Saturday Practice: Education in Adversity

Curtis McNeal (USA Today/Kirby Lee)

"They have been through so much," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "I can't imagine a group of seniors that has been through so many ups and downs."

It has been a long journey for USC's senior class that entered college with BCS bowl expectations, but instead received an education on dealing with adversity.

"They have been through so much," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "I can't imagine a group of seniors that has been through so many ups and downs."

The current group has endured a coaching change, NCAA sanctions, a two-year bowl ban and a disappointing final season. And in the end the legacy of these seniors might be more about how they represented their school during a dark time than their win-loss record.

"I think these guys have really represented the university well in their time here. You have to look a long ways to find anything that they have done wrong in the whole time they have been here," said Kiffin. "They are going to go off into the real world representing us really well."

As the seniors finished their final practice at Howard Jones several took a moment to reflect on their college careers.

"To be able to come here and live out my childhood dreams is a blessing," said safety T.J. McDonald. "For it to be over now is bittersweet but I get to go on to the next step and continue pursuing my dreams.

"When I think about it I just think how thankful I am for my opportunities here. It has gone by so fast. I feel like I have just barely got here but now it's over."

Senior center Khaled Holmes took a minute to stop and embrace his teammates before exiting Goux Gate for the last time as a player.

"You shed a lot of blood and sweat out here and it has been an incredible journey," Holmes said. "Definitely some of the best times of my life."

Tailback Curtis McNeal has become a symbol for triumphing over adversity for the football program. The Venice product was on the verge of leaving school three years ago, but made some needed changes, and emerged as a key member of the team.

"I went from a young man to a man. I was very young and immature and I thought that I knew it all," McNeal said. "When you get to college it changes you as a person and makes you grow up and become more responsible."

When asked to describe his feelings on his last workout at Howard Jones Field, McNeal kept it short and simple, replying, "You never want to leave this place but my time is up and now I look forward to my future."

Hot Reads

- After a week of very physical practices, Saturday's workout was more relaxed before taking three days off for the holidays.

- Matt Barkley attended practice again today but still hasn't participated in any drills since getting injured against UCLA.

- While Max Wittek and Cody Kessler were getting equal reps during the first few bowl practices, which is how it will be during the quarterback competition next spring, Max Wittek is now getting the majority of the reps as they prepare for Georgia Tech.

"The one positive about Matthew (Barkley) not being here is that those guys get more reps," Kiffin said. "It is great to be in a bowl and get these extra practices."

- USC will resume bowl practices on Dec. 26th in El Paso, Texas.

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