After a week of training camp practices, USC players will wake up Saturday to something relatively novel:
A day off from workouts.
It is the first of four scheduled off days for the Trojans before their Aug. 30 opener against Fresno State.
It's also a far cry from college football training camps of the past.
"Research keeps telling us how important recovery is for longevity," Coach Steve Sarkisian said Friday, adding that based on what NFL teams and others are doing, "it seems like that's the model, the trend."
Sarkisian's philosophy about off days "evolved" during his years as a head coach at Washington.
Sarkisian, a USC assistant for seven seasons under Pete Carroll, coached the Huskies from 2009 to 2013.
"It went from one off day to two to three," he said. "This will be the first time we'll actually have four."
Sarkisian indicated the size of the Trojans roster also played a role in his decision to schedule four off days.
USC opened training camp with fewer than 70 physically sound scholarship players. And several players, such as lineman Aundrey Walker and linebacker Lamar Dawson, are still slowed while recovering from injuries.
On Friday, defensive lineman Antwaun Woods suffered a left elbow injury that could sideline the junior for one to two weeks, Sarkisian said.
"We want to practice hard, we want to be physical and we want to be fast and we want to make it intense," Sarkisian said. "But I have to also be aware of our numbers.
"I can't be naïve to that fact, so we're just trying to be smart and aware."
Players will attend a movie Saturday afternoon and short meetings in the evening.
Coaches will spend the morning with their families and then spend time on recruiting and roster evaluation.
The off day will allow players to "let them get their legs back a little bit, let them clear their mind a little bit and come back Sunday morning and have a really good, hard practice," Sarkisian said.
Happy to hit
Defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Delvon Simmons enjoyed a practice that included a 25-play period of live tackling.
Williams had not tackled since last season, when he suffered a right shoulder injury that required surgery and sidelined him for spring practice.
"My shoulder is holding up well," he said.
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Simmons transferred to USC from Texas Tech in the fall of 2013 and redshirted last season.
The fast pace of the new offense, he said, helped condition the defensive line.
"We're moving around more efficient than we were before during spring practice," he said. "We're moving faster."
Freshman tight end Bryce Dixon made several impressive catches during the first week.
Dixon's blocking is a work in progress, but he is expected to make an immediate impact.
"In the short term," Sarkisian said, "that guy is a weapon in our passing game that hopefully we'll see early on in the season."
Linebacker Quinton Powell intercepted a pass by quarterback Max Browne and returned it for a touchdown during a team drill.
Tight end Chris Willson caught a pass from quarterback Cody Kessler and scored after a long run.
Junior tailbacks Javorius Allen and Tre Madden were held out of most team drills during a day of designed rest, Sarkisian said. Sophomore Justin Davis, who was sidelined during spring practice while recovering from ankle surgery, got the bulk of the carries.
Thomas Williams, Brandon Carswell, Kristofer O'Dowd, Tony Burnett and Joe Houston were among the former players who attended practice.
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