USC concluded its first week of fall training camp with an up-tempo goal line drill that provided spirited competition between the offense and defense, and even resulted in a little tiff between some of the players. In the first seven days things have gone fairly as expected, with no major injuries or developments yet.
Still, there have seven ongoing projects worth mentioning from the first week, and it is likely that these—and those to come—will shape the framework for USC’s 2012 season. As USC begins its second week of camp on Monday, these are the storylines to keep in mind.
1. Injuries Already Mounting for Trojans
Before camp started, one might’ve forgotten about the depth issues surrounding USC, as so much talk has revolved around how this team is poised to have a season for the ages.
Once practice started though, the 75-player roster limit and the challenges that provides became apparent once again.
During the very first practice, C Khaled Holmes (unspecified), WR George Farmer (hamstring), and DE Wes Horton (cramps) all left practice early with minor injuries or cramps. Then throughout the week, TE Randall Telfer hyper-extended his thumb, LT Aundrey Walker injured his wrist, LB Lamar Dawson hurt his calf, CB Torin Harris pulled his hamstring, and DE Greg Townsend Jr. tweaked his ankle.
Sure, these are all minor injuries that won’t keep anyone down for a detrimental amount of time, but five of these injuries happened to starters, and USC can’t afford to lose any of them. And let’s not forget about Devon Kennard who was supposed to take over for Nick Perry at left defensive end, but now likely will miss the entire season as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle. The injuries are piling up quickly, and USC head coach Lane Kiffin noted in the middle of the week that— even though the Trojans seem to have gotten the better of the NCAA and the scholarship reduction—it is starting to take its toll on the team.
Keeping players healthy is going to be critical for USC to go into the season in a position to start strong.
2. Musical Positions
In the first seven days of camp, two players moved positions and one is, for now, “permanently” staying at his.
Charles Burks came to USC as a defensive end in 2011 but didn’t see any action after having pre-season knee surgery. Now that he’s back, Burks is going to try his hand on the other side of the ball, as a running back. He took reps with the backs on Monday and has practiced with them since. Not entirely sure yet why this position switch occurred, as USC has Curtis McNeal, D.J. Morgan, Javorious “Buck” Allen and now Silas Redd in their corps, but Kiffin surely has a plan up his sleeves.
Florida Transfer Josh Shaw also experienced a position switch, but not one as drastic or likely as permanent. Shaw ran with the cornerbacks in the first week of fall camp, but only so that he can fully recover from minor dings before working out with the safeties. USC is touting a pretty stacked secondary and Shaw will only improve that, but the Trojans really need to work on getting better as a unit: they ranked 102nd against the pass in 2011, a stat that will surely not be good enough to keep USC on track for postseason glory.
Lastly, Kiffin made it clear the true freshman WR Nelson Agholor is staying at the position for good. Before camp there was some speculation that he might get converted to a running back, but Kiff quelled that discussion on the very first day of camp.
3. Progression of Robert Woods
Woods was kind of a question mark coming into camp, as his ankle still had yet to be where he and the coaching staff wanted it to be for the fall. He didn’t practice at all in the spring, and sat out most of the summer workouts before getting a brace that is supposed to help alleviate some of the pressure on his ankle and further speed up the process.
For now, it seems to be working as designed.
Woods practiced all week, albeit sparingly at points. On one day, he wore a yellow “no-contact” jersey and when USC had two-a-days on Saturday he only participated in the morning session. These precautions make sense, as Woods is a pivotal weapon in USC’s arsenal. On the bright side, at the end of Thursday’s practice, Kiffin praised Woods for his progress and even noted that this is the best he has looked since last October. Woods himself even said that his ankle feels 100-percent, and at this point, we should take his word for it. His toughness is unquestionable, as he played the entire 2011 on a busted ankle. If he can get to tip-top shape by Sept. 1, he can show us all what he is really capable of.