Monday practice quick hits
August, 20, 2012
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes from Monday's afternoon practice, once again held on Dedeaux Field, that won't make it into our other coverage from the session:
Energy was a big issue in the Trojans' Sunday scrimmage at the Coliseum, with the offense appearing sluggish, lackadaisical and flat-out slow pretty much all throughout the action.
It was not an issue 24 hours later on Monday.
"For whatever reason, we had great energy (today)," coach Lane Kiffin said Monday. "I don’t know why, but it was really good to see.
Kiffin said the team came out with a spark in individual drills and carried it all the way through to the overtime session at the end of practice, two hours later.
And, given Monday's events, he said he was happy with the way the scrimmage went, because it energized his team into a full-go session just 12 days before the season opener.
Defensive ends return
J.R. Tavai and Wes Horton, the Trojans' likely defensive end pairing in next month's season opener, both returned to practice on Monday after sitting out several days due to injury. Tavai did just about everything, while Horton mostly sat out of 11-on-11 drills. Neither player's injury has been disclosed.
It was, in total, a good day for the defensive ends, then, as Kiffin praised Horton and spotlighted juco transfer Morgan Breslin as one of the Trojans' better players in Sunday's scrimmage. Kiffin said he felt "better after watching the film" about the play of the ends in the scrimmage.
But he hesitated when asked if the defensive line group, as a whole, was better than the 2011 edition.
"They’ve got a long ways to go," Kiffin said. "I would not say that."
'Some very unusual mistakes'
In looking back at Sunday's scrimmage, Kiffin said he noticed "some very unusual mistakes" from the three quarterbacks who logged significant time: Matt Barkley, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.
The head coach said he thought the offense was "humbled," and it was clear part of that was directed at the signal-callers. The trio combined to throw four picks against just two touchdowns.
"I didn’t think the three quarterbacks played very well at all yesterday," Kiffin said. "I don’t think they would think that either."
Barkley said the uneven pattern of his playing time -- in for one, out for another -- played a role in his poor performance.
"I never got into a rhythm," he said. "I played the first snap, then came out. Then played a three-and-out and went to the (exercise)bike. It was kind of weird. Never really got going with the offense."
Barkley said the tempo was low throughout the scrimmage, jokingly pegging it at about 60 beats per minute.
That's about half the speed of the music the Trojans usually listen to at practice, for what it's worth.
Linebacker Lamar Dawson, right tackle Kevin Graf and cornerbacks Torin Harris and Brian Baucham sat out of Monday's practice. Dawson stood on the sidelines and walked with a limp while dealing with an apparent calf injury.
Tight end Christian Thomas, who has rarely been present for practices this camp, was in uniform for Monday's session but did not participate. Running back D.J. Morgan had ice on his right knee for the final portion of practice.
Kiffin said receiver Robert Woods is "in his mind, ready to go" with the ankle injury that bothered him for the past year-plus. Woods has been participating fully in most practices this camp.
Final notes: Kiffin said the Trojans will continue practicing on Dedeaux Field for the next few days while their normal practice area, Howard Jones Field, gets re-done. Howard Jones has been re-sodded, but there were still some gaps in the grass as of Monday night. Kiffin thanked baseball coach Frank Cruz for letting the football team use the baseball field. ...The grand opening for USC's new McKay Center athletic facility will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. ...Kiffin said "there's no way of knowing" whether incoming freshman receiver Darreus Rogers will qualify academically to play for the Trojans in 2011, and the academic statuses of both Isiah Wiley and Marquis Simmons are still unknown.