USC football looks past early bye week toward Arizona State

The Trojans are utilizing this week for preparation and intense training, rather than taking their foot off the gas.

Photo of the USC football team gathered on the practice field.

In the midst of a three-game winning streak, the USC football team jumped up to No. 5 in the AP Top 25. Following their 56-10 victory against Stanford last Saturday, the Trojans have a weekend off due to a bye.

The players and coaching staff arrived at Tuesday’s practice with the same mentality as game week. A common theme among the team was that this week off is not going to dampen its momentum going into the rest of the Pac-12 season.

“We’re three games in, one conference game in, with a lot of things we haven’t done yet and we’re getting ready to have opportunities to do so,” head coach Lincoln Riley said.

Riley spoke positively about his team’s performance against Stanford, but mentioned some areas that need improvement – one of these areas being the number of penalties against the Trojans.

“Some of the penalties just make you want to pull your hair out,” Riley said. “I thought we played hard. I thought we played really fast and aggressive. And I thought that covered up, at times, some of the mistakes.”

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said he is looking to improve on those mistakes with the time that the bye week provides. He is challenging the safety group on its explosiveness and focusing on its competitive reps in the secondary. Grinch said his desired outcome of this week’s training is for the defense to make fewer detrimental mistakes.

“We need to get to a point where the lowlights cannot be that low,” Grinch said about the points the Trojan defense allowed in the first three games. “Now you’ve got some things on video and you’ve got to look at it through the lens of ‘OK, what’s next steps?’”

As a member of the defense, redshirt senior safety Max Williams said he looks at this week of practice no differently than a game week. When asked how he felt about a bye this early in the season, he expanded on the team’s mentality.

“We’re going full speed, we’re going high tempo. We’re running, being physical,” Williams said. “We’re practicing like we have a game this week and not looking at it as a bye week.”

Williams, who led the team with 79 tackles last season, said the team is looking forward to the training week to improve in all areas. From stopping the run and containing the quarterback, he said he believes the team’s focus from the past three games will translate to practice.

USC travels to Arizona State for its next game on Saturday, Sept. 23.