USA Today Sports

Skills Camp brings USC coaches home

After a couple of months mostly out of town, Trojans coaches were back home this weekend and happy to be here for the Skills Camp at USC Saturday.

They're back. And are they happy about that.

Tommie Robinson had been "on the road five straight weeks recruiting," the USC running backs coach said, "and then the last two weeks camping."

After spring football, the job just gets more demanding. Or at least it has this year with all the national camping all over the place. Tee Martin was back from Jacksonville on his last stop. Everybody had a story.

Saturday at USC, with 300 high school kids in USC shirts and their parents watching and encouraging them as they went through the drills, was a good time to take in the homecoming of sorts.

Clancy Pendergast brought his secondary coach, Ronnie Bradford over to see Steelers great Carnell Lake, who was there to watch his son, Quentin, a three-star defensive back out of Mater Dei, later offered by USC. A UCLA star and former coach there for a year under Rick Neuheisel, Lake, an Irvine resident, has been the Steelers secondary coach the past five seasons.

A 10-year veteran of the NFL himself, Bradford deferred to Lake. "I wish I played as long as you did," he said of Lake's 13-year career. They talked of college coaching today. "I've been everywhere that has football," Bradford said, "Texas, Georgia, you name it, I've been there."

And now the USC coaches, from Clay Helton and Tee, Clancy and Tommie to Tyson Helton, Neil Callaway, Kenechi Udeze and Johnny Nansen, were all here, back in town for the weekend.

But they weren't the only ones. USC's new football players, from Connor Murphy to Jamel Cook, in a cast for his fractured foot, and Pie Young along with Velus Jones, were starting to trickle in to begin their college careers the first of next week.

They got to mix with Trojans Sam Darnold, Michael Hutchings, Zach Banner, Daniel Imatorbhebhe, Uchenna Nwosu, Cameron Smith, Darreus Rogers, Steven Mitchell Jr, Chris Hawkins, Ronald Jones, Deontay Burnett, Justin Davis and Kenny Bigelow with the post-surgical Bigelow and Smith bouncing around knee brace-less and without a limp.

Could Bigelow's rapid recovery possibly mean a quicker return than expected, he was asked. His answer? Arms out, palms up. Who knows, he gestured with shoulders shrugged  Not a no. "He was playing so well when he was hurt," Tee Martin says.

But that was just part of the talk that was all over the place Saturday.Some of it was fun as when Banner spotted Big Hawk, Chris Hawkins' dad, just back from a camp at Washington with some of his players in a purple and gold UW shirt. Or how proud Big Hawk was of the offer one of them, 2018 prospect Manuel Allen, got from USC.

Speaking of proud coaches, there was former Trojan, Jordan Campbell, now the linebackers coach at Corona Centennial but also the proprietor of the Winners Circle, a workout facility in Corona, that is part of the Centennial machine that will produce a state title this year, proclaimed super-salesman Jordan. He talked about how happy he is after three NFL years to be back where he can also be back working with USC again in what was a tumultuous relationship when he was here as a player.

Speaking of working, we noticed USC strength and conditioning director Ivan Lewis taking a break from the camp for time with the raw-boned Murphy, who is all of his reported 6-foot-7 height but maybe hasn't put on the weight some have said in recent months. Is he a hand-down-on-the-ground guy yet? To be determined.

Hutchings, in his "Just a kid from Antioch" t-shirt was reminded that there's just another kid from Antioch that USC is mightily interested in -- Najee Harris.

And so it goes. Recruiting never stops. It's one of the real skills that comes out at Skills Camp.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

Not a member? Sign up now and you'll get a seven day FREE trial! Join the Peristyle Family and get all the great information from USC football practices, Trojan football games, access to the Peristyle and all of the premium recruiting updates on! Become a member today! Top Stories