Even as the headlines related to USC’s spring camp continue to focus on the the furious pace of practice, Steve Sarkisian has made it clear that getting his players — all of his players — up to speed mentally is just as important as getting their bodies ready for the uptempo.
Specific beneficiaries of this plan are the unfortunate multitude of players who are out or limited during the spring.
The list of injured Trojans is longer than anyone would hope, but Sarkisian’s staff isn’t letting that slow their development in the new offensive and defensive systems.
“We have a huge emphasis on walkthroughs right now,” Sarkisian said Thursday. “Prior to practice we do a 45-minute walkthrough that [injured players] are full participants in and they get a lot of their mental reps that way.”
Mental reps are critical in this period, even for seasoned veterans like Josh Shaw, Leonard Williams or Aundrey Walker, all injured and all non-participants in the first week of practice.
For players like Lamar Dawson, Justin Davis, Jordan Simmons and Zach Banner, whose starting aspirations could be severely hindered by injuries which will limit them while their competition takes the field, mental reps could be the difference between falling behind permanently and returning with a real chance at catching up.
The watchword is commitment and during the spring, the coaches will no doubt take note of who is and isn’t committed to the mental aspects of the game.
“To our credit, Josh Shaw, Leonard Williams, those types of guys, they love the game of football. They love USC,” said Sarkisian. “They wish they could be participating so when they get their chances, even in those walkthrough-type periods, they’re really engaged and focused.”