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Thursday, March 24, 2011
'It looks like' the morning practices are here to stay

By Pedro Moura

Lane Kiffin's going to stick with the morning practices in the fall after trying it out twice this spring and apparently liking what he's seeing.

"We just had a few final schedules that we had to work out, work through," Kiffin said Thursday when asked about his practice plans for the 2011 season. "It looks like that we are -- we just need to make sure that we can get everybody's schedules blocked out in the fall."

USC has started practice the first two days of spring practice at 7:25 a.m., pushing the players through nearly a two-and-a-half hour workout before letting them loose for the day. Many players have classes scheduled for 10 a.m. -- they leave a bit earlier, around 9:35, before the final team drills are completed -- but the rest of the Trojans have gotten to exit the practice fields around 9:50 a.m.

Those times don't sound that crazy, but the early-morning report times for players to get ready for practice are a little unusual. Mandatory meetings begin at  6 a.m., so players roll in during the 5 o'clock hour to get taped and do some of their own stretching. Freshman quarterback Cody Kessler said Thursday, with a tired grin on his face, that he has set his alarm for 4:30 a.m.

The idea is to get players in bed early and keep them out of trouble during the night-time, and that does make quite a bit of sense. But the only way to do it in the mornings and allow players to maintain fairly normal class schedules is to do it super-early.

So that's what they're doing.

“I think it’s very beneficial to our kids," Kiffin said. "They have great energy. They’re here at 5 a.m. for the most part getting ready. It’s a lot easier, I think, for their bodies to have good practices that start at 7 in the morning as opposed to going through the day of class and lunch and getting here at 4 in the afternoon."

The other aspect of it is, of course, classes. 4 p.m. practices, with meetings beginning at 2 p.m., allowed players to take classes anywhere from 8-2, typically. Now a lot more Trojans will be enrolled in afternoon and night classes, it appears.

Class registration for the fall begins next week. Making sure players could take the right classes in the afternoons was the final obstacle for Kiffin to get his way with the morning sessions.

Said Kiffin: "It just seemed to work out better, and I think it benefits them academically, because they’re up right now going to class at 10, 11, 12 o’clock, as opposed to maybe first thing in the morning.”

Another program which has switched to morning practices recently? Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks. But Kiffin said this week his new plan has nothing to do with Kelly's success with the schedule in Eugene.