Here's what went on at Howard Jones Field on Wednesday morning, for the first half of the Trojans' first two-a-day session of the fall and seventh practice overall:
Ellison enjoying fullback
On the first day of practice last week, senior Rhett Ellison surprised some by spending some time at fullback rather than his usual position of tight end.
But by now, a week into camp, it's no longer a surprise. Ellison's trying out both positions and focusing on fullback, with the reasoning being the Trojans already know what they have in him as a tight end. And, they say, they don't entirely know what they have in him as a fullback just yet.
He started two games at the position in 2008 while Stanley Havili was injured, but he has worked almost exclusively at tight end. And the Trojans have three talented second-year tight ends on scholarship in Christian Thomas, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, and no scholarship returners at fullback, only first-year players Soma Vainuku and Charles Burks.
So Ellison's playing fullback -- and, really, a variation of what's commonly referred to as H-back, as he has been moved around a lot in various sets.
"It's new," Ellison said of the position after Wednesday's morning session. "And it's been a lot of fun just trying to learn it and figure it out."
Always known as a smart player, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ellison says he is having some troubling figuring it out and picking up the different things he's now required to know, but not enough to the point where's he worried about it.
"Just understanding defenses in the grand scheme of things," Ellison said when asked what he's working on most. "Just everything. You have to understand everything from the defensive line techniques to the linebacker stacks, where the safeties are rotating, the corners ... all that kind of stuff, as opposed to a tight end, where you just have to worry about half of the line of scrimmage, pretty much."
Tyler staying involved
Senior running back Marc Tyler, suspended indefinitely last month for comments made to TMZ.com outside a West Hollywood club, has kept up with his assignments while away from team activities during fall camp, coach Lane Kiffin said.
Tyler, who will miss the season opener against Minnesota and potentially more games, has been allowed to come in to Heritage Hall on off-times from the team and do his own exercises.
"He comes in and works out, so I see him around," Kiffin said. "He seems in good spirits and trying to do things right to get back."
Not in pads, the Trojans focused mostly on special-teams drills during Wednesday's practice, with coordinator John Baxter leading the way with his colorful comments and direction. The team worked out potential field-goal kick blockers and worked on kick coverages and flying-40s, among other drills.
On the topic of special teams, Kiffin said freshman Andre Heidari will be the placekicker but noted the punting competition is open between scholarship newcomer Kris Albarado and newcomer Kyle Negrete. If Negrete wins the job, Kiffin said, Albarado will redshirt to preserve a year of eligibility because of the scholarship limits imposed by the NCAA.
USC also worked in a lot of nickel defense sets, with cornerback Anthony Brown joining Nickell Robey and Tony Burnett as the third corner, as he has for much of the fall.
Linebacker Chris Galippo (shoulder) did not practice and was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam during the day Wednesday. Quarterback Jesse Scroggins (thumb) also did not practice and is scheduled to see a hand specialist after he sprained the thumb on his throwing hand in Monday's Coliseum scrimmage. Tight end Christian Thomas (hip) practiced lightly; cornerback Torin Harris (concussion) did not practice.
Freshman right guard Aundrey Walker missed a good portion of practice after suffering a mild hip strain Wednesday. Cornerback Tony Burnett suffered a mild ankle sprain near the end of practice and running back Amir Carlisle strained his quad.
USC will be back at it Wednesday night with another practice session, this time in full pads. Four more days of practices remain before the Trojans get their first off day of the fall on Monday. ... Kiffin said if he were asked to name a camp MVP at this point, seven days in, he might name senior Brandon Carswell, who he said has made a big improvement from previous camps. ... Sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles finished summer school Tuesday, Kiffin said, and is waiting to get his grades back before he returns to practice.