USC Coach Lane Kiffin will have a new recruiting and player development… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
USC players were off Thursday, but work continues seemingly nonstop on the new $70-million John McKay Center, which is rising on campus across the street from Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field.
Workers broke ground on the 110,000-square-foot, three-level building in January and construction is on schedule to be finished by midsummer.
Coach Lane Kiffin charts the building's progress every morning when he makes the short trek from Heritage Hall to the practice field.
"The crews working over there amaze me," Kiffin said. "It's exciting to see it develop."
The new facility will house football offices, meeting rooms and a recruiting lounge on the upper level.
The middle level will house student-athlete academic services for all athletes.
The lower level includes a locker room, weight room, athletic training room, a sports performance and nutrition area, a 40-yard indoor field-turf area and a football players' lounge.
Mark Jackson, a senior associate athletic director, traveled across the country to study facilities at other universities and venues.
"He took a little bit of everything to make this a unique place," Kiffin said. "The one thing that was missing in recruiting and that got used against us, our facilities, is now gone."
Jackson said USC was committed to building player lounges for Olympic sports as the athletic department remodels Heritage Hall.
Finding a niche
Former walk-on Ross Cumming earned a scholarship before the 2010 season for his outstanding play on special teams.
Since then the senior has moved from linebacker to tight end to fullback, playing in the backfield the last two games. Against Arizona, Cumming had his first career reception, catching a fourth-down pass from Matt Barkley to keep alive a scoring drive.
"I was probably the 10th option," Cumming joked.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Cumming, who played at Santa Margarita High, transferred to USC from the Naval Academy Prep School in 2008.
"At linebacker I was a plugger," he said. "I'm not the best guy in space but those talents have come through at fullback."
Cumming credits Rhett Ellison for tutoring him about the position, and he makes weekly calls to former Trojans fullback Stanley Havili for advice and encouragement.
"I wish we would have done it earlier," Kiffin said of moving Cumming to the backfield. "What we teach on special teams can really carry over to offense and defense regardless of positions, and Ross is a great example to be able to step right in and contribute."
USC resumes practice Friday. The Trojans will be off Saturday and then return Sunday to continue preparations for Thursday night's game against California at San Francisco's AT&T Park. It will be Cal's second consecutive Thursday night game.