Taking part in their final practice of the season on the USC campus on Saturday morning, the Trojans continued to gear up for the team’s Sun Bowl clash with Georgia Tech with an energetic workout in helmets and shorts.
“I think we were pretty fired up,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek, who took the majority of the snaps with the first team offense on the day. “All of the guys out here, we came out hot, we had great tempo, and that just carried throughout the rest of practice. People were flying around and making plays, and it was a lot of fun.”
The team will now take a few days off for the holidays before traveling to El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 26, where they will pick up their preparation for the Dec. 31 contest.
Saturday’s workout marked the last time that USC seniors such as safety T.J. McDonald and center Khaled Holmes took part in a Trojans’ practice on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field. A day for reflection, USC coach Lane Kiffin talked about the incredible amount of adversity that this year’s graduating unit has faced in their time on campus.
“I can’t imagine a group of seniors that have been through so many ups and downs,” Kiffin said. “You know, the story that we’ve told so many times in coming here at the program’s highest [point], coming off of seven straight BCS games, and then maybe the program’s lowest with the sanctions and the probation, and a great season two years ago. So they’ve been through a lot, and it’s a little bit sad that it’s their last practice here, but we still have more practices, fortunately.”
Added McDonald, who was one of the last players to leave the field on Saturday: “I don’t know if it’s hit me yet. I’m just so thankful for all of the opportunities that I’ve had here, for the players that I’ve been able to play with, for the coaches … I’m definitely appreciate of everything in my time here. From Pat Haden, the athletic director, on down, everybody has been so good to me. I’m definitely going to miss this place a lot.”
Looking forward to taking part in his first bowl game since 2009 – when he was just a freshman – McDonald is focused on ending his career on the right note.
“For me, it’s my last game in the cardinal and gold as a Trojan, so you definitely want to go out there and you want to represent – leave a lasting impression, not just on your fans or on your family, but on this team,” McDonald said. “This is the last time that this team is going to be together, so we’re going to go out there and do it one last time.”
Martin growing comfortable at center
Since switching over from guard to center last week – a move made with an eye to the future as the coaches search for a replacement for Holmes – sophomore Marcus Martin has made great strides, with his biggest obstacle coming in learning how to snap the ball out of the shotgun formation.
“It’s real comfortable,” Martin said of the position switch. “First it threw me off because I’m like, ‘I’m playing center. What?’ It’s just one of those things where you just have to learn, and once you learn how to get the hand-to-hand snap, that’s probably the easiest one. The challenging part is the shotgun, because you don’t have any idea where it’s going to go. You’ve got to kind of just trust your hand and faith in God – that’s it.”
And it’s precisely for that reason that Martin could be found following practice on Saturday spending extra time working on his shotgun snapping technique with special teams coach John Baxter.
“He’s been a real big help,” Martin said of Baxter. “Him, Coach Helton, Coach Cregg, Coach Polamalu … everybody. They’ve taught me the pro-style and they taught me the lace-style, so I’ve just got to see which one I like better.”