Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Tuesday practice report: Breakdown
By Pedro Moura
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
News items coming from the practice field: defensive back Patrick Hall has been reinstated to the team after being suspended indefinitely last month, and junior safety Drew McAllister will "most likely" have surgery on an injured hip and miss the rest of the season, coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday.
The McAllister news, accordingly, means that freshman safety Demetrius Wright will not redshirt this season and will instead serve as the fourth safety, working with Marshall Jones to back up Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald.
More injuries: defensive end Armond Armstead (shoulder) was limited in practice, as were tight end Xavier Grimble (ankle) and linebacker Michael Morgan. Grimble participated in practice for the first time in several weeks; Armstead's injury is the same as last week's -- a shoulder AC sprain -- and the coaching staff appears to be taking it easy with him during the week.
As for the tailback spot, it appears Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford are still in competition to start against Washington State on Saturday, although both associate head coach John Baxter and offensive coordinator/running backs coach Kennedy Pola referred to Tyler as the starter on Tuesday. The two split carries as the first-team runner in practice, while freshman Dillon Baxter continued to take his typical dose of snaps as the change-of-pace back. "They're all getting better," Pola said of his stable of backs. "We have a lot of improvement to do."
Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey may also be in danger of losing his starting spot after he was called for two penalties against Minnesota and appeared at times overmatched against tallest receivers. Possible candidates to take over that spot include Torin Harris, Brian Baucham and T.J. Bryant. "Right now, there's probably about to be some changes," Robey said Tuesday. "I don't ever know, I gotta let the coaches make the decisions, so I just practice every day."
Over the weekend, Kiffin looked into the possibility of redshirting freshman receiver Markeith Ambles, who played three snaps in the season opener against Hawaii. After determining that doing so was impossible, Ambles will now be available, beginning this week against the Cougars and continuing for the rest of the year. Ambles' case also appears to firm up the redshirt/non-redshirt decisions that had to be made with the entire freshman class, giving USC six freshmen who will not redshirt this season: receivers Robert Woods and Ambles, defensive backs Robey and Wright, defensive end Christian Thomas and Baxter. Among the 10 players that appear set to sit out of the rest of the season's 10 games: defensive tackle George Uko, receiver Kyle Prater and offensive lineman Giovanni Di Poalo -- plus sophomore De'Von Flournoy and now McAllister, a junior.
On-field highlights: quarterback Matt Barkley was twice forced to run a lap around Howard Jones Field after being intercepted. The first time, he threw a slow-paced over the middle that almost appeared targeted for Wright, who took it back a good 20 or 30 yards before being touched down. On the second play, Barkley threw to the left sideline for receiver David Ausberry, only to see Ausberry tip the ball right into the hands of cornerback Shareece Wright. Robey attributed this recent surge in defensive turnovers to improved play from the defensive backs as a whole -- and not to any decrease in play from Barkley, although his two picks against Minnesota would seem to indicate otherwise. "We're getting casual with the ball," Kiffin said Tuesday. "It was frustrating today. Sometimes they're gonna happen -- the ball's gonna get tipped or the guy's gonna miss a protection -- but when you force a ball, like the one out here today towards the end, there's no excuse for that."
Final notes: The Trojans will stay in Los Angeles until Friday this week before traveling up to Washington, meaning that practices will be at 4 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday. ...Kickers Joe Houston and Jacob Harfman will continue to each wear No. 10, Baxter said Tuesday, in an effort to open up more numbers for special-teams players to wear. Asked why Kiffin said after the game Saturday that it was a strategical move, Baxter indicated that was because he wanted to have all of its players available on each of the units and added that Kiffin didn't care enough about the kicking game to spend his time strategizing there.
Kiffin addressed the media after Tuesday's practice, talking over injuries, the start of conference play and other topics.
See what the coach had to say:
Pola talked about each of his running backs on Tuesday, including his view on Baxter's progress so far, what the coaching staff would need to see from a back to make them the starter, and more.