Thoughts on USC’s First Fall Scrimmage


With a tumultuous offseason, the September 2 opener at Hawaii can’t come soon enough for the Trojans of Southern Cal. Fall camp opened last Wednesday, and the team held its first scrimmage of fall camp on Sunday.

By all accounts, the front seven dominated the first team offense.

Defenses usually takes charge early in camps simply because its harder for the offense to establish their rhythm then it is for a defense. Also, USC’s offensive line isn’t 100% healthy yet. There is a huge positive to take away from the impressive effort though. The Trojans must replace their entire secondary (although the impressive Shareece Wright has experience) and will need a big push from the guys up front to limit the pressure placed on the defensive backs.

Barkley goes 9-15 for 127 yard and a TD. Mustain goes 23-35 with one TD.

There isn’t a quarterback controversy at USC, but Mustain certainly continues to push Barkley. Even if Barkley falls to injury, like he did for the Washington game, the Trojans will have a very capable backup. I’ve always wondered why Mustain fell out of the graces of Pete Carroll. After going 8-0 in his freshman year at Arkansas, Mustain transferred to USC and fell to third behind Aaron Corp last year on the depth chart. As for Barkley, the numbers aren’t overly impressive but the key is that he didn’t throw an interception. If he can cut down the turnovers from last year, the offense should improve dramatically.

Jordan Cameron reels in 7 catches for 87 yards.

Despite a trio of freshman coming in at tight end, the veteran Jordan Cameron is well on his way to starting the opener at Hawaii. While Kiffin expressed some concern over Cameron’s blocking ability, his soft hands are a huge plus. A year ago, the USC offense was at its peak when tight end Anthony McCoy was Barkley’s favorite target. When McCoy got hurt, Ayles and Ellison didn’t fill in very well. If Cameron can be a consistent target for Barkley, it adds another dimension to this USC offense.

Ground game stats:  Gable 7-25 yards, Bradford 6- -5 yards, Baxter 5-39 yards, Tyler 7-34 yards, McNeal 6-57 yards and one TD.

Tailback U doesn’t have a big name running the ball this year. Allen Bradford figures to be the starter after a solid 2009 campaign, but he struggled in the scrimmage. Bradford is a tough, bruising back who will shoulder most of the carries, but it seems Kennedy Pola will use a stable of backs. Most impressive was Curtis McNeal, who had an impressive 30-yard touchdown run. McNeal is built like Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State and has great speed. After Bradford is done running between the tackles, McNeal could be a great change of pace as he is more of a shifty back. Could this be a breakout year for him?

Nickell Robey earns high praise from Kiffin.

The freshman defensive back continues to be a favorite among coaches. In a year when USC’s secondary has continuity issues, it’s nice to see a young player stand out. While he is a long shot to start opposite Shareece Wright, Robey could see time as a nickel back in third down passing situations.

Special teams struggle mightily.

One missed field goal and two missed extra points low-light a rough day for USC kickers. A year ago, the USC kicking game was sporadic and it appears things may not change. Special teams guru John Baxter came over from Fresno State to take over this season and is known for punt blocks and return schemes. It appears he will face a major challenge in the kicking game. Even if the kicking game doesn’t produce long field goals, the unit should make extra points with ease as the extra point should be a gimme.