The USC Trojans came out to Howard Jones Field for a half-padded practice for the first time since Wednesday, keeping things “thug” but definitely still competitive. Near the end of practice, the defense and offense battled in a crucial scrimmage for bragging rights along with meaningful repetitions.
“Really good practice as far as learning from things, but not the best practice in terms of performance,” said Head Coach Lane Kiffin immediately following practice. “There were certain things and certain situations that we can learn from,” he said, regarding down-and-distance recognition his defense struggled with on Sunday.
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The most dramatic news from practice came at the very end when Kiffin announced that the quarterback race is now a two-horse affair and that Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are the favorites. Offensive Coordinator Clay Helton said “the decision will ultimately rest with Coach Kiffin.” He continued to say that his job is to “work with all five of our quarterbacks on a daily basis, only to help each of them get better.”
On the injury front, Marqise Lee attendanced practice but did not participate in team drills, instead opting to take notes for the coaches and stand on the sideline in a white jersey. Meanwhile, Silas Redd and Justin Davis, the Trojans’ leading candidates for the running back position, were limited in practice and left for treatment nearly one-hour into it. They did return only to watch the final scrimmage unfold.
Aundrey Walker worked fully with the first and second team offensive line today, but shifted down to a position he knows very fondly from his freshmen year in right guard. Kiffin explained that Walker’s move is not necessarily permanent, but Chad Wheeler has made a positive impression on the coaching staff.
At the end of practice, the offense won a light scrimmage against the defense, thanks to a last-second field goal from Andre Heidari. FB Jahleel Pinner helped fuel the comeback effort when he caught a huge touchdown pass on a wheel route delivered over the top on a dime for the score.
Darreus Rogers is beginning to earn his keep as a legitimate number three option in the wide receiver core. “If the ball is in the air, the attitude is go get it. I don’t drop balls, that is my mindset every day,” said Rogers who backed up the talk with an outstanding touchdown grab leaping over Josh Shaw.
On a light but rather important note for the offense, Tre Madden took snaps in the wildcat formation in practice. The first time he handed the ball off to De’Von Flournoy,–who returned to practice Sunday for the first time in a number of days–rushed for a loss of two yards. On the next opportunity, the former high school quarterback Madden attempted to let it fly from the backfield, throwing a 15-yard pass low and incomplete.
A change of scenery is in order for Day 10 on Monday as the team will head to Dedeaux Field for at least the next three days, taking reps on the turf of the 12-time national champions. The Trojans have two-a-days again on Monday, with practices scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.