Film study: Minnesota

We're officially one month away from the start of USC's 2012 regular season. Given that, we thought it appropriate to start a new series on the USC Report -- a film study set of posts looking back at the 12 games the Trojans played in 2011.

Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we'll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we'll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it'll be game week for USC's 2012 season opener against Hawaii.

Here are our five notes -- four big things and a bunch of little ones -- from USC's 19-17 win over Minnesota on Sept. 3, 2011.

A healthy Woods?

Coach Lane Kiffin has made some news of late with his comments that Robert Woods' ankle wasn't 100 percent at any point last season in an attempt to deflect attention away from his status for this year.

If Woods was much less than full strength in this game, we've yet to see him at 100 percent in a USC uniform.

Right away, Matt Barkley goes to Woods for the Trojans' first two plays of the 2011 season and finds him five times on the first drive. On the first, Woods is tackled to his side near the sideline after a screen and jumps up to his feet as if it's nothing. Later in the season, it's clear to astute observers that his ankle is bothering him at certain times.

Not here. It'll be interesting to see if there's a moment where it gets re-aggravated in the next few games.

Torin Harris, better than remembered

The common line through USC's first three games in 2011 was that corner Torin Harris was one of the Trojans' biggest weaknesses, getting attacked often by opposing offensive coordinators who recognized his inexperience and overactive instincts.

Kiffin has disagreed with that sentiment, saying last week that Harris was actually performing among USC's top players before he got hurt in the fourth game. And the season opener supports his assertion, aside from one notable mistake and a few normal slip-ups.

Harris was matched up with Minnesota's only offensive threat, Da'Jon McKnight, for much of the game and allowed only three catches. The one big mistake he did make was over-committing on a short pass to a different receiver that allowed the Gophers to score a touchdown on a play that should have been stopped at about the seven-yard line.

Of course, he made up for that some when he made an interception near midfield with a minute remaining.

If Harris is healthy for fall camp, maybe it is possible that he could unseat Isiah Wiley and regain his starting cornerback spot.

Bailey and Pullard's mistakes

Man, Dion Bailey was small at this point last year. His arms are noticeably less bulky than they are now and he looks a good 15 pounds lighter.

His play left something to be desired, too. He wasn't on the field much -- in nickel situations USC went to a senior tandem of Chris Galippo and Shane Horton -- but, when he was, he was very inconsistent.

An example: He bit on a misdirection on Minnesota's first play of the game, allowing a 25-yard run. Then, on the next snap, he forced a fumble from the Gopher quarterback.

His fellow redshirt freshman Hayes Pullard seemed a bit more steady.

The departed

Brice Butler caught 12 passes all last season for the Trojans before transferring to San Diego State in January. Two of them came in the first quarter of this game. If he'd been targeted that frequently in USC's next 11 games, he'd probably still be a Trojan.

There were other notable appearances by guys who exited Troy early. Linebacker Simione Vehikite was whistled for a personal-foul penalty on special teams in the first quarter and got an earful from Kiffin on the sidelines for it. Running back Dillon Baxter gets targeted on an early two-point conversion attempt but nothing else until a late third-down catch.

It's funny to think about underclassmen who could be playing a big role for USC a month from now but not in one year.

Final notes: This might have been the game that Woods started the eating gesture he did all year after big plays. We saw it late in the third quarter after a 28-yard catch. ... Something we didn't notice while at the stadium in September: It looked as if the bad shotgun snap from Khaled Holmes was actually a miscommunication between him and Barkley. Holmes appeared to think Barkley was right behind him and then let the ball out in an awkward manner when he realized he wasn't. ... D.J. Morgan actually performed quite well in this game, considering it was his first college game. And Curtis McNeal had a superb fourth quarter. We'll have more on the running game and offensive line more in future posts, as it proved hard to judge them fairly against the Gophers' weak defensive line.