The Trojans held their first Rose Bowl practice outside of the confines of Howard Jones Field. Staying at a hotel in Santa Monica, the team will bus from the hotel to Home Depot Center practice facilities for the next few days. Being off-campus, staying at a hotel and commuting to practice and events gives the team a better sense of preparation and focus for a major bowl game. USC takes on Illinois January 1, 2008, 2:10 p.m. PST on ABC.
Crisp and Cool
On a cool afternoon in Carson, California, the USC football team practiced for the first time outside of Howard Jones Field. A slight mist fell at the end of practice cooling the already chilly field. As the team begins preparations for the Rose Bowl game plan, John David Booty looked sharp, as did Fred Davis, Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson.
Practice was held at two practice fields adjacent to Home Depot Center. One field was turf while the other was natural grass. Evidently, the field inside the stadium is having sod replaced, moving the Trojans' practice to the outside practice fields. Coach Carroll thought the facilities were great, but mentioned that having two separate fields makes it a little challenging for the Trojans' style of practice (running from drill-to-drill).
Shoring Up Security
While walking toward the practice facility one would notice a slight increase of security. Unlike the "open feel" of practice at Howard Jones Field, USC is more careful about who watches practices here. As he drove his golf cart up and down the entry to the practice field, Director of Football Operations, Dennis Slutak remarked that he was just making certain that the area was ‘clear.'
Familiar Faces On the Field
Fighting Injury and Missing in Action
Chauncey Washington, Chilo Rachal, Keith Rivers and Patrick Turner are all battling to recover from injuries. Rivers remarked that he was taking "baby steps" in his recovery. Rachal and Turner both took time on stationary bicycles, trying to work out aches and pains.
Rivers commented on his recovery, "I'm just taking ‘baby-steps' and hopefully I can have some significant reps later in the next couple days, and hopefully have a full go next week. I had bone bruises and a high-ankle sprain."
Desmond Reed did not practice today; Coach Carroll remarked that he was finishing up a (final) paper for a class.
In the absence of Washington and Reed, Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight took advantage of the extra practice time and broke off some very nice runs. Allen Bradford and Stanley Havili also had some very nice gains.
Commenting on his playing time, Stafon Johnson said, "I feel good, I feel really good, the foot feels great, about 90-95%. We'll just continue to see how it feels throughout the preparation (for the Rose Bowl)."
John David Booty looked very comfortable and accurate in his passing. Most of his passes were short or medium range. Mark Sanchez took reps behind Booty and looked to be sharp as well. Hershel Dennis put in a good practice and Carroll commented that he is in great shape and a hard working player. Commenting on Reed, Carroll said, "He's probably the first guy (ever) to be a six-time conference championship member." Carroll was all praises for Dennis.
Practice Sites, Disneyland and Lawry's Beef Bowl
Practice will be held again at the Home Depot practice facilities on Friday and Saturday. The team will take a short break for Christmas before they return to Howard Jones Field on Wednesday, December 26th. The remaining practices for USC will be on campus, while Illinois will practice at the Home Depot Center.
Both teams will be at Disneyland on December 26, USC will hold their Lawry's Beef Bowl dinner on the 27th and Illinois is scheduled on the 28th.