Pullard's leadership crucial for Trojans

Hayes Pullard / USA Today Sports

Hayes Pullard made the offseason decision to forego the NFL draft and return to USC for his redshirt senior season. Now, the redshirt senior is tasked to lead a young group of players through another transition...

When five of his underclassmen teammates were announcing to leave USC early for the NFL draft, redshirt senior Hayes Pullard was recommitting to the Trojans.

The Trojans are lucky to have him back.

This, apparent enough during a voluntary 7on7 throwing session in which Pullard was the most veteran player on Cromwell Field amongst a dozen teammates.

He led the likes of sophomore defensive backs Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay and linebackers Jabari Ruffin and Scott Starr in the workout.

Pullard, a team captain in 2013, embraced the title. There seems to be an understanding, however, he'll have to take complete hold of it - and the underclassmen - in 2014.

"Even the young guys who have been here for a semester and played," explained Pullard after the throwing session, "you have to grab them under your wings and teach them the Trojan way and the tradition of USC and how we're [striving] for greatness everyday.

"You have to come out here and work to be competitive every single day."

In Pullard's fifth and final season at USC, he himself will have to adjust to something brand new all over again as first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian takes over. Pullard watched as numerous teammates struggled with the transition as they learned interim coach Ed Orgeron was out and Sarkisian was in.

Now two and half months since Sarkisian took over and some players departed for the NFL, Pullard says the remaining Trojans have turned the page and are excited about their new coaches.

"We are accepting this coaching staff and buying into the USC tradition," he said. "We accept Coach Sark and his staff 100 percent and we are behind them.

"There was a night when it was Coach O and the next day you have to accept Coach Sark and we did exactly that," Pullard said. "We are starting to transition into this offseason conditioning and weight training and now we are trying to carry it over to the field because we have spring ball just a month."

Spring practices will be the first time the Trojans will take the field in front of their new staff. For the Trojan defense, It will be the third defensive system in the last three years they will learn, as defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox takes over.

"[It's] just learning the different terminology," Pullard explained of the transition to Wilcox's scheme. "It's basically all similar – just being able to go in there and get the extra film work and you'll learn it as fast as you can."

Trojan spring practices open March 11.

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