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Practice No. 11 tidbits + video

4/14/2011

Two main stories out of USC's Thursday practice: Jesse Scroggins has solidified his spot as Matt Barkley's backup, and the Trojans' offensive line continues to struggle. Here's the rest of what went on at Howard Jones Field on Thursday, with more coming on rising sophomore corner Nickell Robey on Friday:

A bad day

Sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles had missed the last three practices because of a variety of issues, and he showed symptoms of rust in making his return to the practice field Thursday.

On a day in which fellow sophomore Robert Woods was again performing at his peak, Ambles was far from at his best, dropping a number of passes and altogether seeming frazzled and distracted.

"He was out here," coach Lane Kiffin said when asked about Ambles. "I think he dropped 75 percent of his balls today. So, long way to go."

Ambles was a darkhorse of sorts to start across from Woods in the fall, but it would appear he's out of the race at this time. Brandon Carswell will probably be the guy if it's a returning letterman. If not, Kyle Prater or incoming freshman George Farmer could end up starting.

Speaking of Prater, he ran some individual routes after practice ended while his teammates played baseball.

Played what?

Yes, the Trojans tried their collective hands at baseball Thursday.

After practice ended, Kiffin herded together a bunch of Trojans and took them over to the baseball field, where they took batting practice alongside members of the baseball team and coaching staff.

The star players? Safeties Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald. Both hit homers. Quarterback Matt Barkley hit a ball to the warning track, but nobody else showed serious power.

Starling played baseball as a freshman at USC, so that makes some sense.

Injury updates

Sophomore tight end Christian Thomas was the only new injury Thursday. He sat out of practice because of a sore foot, but X-rays were negative so he is expected back soon.

"His foot was bothering him," Kiffin said of Thomas. "We thought he was going to go, but he was very sore this morning."

If there is any position where USC can afford an injury, it's tight end. Aside from Thomas, the Trojans have two capable backups for starter Rhett Ellison in Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble.

McDonald, who had a tooth knocked out in Saturday's scrimmage, returned to the field after missing Tuesday's practice.

Hayes Pullard continues to impress

USC entered last month's practices with two clear starters at linebacker in Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo, but both players are sitting out for the duration of the spring because of injuries. That's given a bunch of likely reserves the opportunity to prove themselves as potential starters -- but only one player has truly done that.

"The guy for sure that has jumped out has been Hayes Pullard," Kiffin said. "Hayes is doing really well, and that’s good to see. This is a guy who was banged up last year, was redshirted, played on the service team some.

"He didn’t really flash that much to us last year but really has had a great offseason and looks really good out there."

Pullard is now an option to start at strongside linebacker, as is redshirt senior Shane Horton, who's also sitting out the spring. Incoming freshman Lamar Dawson could provide the last of the challenges for that spot when he enrolls at USC over the summer.