Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice as the Trojans get into game week mode with the Virginia contest quickly approaching:
Lane Kiffin is liking what he's seeing so far this week when it comes to energy from his players during practice. Kiffin said Wednesday that he has noticed . "I think you kind of feel a sense of excitement amongst the players," he said. "As this home opener gets closer, the excitement of playing in front of our families, our crowd, our people -- especially after this offseason -- is very exciting for them, and I think you can feel that as you get closer to the game and the week goes on."
That positivity also spreads to the defense, where Kiffin seems certain an improvement will be made against Virginia. The no-tackling mentality has not changed in practices this week, but the on-field product will be better, he believes -- and not just in terms of tackling. "I think you're going to see a very different game here," Kiffin said. "And hopefully a much-improved game from them and from our defense. Let me phrase it this way: I will be shocked if we don't play extremely well on Saturday night on defense."
Players from all three areas of the defense have agreed with that sentiment over the last two days. "We definitely have a chip on our shoulders," middle linebacker Devon Kennard said when asked if the defensive unit had something extra to prove at the Coliseum. "There were points where we played really good and points where we need to improve. We're just concentrating on that, looking at the positive and making sure we fix the negative."
Injury update: linebacker Simione Vehikite and tight end Xavier Grimble were out, cornerbacks Brian Baucham and Nickell Robey were both listed as "limited," with undisclosed injuries. Defensive end Nick Perry was also described as limited, although he appeared to participate in most of practice.
In the stead of Baucham and Robey, junior T.J. Bryant took a lot of snaps at cornerback across from Shareece Wright and appeared solid. Bryant, of course, is in just his second day of practice with the team after missing all of fall camp following an altercation with Stanley Havili. But Kiffin indicated Wednesday that Bryant could very well play against Virginia -- possibly in nickel or dime situations.
Associate head coach/special teams coordinator John Baxter's units had a bit of an up-and-down week against Hawaii. The effervescent coach addressed the go-for-two concerns, some kick-coverage struggles and Ronald Johnson's muffed punt with a simple question: "Is every decision we make gonna ultimately be the right one? No. But every decision we make is gonna be full speed."
Final notes: Wednesday was quarterback Matt Barkley's 20th birthday. Asked if he had any surprises planned for his sophomore quarterback or if he'd done something earlier in the day, Kiffin said the Trojans would have to win more games before he would begin celebrating birthdays. ...The Trojans practice again Thursday at 4 p.m., their last before the Virginia game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. ...Defensive back Patrick Hall, suspended indefinitely last week for an unspecified violation, continues to attend classes and academic tutoring sessions at USC, Kiffin said. Hall has also met with the coach to discuss his future, although no timetable for his possible return has yet been concocted.
Kiffin spoke to the media following Wednesday's practice. Hear what he had to say:
Perry, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice nearly a month ago and was out entirely until last week, refrained from saying he has recovered 100 percent but seemed confident that he would suit up against the Cavaliers.
Actually, he did suit up for the Hawaii game and participated in pre-game workouts with his teammates on the Aloha Stadium field, only to stay on the sidelines during the game. He said Wednesday that he felt about 50 percent ready at the time.
This week, the USC coaching staff is making some changes on the defensive line to better accomodate Perry, moving junior Armond Armstead from end to tackle and sliding Jurrell Casey from under tackle to nose tackle. We'll have more on those switches tomorrow.
See what Perry had to say about his injury, the defensive line's quest for redemption against the Cavaliers and more: