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Spring Practice Primer: USC

Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 2:44 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at USC, who started spring practice last Friday.

Spring Practice Question: Is there depth on both sides of the ball in year two of the Lane Kiffin era?

At a time when most college students were just waking up for their first class of the day, quarterback Matt Barkley lofted a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Robert Woods to wrap up USC's first spring practice. The perfectly thrown post route was one of the few things the Trojans looked sharp at during their first early morning workout, which began at 7:30 a.m.

"Kiffin always wants to end on a bang," Barkley said. "We're just getting used to it. There should be better tempo in the days to come."

Many USC players arrive at the football facilities at 5 a.m. to stretch and get taped before heading to meetings at 6 a.m. The practices are similar to how Pac-10 rival Oregon operates but Kiffin's idea switch to the early practices was not a result of what the Ducks have been doing.

"It's actually something, over the last couple of years, that I wanted to do," Kiffin said. "Because of class schedules you have to do it a year in advance because of registration and to block these hours. At Tennessee we wanted to do it but we weren't there for a full year before spring. It's something I want to look at in the spring and could be a possibility for the fall."

Although Kiffin hasn't made up his mind on the practice schedule this fall, he is hoping several of his players are able to get some playing time in before the spring ends. After battling a general lack of numbers and several injuries throughout last season, the Trojans will limit full contact drills and do more 7-on-7 in place of full team periods.

“The scary thing is, we’re 19 short and we just started," Kiffin said. "Usually you’re short at the end of spring. Hopefully we don’t add to that list, and possibly get some guys back.”

A 20th player, tailback Marc Tyler is likely to be added to the list after aggravating his hamstring muscle while stretching out for a pass on the first day. One young player who could use the opening to get into the mix at running back is redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan. Fully recovered from knee surgery his senior year in high school, Morgan is reportedly the fastest player on the team and could be a nice change of pace back to pair with a bruiser like Tyler. Also in the mix is Dillon Baxter, who hopes to rebound from a disappointing freshman campaign and translate some of the talent that made him a YouTube sensation in his first season.

Paving the way for the backfield is a talented but limited group of offensive lineman. Starting left tackle Matt Kalil is healthy and is looking to build on a very solid debut season protecting Barkley's blind side. Returning starter Khaled Holmes will receive snaps at both guard and center but will be limited the first few weeks with a neck stinger. Center Abe Markowitz and guard/tackle Kevin Graf will sit out some or all of spring practice due to injuries. Some reinforcements have arrived in junior college transfers David Garness and Jeremy Galten. The two should provide added depth but they must quickly get up to speed with the offensive terminology.

Things aren't much better, depth-wise, across the trenches on the defensive line. Tackle Christian Tupou will be limited while recovering from a knee surgery last season and defensive end Wes Horton will also miss part of spring practice with a foot injury. Defensive end Armond Armstead is being held out after being hospitalized for a heart condition and hopes to be cleared by doctors by the end of the month. Position coach Ed Orgeron is looking to get the most out of the group that is practicing, including talented defensive end Nick Perry and defensive tackle DaJohn "Juicy" Harris.

Linebackers Chris Galippo, Devon Kennard and Shane Horton will also watch most of spring practice from the sideline. Though all three are expected to start in the fall, their vacant positions will allow many of the younger players to receive extra repetitions and build a bit of depth at a position that has had it lacking for several years. Marquis Simmons, Hayes Pullard and safety-turned-linebacker Dion Bailey are three of the players the coaching staff has high hopes for and expects to get better with the added practice time.

"Even though it's a bummer that those guys missed, it's kind of a blessing in disguise that we can get the young guys a bunch of work," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "At linebacker, it's all about reps and seeing things 1,000 times. The only way you can see things 1,000 times is if you get snaps. The young guys are getting a bunch of work so it's actually good for us."

The secondary is probably the healthiest of any of the position groups and has several players who should compete for playing time. Safeties Marshall Jones, T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling and Demetrius Wright are a talented, physical group that gives defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin a lot of flexibility on the back end. Though senior starter Shareece Wright is off to the NFL, Nickell Robey, Tony Burnett and Brian Baucham all have experience at cornerback and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown has looked good in practice as well.

The defensive backs usually has their hands full going against a fast group of wide receivers every day. A freshman All-American, Woods has easily become the number one option on offense and is - quite simply - a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Brandon Carswell, De'Von Flournoy and Markeith Ambles should all contribute for new receivers coach Ted Gilmore but red zone target Kyle Prater will be sidelined with a foot injury. Senior tight end Rhett Ellison will be an integral part of the offense and don't be surprised to see youngsters Christian Thomas, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer involved in two tight end sets.

With a deep group of weapons on offense, USC is looking to experiment with more of a spread-based attack this spring. The coaching staff is hoping that Barkley's third year of spring practice and an offense that relies the quarterback making plays translates into an even better season this fall.

"He needs to take the next step from being a really good quarterback to a great quarterback," Kiffin said. "Last year he improved a lot on his decision making and you saw his touchdown to interception ratio increase dramatically. Now he needs to do that again and take a leadership role and put everything on his back. He did that at times last year but now he just needs to be more consistent with that."

Spring Practice Primers
While Kiffin is looking for Barkley to take his game to the next level, he also has to worry about who is backing him following the departure of senior Mitch Mustain. Two early enrollees, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, and redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins will battle things out for the number two quarterback spot. Barkley has taken on the role of mentor to the young players, helping them with their playbook and giving lessons from when he was a freshman going through spring drills for the first time.

