Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
Wednesday, quarterback Matt Barkley said his injured left ankle would be feeling three times better in time for the UCLA game Saturday. Thursday, he said it had improved as he'd expected and would be feeling "twice as [good]" for UCLA. That's a lot of linear growth for the 20-year-old sophomore, but his Coach -- Lane Kiffin -- shared a similar viewpoint on it after Thursday's practice, although it wasn't quite as mathematical. "I thought he looked obviously by far the best he’s looked since the injury," Kiffin said. "He did a lot of stuff today. I would anticipate him playing. It’ll be a decision as we get closer, but the way he looked today, and we’ll see how sore he is tomorrow.” When asked what specifically had improved, Barkley said he could tell the difference from Wednesday "in planting it and moving on it.
Barkley has been sporting a fairly prominent brace on the ankle during practices this week, the same brace former Trojans like Troy Polamalu and Matt Leinart wore when dealing with high-ankle sprains during their USC careers. Barkley said he plans to wear it during the game and dismissed the prospects of it causing a lack of mobility, saying that he practiced running out on bootlegs during the warm-up portion of practice to test it out a bit.
Injury report: Cornerback Torin Harris (shoulder) and safety T.J. McDonald (shoulder) did not practice. Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, right tackle Tyron Smith (knee) and Barkley (ankle) participated on a limited basis. Cornerback Brian Baucham (shoulder/neck) was also listed as a non-participant by Kiffin but actually did participate quite a bit. He had not practiced earlier this week; if he is healthy enough to suit up Saturday, USC would not have to use a walk-on (Daniel Harper) as its nickel back, which the coaching staff had planned on doing. Starting corner Shareece Wright also ppeared to hurt his left ankle or toes near the end of practice during team drills; his status unclear.
The running game has struggled the past two weeks for the Trojans, with Marc Tyler starting both games but not able to finish either of them. Kiffin has been noncommittal when asked to name a starting running back this week, and he presented a similar approach when asked to assess the collective performance of the backs in practice this week. “It’s kind of always hard to tell, because it’s a practice and you aren’t bringing guys to the ground," he said. "Obviously it would be very good for us to get that back. We’ve missed that the last two weeks, since the Arizona game, and our offense doesn’t do very much when our run game doesn’t go, because it kind of sets up everything else. I’m sure that will be a major part of the storyline of the game.”
Final notes: The senior sendoff that has typically concluded USC's final open practice of the season has been pushed back to Friday, when the team will hold a brief afternoon walk-through before departing for their downtown hotel for the night. In past years, the proceedings had the underclassmen connect hands and create a tunnel from which the seniors could exit the practice field for the final time. ...Joked Kiffin when asked if he was worried that his job could be on the line with a loss on Saturday: "I guess I’m safe for 48 more hours. Maybe not if we only score one more touchdown."
Kiffin spoke to the media after Thursday's practice and addressed the possibility of getting Ronald Johnson an early catch to bring his confidence back up, whether seniors will receive more playing time in the final game of their college careers and other topics.
See what he had to say for the final time after a 2010 practice:
Redshirt junior middle linebacker Chris Galippo had quite a few interesting things to say about the USC-UCLA rivalry on Thursday, agreeing with the players' sentiment that this game is for them -- whereas the Notre Dame game was for the fans and alumni, as Kiffin first asserted.
See all of what Galippo had to say in advance of the game Saturday, including some thoughts on the parting seniors who want to leave with a victory over the Bruins: