Done with the Monday two-step of practice followed by the Steve Sarkisian show on KJR-AM.
And as I type this, my ears are just starting to return to normal after the verbal onslaught at practice of Conquest, the song USC plays after every score and victory.
Sarkisian did the same last year when during one memorable (if somewhat unbearable) practice he ordered the Notre Dame fight song played for the entriety of a two-hour workout.
As for practice, it was the usually brisk 90-minute affair, this time in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
Nothing too out of the ordinary at practice. As Sarkisian said earlier, James Johnson appears to be rounding into form, catching one deep ball and sprinting down the sidelines during a team drill. And Johri Fogerson also practiced, appearing as if he’s got a chance to play this week, as well. In terms of personnel, looked like Cameron Elisara got a few more plays at defensive end than usual with Everrette Thompson getting some plays at defensive tackle, the spot where he played primarily last season.
As for the coach’s show. …
— Sarkisian didn’t back down from his comment during the press conference earlier in the day when he said that USC is the most talented team in the conference top to bottom. Sarkisian said that “they’ve got an extreme amount of depth . … they’ve got so much depth, which is so different than most of the teams in our conference.” Told by hosts Bob Rondeau and Mike Gastineau that that comment might ruffle feathers in Oregon and Stanford, Sarkisian said that “that’s not a knock on those guys — they are good football teams, trust me. What SC has that is different is the overall depth. They can sustain injuries (and replace them with players just as good). … that’s what makes them unique.”
— Sarkisian also said he doesn’t think probation is impacting the way USC is playing on the field. “I really don’t,” he said. “I think they are adjusting to a different style of play. When Pete (Carroll) was there, there was meat and potatoes and they played hard, but there was a flash about it. But this is a blue collar approach. You can see on film, they are utilziing the running game to set up the passing game. … they have a real belief in running the football.”
— Defensively, he said that USC is “still finding its way” with four new starters in the secondary but said the defensive front is as strong as ever and that “they are close.”
— Sarkisian talked again about his relationship with USC coach Lane Kiffin saying that “I have a lot of respect for Lane as a football coach. He’s got a bright football mind” and noting that they have good conversations because “we’re in similar stages in our careers.”
— Talking about the similiarities of the schemes of the two teams, Sarkisian said that “we’ve got a good understanding of the general schemes, it’s just a matter of understanding what they are trying to do (to stop UW’s offense or move on its defense).”
— He said it will be good to have Cort Dennison back at middle linebacker this week saying that while Garret Gilliland played well, it impacted some of the other defenders who felt they had to pick up the slack with Dennison out and tried to do too much. “It eases some of the anxiety about some of the other guys around him and they can settle in and do their own job,” he said.
— Asked about young players who stepped up during the week in practice, he started with safety Sean Parker, saying “he’s really starting to show some of the things that we thought he would.” He said in one practice Parker had two interceptions, forced a fumbled and batted down two other passes. He also mentioned Zach Fogerson as both a tailback and fullback, and Kevin Smith. And he also again mentioned the importance that Johnson’s return could bring.
— Asked about changes to the depth chart, he said there is nothing significant but that there will “be some subtleties, a couple different personnel groupings, especially on offense, that I think are going to work out well for us.”
— Asked about the statements of Kiffin and a few USC players that the Trojans are really gunning for the Huskies to get revenge for last year’s Husky win in Seattle, Sarkisian said he’s “not concerned about that” and that he doesn’t have any doubt that his team will play hard.
— That last statement was also part of a conversation about how Sarkisian felt the team at times lacked competitive fire against Nebraska. Sarkisian said he likes the way the team has responded in practice since then. “Our guys got the message — they are going to play hard,” he said.
— Asked if the team made changes in the wake of the loss to Nebraska, he said “not wholesale changes. We don’t need to go crazy here. We’ve got systems that have stood the test of time. But we’ll make subtle changes that suit our personnel.”
— He said the one thing he thinks may have improved the most in the bye week is tackling. “I think our tackling will be much better this weekend,” he said. “It was a huge focus for us — we did tacking drills every day last week and another one today and I think the tackling will show up, not only on defense but on special teams as well.” He said that they aren’t necessarily live tackling every day but emphasizing that you’ve “got to wrap up. Not just go through the motions but practice fast. So that’s been addressed, as well. … we are playing faster and competing better.”
— Asked if what happened against Nebraska might take some pressure off Jake Locker in terms of the national spotlight, Sarkisian said that “if it’s pressure Jake Locker feels, it is to perform for his teammates.”
— He said he thinks the team will play faster this week, particularly on defense, going against a more conventional system. “We shouldn’t have so much hesitation looking for the smoke and what not,” he said.
— He said in looking back at the Nebraska game, his biggest regret may be that “we never got them out of their comfort zone. They only threw 11 passes. They continually ran the football. We never forced them to throw. If i could it it over again it would be, man, if we could stop the run and make them throw the ball we’d have a much better chance.”