The players went to practice only to mysteriously return to the John McKay Center. Several assistants who entered the USC training field early made a similar turn. Only a season in which almost all possible obstacles meet can turn a seemingly trivial Wednesday workout into yet another detour.
The impromptu bout postponed the start of USC training on Wednesday, and Donte Williams did not tunnel down the tunnel to the training field until 25 minutes after the scheduled start time. The interim coach had a serious expression, but as soon as he noticed the reporters waiting at the top of the gangplank, he flashed a smile.
The Trojans put on a bold face amid the final twist of their chaotic season. The California Saturday Game is arguably the least significant game in the recent history of the University of Southern California. None of the teams claim to be in the balance. Since both of them were out of the conference title race when Cal (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) was hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in November, the match was rescheduled a day after the Pac-12 title game. Fans may want to show up with sleeping bags for the 8pm start time.
On the other side of the delayed season finale, the future of USC is uncertain. Newly hired head coach Lincoln Riley patrolled the sideline in training this week.
The next era of USC football has arrived. But the Trojans (4-7, 3-5) are not ready to say goodbye to this season, despite all its struggle.
“I really don’t think we were looking that far into the future because we still have to play against Cal,” receiver Gary Bryant Jr. said Tuesday. “We just want to play 1-0 today, 1-0 tomorrow, 1-0 the next day, win on Saturday and play with great success for adults.”
On Tuesday, players tried to dismiss almost all questions about the future of the program, saying they were focused on Cal. On Wednesday, the Trojans used a team meeting that postponed the training session for about 45 minutes in order to “get on the same page.”
“The most important thing is to make sure that everyone on this program, not just the players, not only the regular guys, but everyone is focused on Cal,” Williams said. “And this is what I still do, and this is what I will continue to do.”
Williams said the meeting was energetic and the players reacted with shoulder pads when he allowed them to change into helmets for the shortened session. But Wednesday’s workout was one of the most rarely attended of the season, with plenty of backups and exits on the field lacking. Williams said some of the absences were due to injury and allowed players to catch up with the scientists as the final week draws near.
With no hope for the postseason and no fans eagerly awaiting the Riley era, players have stated that they are playing on behalf of their senior teammates, who will dress up for the Trojans for the last time on Saturday. But Williams emphasized that “It’s about all these guys, that this could be their last USC game.”
This group can be much larger than in normal years. In addition to eligible seniors and juniors, who can test the NFL’s strengths, extreme staff turnover is expected with almost every coach change.
As with several other programs that have run out of seasons, the transfer portal is beckoning underdog players. One such big name could be quarterback Kedon Slovis, whose starting role was in jeopardy all season before he missed two games with a leg injury.
Most of the assistant coaches will likely not stay, and Riley has already replaced the Defense and Foster Coordinator. The changes also affected the support staff, where Riley brought in his former strength coach from Oklahoma and the director of football operations in Los Angeles.
No one, especially Williams, whose inexperience has intensified when he has to do almost impossible temporary work, is not safe.
The 39-year-old Los Angeles native mentioned hesitation in his post-workout tweet on Wednesday, saying, “The CHARACTER of the person and the CULTURE of the organization are not really revealed or known until you face adversity! Determine who YOU are. ” He tagged the tweet with the hashtag “Built differently.”
“Everyone’s talking about players and full-time assistants, but not the operational recruitment, the force department, all these people, they don’t know what the future holds after Saturday, right?” Williams said. “I need everyone to be focused on what’s going to happen on Saturday and that we do our best to do our best and play victorious football. So right now, this is adversity. “
Disasters are one of the few patterns in Trojans this year.