It’s been a rough seven days for USC football at a time when rough weeks have become far too common. With a big rivalry game coming up, Clay Helton decided that his team needed a big jolt of motivation for their final practice before getting on a plane to South Bend.
On Thursday morning, over fifty students gathered at Howard Jones Field to watch the conclusion of practice and were invited by Helton to take a knee with the team as he gave a pep talk to the team along with USC legends Keyshawn Johnson, Willie McGinest, and Keith Rivers.
Johnson urged the team to play for each other and for their interim head coach, whom he said could be promoted to full-time if the Trojans can get off the mat and start racking up wins.
The students then put their hands in with the players for a yell of “Family!” before cheering the team and chanting “Beat The Irish!” as they walked back to the locker room.
Amid all the chaos following Steve Sarkisian’s departure, the open huddle was a bit of page-taking from the Pete Carroll era in order to get the focus back on football.
Practices under Carroll were known for being open to the public and a bit of a party, but NCAA sanctions brought a swift end to that under Lane Kiffin, to the point that game week practices were even closed to the media during Kiffin’s final weeks as head coach.
USC allowing students onto the practice field to show their support in between classes might be a sign that they are trying once again to return to a state of normalcy and put the focus back on football.
Ed Orgeron had a similar approach during his time as interim head coach in 2013, attending student events and holding an impromptu rally at Tommy Trojan before his first game in charge.
Unfortunately, the passionate, all-in mentality that he rekindled within the fans didn’t seem to carry over to Sark.
Now it’s Helton’s turn to try to relight the fire and keep it burning, regardless of who’s wearing the headset in 2016.
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