In the first of 29 practices open to the fans and media before opening kickoff on August 29th at Aloha Stadium, the Trojans greased the wheels for another excited season of football in front of 50 or so fans lining the walls of Dedeaux Field to watch practice.
The USC Trojans opened camp with plenty of questions surrounding the future of the program with one major bright spot shinning a glimmer of hope straight out the gate. Some of the major changes from last seasons club include a revamped 5-2 defensive scheme that Clancy Pendergast continues to implement on a daily basis, coming over from Pac-12 foe Berkeley last season.
“There is no success without adversity,” Dion Bailey said about making an adjustment from linebacker to safety. “This new defense holds our secondary more accountable.”
The new stars of that secondary have already emerged in a haunting way for the Trojans offense, as Dion Bailey and Su’a Cravens lined up at first-team safety along with Anthony Brown and Kevon Seymour at the cornerback positions.
These are the first of many new faces on a secondary that will be completely revamped this season. This young group came out of the gates hungry, even motivated to secure a starting spot of their own. As a group, they nabbed four interceptions on the opening day of Fall Camp.
“By far, the secondary faces the biggest overhaul on our team as we look for 4 new starters,” said Lane Kiffin. “I like what I saw from the young guys today [Saturday] all across the board.”
Speedsters Leon McQuay III and Josh Shaw supply depth at the safety position, along with Demetrius Wright and Torin Harris filling out the Trojans depth at cornerback. This unit is starting to transform themselves from a major concern to a major strength.
It all begins with Dion Bailey, the emotional leader of the defense during game day who lets his work do the talking on the practice field.
The two-time starter lost 10 pounds this offseason, adjusting to life in the back-third of the defense. He mentioned dropping his hips and sliding across the field as major areas for improvement in the coming weeks. Bailey roamed the field like a man on a mission on Saturday’s opening practice.
“Overall, it was a good day but it wasn’t a great day, so we’ve got a lot to build on. There’s nowhere to go but forward,” said Bailey.
Not only has Bailey showed some major strides in the secondary, but also Josh Shaw and Gerald Bowman showcased some physical tools to dominate opponents this season. For Shaw, a majority of his offseason was spent in the weight room, resulting in a 15-pound weight gain of pure muscle just as a trial and error measure to judge his athleticism.
The results could be immediately noticed from the opening whistle as Shaw pronounced his strength with a bang, wrestling with Darreus Rogers for deep passes, while coming up with some major thud (no padded-contact until Thursday) against a plethora of Trojan backs on the afternoon.
Another new contributor, Bowman, made an impact play in the secondary, intercepting a pass by diving down the sideline, while somehow racking in a deflected-pass against all odds. This was among many of the big moments the secondary put on display early in Fall Camp, a positive sign for the Trojans moving forward.
-USC G/C Abe Markowitz has been granted a sixth year of eligibility with the Trojans, suiting up with the second and third string players during Saturday’s practice.
-The plethora of stars at RB has garnered praise from Lane Kiffin: “This may be our deepest position on the team. Not in terms of experience, but in terms of talent.”
-On the injury front: Silas Redd, DJ Morgan, Soma Vainuku all limited with injuries while Steven Mitchell and George Farmer (Out For the Season) attended practice. Meanwhile, OG Marcus Martin left practice early with cramp in right hamstring.
-Cody Kessler took the first reps of 11-on-11 while Max Wittek lead the opening session of 7-on-7 short-set passing drills. Max Browne led the two-minute drill session of practice, which means nothing has been decided on QB front.
-Head Coach Lane Kiffin wore a white shirt with black shorts on the first day of practice. He was not seen with his patented sun visor or black shades however, in a shocking twist.
-Darreus Rogers shined at the WR position with explosive leap and rock-solid hands. This after sitting out the entire 2012 season working out paperwork before attending USC.
-Only 28 practices remain in Fall Camp, with the first day of full pad practice set for Thursday taking place at the newly-owned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.