Saturday, August 7, 2010
The day after: Extra observations, plus turning a weakness into a strength and Keary Colbert reflects
By Pedro Moura
It's the day after USC's third practice of fall camp. As we will have after most of the month-long camp schedule, here are a few extra observations and a video interview from Friday's practice:
Forget the much-publicized middle linebacker battle between Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard -- USC coach Lane Kiffin is also paying attention to the two other two linebackers who will likely start for the Trojans come September, Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith. Even though he wasn't there to see them, Kiffin took note of the linebackers' poor performances in 2009 and seems determined to prevent them from happening again in 2010. "Michael Morgan, at outside linebacker, and Malcolm, they both look bigger and stronger and faster than they ever have here," the first-year coach said after Friday's practice. "We're sure hoping what was probably our weakness last year will be our strength this year."
With three freshmen tight ends and at least two scholarship returnees to boot, Kiffin finally admitted the inevitable Friday when he announced plans to try out the new players on the defensive side of the ball. It's likely that at least one of the trio will end up making a long-term move to another position, whether that be on defense or to the offensive line -- as has been speculated with Las Vegas native Xavier Grimble. Kiffin said earlier in the week he had no immediate plans to try the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Grimble out on the line.
It's a little remarkable that all three Trojans who hail from Florida -- cornerbacks T.J. Bryant and Nickell Robey, plus safety Jawanza Starling -- play in the secondary. It might be even more remarkable that all three have been in the news this week. Both Robey and Starling were spotlighted by Kiffin for their performances thus far in fall camp, while Bryant underwent facial surgery Thursday and is out 3-4 weeks after a controversial confrontation with fullback Stanley Havili in a team conditioning session last week. Of course, Starling and Bryant were high school teammates at Tallahassee's Lincoln H.S., whereas Robey hails from Frostproof H.S. in Central Florida.
The Trojans have a very capable backup at quarterback behind starter Matt Barkley in Mitch Mustain, but behind that Kiffin's squad is very inexperienced. In a normal situation, freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins would likely redshirt this season -- but these aren't normal circumstances. Aaron Corp's transfer in January left USC with only two scholarship returnees at the position. Say, for example, if Scroggins were to redshirt and either Barkley or Mustain would suffer a minor injury. If said injury would keep them out of a weekend contest, walk-on redshirt sophomore John Manoogian would then be the backup quarterback for the day -- just one potential snap away from being in the game. What probably will happen is the coaches will attempt to redshirt Scroggins -- who has looked very raw in his limited practice time so far -- but also prepare him as a third quarterback in case of an injury to the top two. A player's redshirt status isn't truly determined until the end of the season, leaving open the possibility that Scroggins could enter into a game at any time.
Former Trojans receiver Keary Colbert, who graduated from USC in 2004 as the school's all-time leader in receptions on his way to a five-year NFL career, re-joined the squad in the spring as a graduate assistant coaching the tight ends.
Colbert, 28, brings a unique perspective -- he's young enough to relate to the athletes but old and experienced enough to be a coach.
In a video interview taken this week, Colbert talks about his natural love for the wide receiver position, his role in tutoring a big group of both young and old tight ends and the whirlwind last six years of his career.
Hear all of his comments -- including his thoughts on the USC-to-NFL pipeline: