Hits and bruises keep on coming for the USC Trojans, battling around historically-high injury numbers this Fall Camp. After losing Greg Townsend and Su’a Cravens to minor injuries on Thursday, the number reaches 22 players currently unable to participate in team 11-on-11 activities.
It all began with the day-to-day shoulder injury suffered by Marqise Lee, sending major precautionary shockwaves around the mood at practice. “We’d be really concerned,” Lane Kiffin said about the total number of injured players. “Our health, right now, would not put us in position to win many games if we had to play tomorrow. We would not have many rotations at many spots.”
The Trojans embark on their second scrimmage of Fall Camp, buying all in with the need to improve their heavy-hitting and aggressive style of play on both sides of the football. This coming at a time when Kiffin has recognized a need to change his teams mindset from the opening whistle.
Unfortunately one road block still stands in the way of this progress. The price of playing an intense style of football has hindered any real development of a starting rotation. “We wouldn’t practice this physical, that wouldn’t make any sense,” Kiffin said. “We would barely make it through offense/defense.”
While many players remained out, several returned to action Thursday. Nelson Agholor, JR Tavai, Josh Shaw, Torin Harris and Antwaun Woods were all full participants, while Lee, Ty Isaac, Jordan Simmons and Darreus Rogers each participated on a limited basis.
Despite the minor injury concerns, the Trojans have come out with a purpose during Fall Camp. “The defense has been been playing outstanding thus far,” according to linebacker Lamar Dawson. “We are just trying to get pressure on the quarterback, force mistakes -maybe a bad pass a bad exchange- which will lead to turnovers.”
The Trojans are fighting an interesting dilemma at this point in camp, now less than two weeks away from the start of the season. Now in a crucial time for development, Lane Kiffin continues to stress the importance of keeping the mentality rough and tough, just in a more manageable manner.
“We need to continue to tackle, remain physical and with the setting in the Coliseum, we expect a really long and physical scrimmage with whoever is out there,” Lane Kiffin suggests about the tempo and atmosphere surrounding the second scrimmage of Fall Camp.
In what sounds simple on paper but more difficult in reality, maintaining urgency while also preaching precautionary measures has become the largest double-edged sword in camp. “You manage the tempo, amount of reps, when you take pads off,” Kiffin said.
For many of the players, returning to the field in prime fashion remains the most important task on their mind. “I love coming out here and playing aside like everyone is our brother,” said cornerback Kevon Seymour. “Its a grind, but then again we all having fun together.”
Whether on the field or on the sideline, the injured players continue to help out the cause. “I’m getting mental reps, which are just as good as physical reps,” injured running back Silas Redd said. “I am getting better every day, but my passion is out here and mentally I am out here. So expect the physical style of play to be back in action for the coming weeks of Fall Camp, from every position on the field.”