Left somewhat unsaid by the coaches and the players however, is the status of USC's NCAA infractions appeal. The Trojans are hoping to play in a bowl game this upcoming season and have asked for several scholarships back from their original penalties stemming from the Reggie Bush case. It has been nine weeks since USC argued their case in front of the Infractions Appeals Committee and it's very likely that the team will have to deal with a decision coming in the middle of spring practice.

"I haven't thought about it in awhile," Barkley said. "It's not affecting how I'm playing right now. We're obviously hoping for the best in whatever comes out of that situation but it's not affecting how we're getting ready for the season."

In the mean time, the work in and around Heritage Hall continues. There's no new system to learn on either side of the ball and the coaching staff returns mostly intact so the Trojans' focus this spring is mostly on themselves. Kiffin hopes to find some depth in his second year as head coach and there's certainly some talent on the roster. 

Despite being down in numbers, there's some depth this season for USC. Only time will tell how much there really is though.


Since: Jul 8, 2008
Posted on: March 25, 2011 5:02 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

Auburn didn't have depth.

You don't need it when the NCAA has your back.

Since: Jul 8, 2008
Posted on: March 25, 2011 5:02 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

Auburn didn't have depth.

You don't need it when the NCAA has your back.

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:13 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

― James A. Garfield

Being in Nicaragua on the beach on the Paradise Pacific Ocean, the only times I know of the change of seasons is by the SPORT.  I can't wait for SC football to begin and I hope to hell that the sanctioning committee see's that the BUSH-Mayo syndrom isn't like Enron, come-on drop the bullshit and let the multi-billion dollar programs play ball.  Banning SC is like Tiger not showing up for a golf tourney, it sucks, the ratings are hurt, BIG dollars are lost and you don't get to see the best or the best, win, lose or draw. 
With last years sanctions, starters leaving or transferring and injuries and youth we did a decent job in playing an almost meaningless season.  Get the incentive back to perform in a championship reward system and watch them play ball.  This is USC, a football factory, "an eat 'em and spit them out" NFL football facility.  We are not vegetarians, we want raw meat, competition and victory over worthy adversaries, not some gentleman's game for rank ametuers playing for degree's.  BILLIONS AND BILLIONS, we manufacture Ferrari's not Beatles, let us be what the Colliseum crowds (L.A. & Rome)came for, blood and entertainment.
We have the only Sports Bar on the northern Pacific Oceean, and can't wait for the Emporer to call out "Gentle Giants, start your engines and season, let the best survive and the very best WIN!"

Nicaragua is the "Survivors" choice of destinations and we need more survivors interested in experiencing paradise for dimes on the dollar.  Save more money on vacation than staying at home!
This is where ordinary people can go for dimes on the dollar that even rich people can't afford to miss! 
   Learn Spanish "ON THE BEACH!"  $45 Ocean Front Suite to a $6 ocean dorm   Nicaragua is the "Survivors" choice of destinations and we need more survivors interested in experiencing paradise for dimes on the dollar.  Save more money on vacation than staying at home!  

Since: Mar 20, 2011
Posted on: March 24, 2011 10:08 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

sc is a has been how many times has the weak ncaa busted them-many

Since: Sep 1, 2008
Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:29 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

Dude it's not all about the injuries but last season we have like 68 players I believe? keep in mind that 14 redshirted and consider that some of the players who were needed got injured.

We were very short handed last season then factor in we had three new coaches and freshman in key positions. Winning eight games was plain amazing.

Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: March 24, 2011 9:43 am

Spring Practice Primer: USC

It is all about the injuries at USC.  While it is true that a lot of depth is not necessairily needed, you do want to go two deep at every position.  With so many starters dinged up at USC, they do not have that luxury right now.  Being limited scholarship wise certainly does not help the situation at all.  If USC wants to remain a legitimate challenger in the Pac 12, whether they are eligable or not for the Championship, they will have to get healthy before the season starts.  They get some what of a break with their first 3 games at home, and 7 home games overall (normally they play 6).  Games at home against Minnnesota and Syracuse to start the season, should give USC time to get some gametime experience to the baqckup's, but the backup's must be there to gain the experience.  The starters must recover from spring injuries and be able to put those games out of reach so the backup's can get into those games.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: March 24, 2011 3:53 am

Spring Practice Primer: USC

One way or another, sooner or later, the penalties meted out for the Reggie Bush affiar are going to expire, effectively OBE.  Kiffin has minimal control over that.  So he is looking for the time when USC fields a full team and his routine is firmly established.  Of course, everybody looks good in the spring.  The real challenge comes with the fall.   USC was just a few players short of holding down Oregon this ast season. 

Since: Apr 16, 2007
Posted on: March 23, 2011 10:03 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

Auburn didn't have depth.

Since: Jul 8, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:51 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

You'll need depth on defense to beat Oregon.

Oregon will need depth to beat USC.

Since: Sep 1, 2008
Posted on: March 23, 2011 7:57 pm

Spring Practice Primer: USC

If we would have had a half decent kicker we would have come pretty dern close to beating Oregon, Stanford, and Washington with that horrible defense.  We can only get better this year can't say that for Oregon and Stanford who had their best season probably in school history. Just being able to tackle in practice and having a new kicker will win USC ten games this season.

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