Defensive tackle George Uko had a good first week of spring practice earlier this month. Then, during the mini-scrimmage that Saturday, USC coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron noticed him taking occasional plays off on the defensive unit and decided to take action.
They left him a letter in the locker room telling him he'd been demoted to the second team for the next week of practices -- an obvious shock to Uko. But he came in Tuesday after a nine-day break and got himself promoted right back to the first team, showing the kind of domination that has long made him such an attractive prospect.
Put it this way: If Uko's not one of USC's most known players come the end of the 2012 season, something will have gone wrong. He has that potential. And he has the necessary approach -- the pure honesty and actual reflectiveness -- to fulfill his athletic potential.
"I knew what I was doing," he said Thursday, asked about the temporary demotion and how it came about. "It was on film. It wasn't like (the coaches) shocked me or anything. We have cameras here and they film.
"We watch the film and you know what you do. It's just reality."
Uko said he wasn't upset at the letter -- he was upset at himself.
"I was like, 'OK, I'm not gonna fight it, I'm not gonna argue it," he said. "I'm just gonna come out and work."
Here are the words Kiffin used to describe him on Thursday: "powerful", "quick," and "explosive." Here are the phrases: "He can run long," "He can play the run," and "He can rush the passer."
"He really responded," Kiffin said.
Of course, the Trojans are counting on Uko to lead the interior of the defensive line this season. With J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods battling for snaps at nose tackle, it'll be Uko manning the under tackle spot most of the time.
And that should be just fine.
"He’s a perfect 3-technique," Kiffin said. "The sky’s the limit for him."