays at Arizona State. "Scott Felix played just 22."

And that's where the "dividends" come in. "Every Pac-12 season becomes a war of attrition," Sirmon says.

And this young, deep, getting-better Trojan team is well-positioned for that battle.

"Guys aren't saving themselves," Sark said, "aren't thinking they have to save themselves for the fourth quarter."


*** Delvon Simmons: on one reason why he's been playing with much more force up front this fall. "I'm 300 pounds," he said Monday after Jabari Ruffin praised him for shaking the ball loose at Arizona State on the 94-yard Chris Hawkins' scoop and score. "This time last year I'd gone down to 270. I'm really keeping my weight up this season."

*** Ruffin: on the emphasis this week on getting through and making plays: "Absolutely. Not only are we going to be looking for TFLs (tackles for losses) but hitting the quarterback . . . we're getting more confident . . . you definitely notice it this [UW] week . . . it's going to be fun getting some five- and seven-man pressures . . . we're looking to do that this weekend."

*** Lamar Dawson:: "I'm 100 percent . . . I felt good in the Arizona State game but I could do better . . . it's not the scheme, it's the players . . . we'd like to be as physical as we can be . . . we just have to get off blocks better."

Pelon injures ankle

Claude Pelon looked to have sprained an ankle and limped off to the trainer's table carrying his right shoe in a good deal of pain. Eventually he was carted off to the locker room. No way the senior D-lineman who has been having an impact could have walked off the field. They're thinking it's a sprained ankle, Sark said.


With the extra practice this bye week to get ready for Washington Thursday (6 p.m. game, ESPN) at the Coliseum, USC went in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets Monday morning and again, shorter than normal working about an hour and 40 minutes . . . CB Kevon Seymour looks to be good to go, or very close to it, Sark said . . . WR Darreus Rogers not so much although in much better shape today and available for all but contact work with his hamstring injured in the ASU game nine days ago . . . Khaliel Rodgers back from a trip home to Delaware for personal reasons allowed Toa Lobendahn to move back to his RG spot with the first group while Viane Talamaivao was at RG with the twos . . . Plays of the day: On defense, a leaping onehanded Beckhamesque pick by Adoree' Jackson in one on one work . . . On offense, give it to Adoree' as well after getting more chances on offense and in his white jersey can be a difficult cover -- if he already wasn't -- for his defensive teammates also in white jerseys on a deep ball to end the day against the Scout defense.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details on Monday's workout, check out MONDAY UW WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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