True freshman running back Amir Carlisle has made a habit, four days into camp, of impressing coach Lane Kiffin and his staff on a daily basis with his runs. Each day Kiffin has raved after practice about what the 5-10, 180-pounder showed that day, whether it be his ability to get right back up from a number of hits from the Trojan defense or his smart cutbacks that have often led to long runs thus far.
Sunday it came in a slightly different form, when the Trojans coach was asked if there was starting to be any sort of gaps, formal or informal, forming on the running back depth chart through the first few days of camp.
"Amir's standing out. He continues to every day," Kiffin said. "But I don't think there's a lot of separation between guys at that position because so much is based off of real-game stuff.
"Receivers, there's not a whole lot of difference. Sometimes quarterbacks can do certain things. But running backs, how are they gonna pass-protect when it's live, how are they going to hold on to the ball, how are they going to take it if they have to carry the ball 15 or 20 times tomorrow night.'"
Tomorrow night, or Monday night, is a big deal to Kiffin. It's his players "first big test," as he said Sunday, to prove themselves in game situations as the Trojans will practice at the Coliseum. The question now regarding Carlisle becomes if it is indeed a possibility he could start the season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 3 while Marc Tyler is suspended.
That's a long way away, of course, but Carlisle can move one nice-sized step closer to securing that spot with a good Coliseum performance Monday.
Junior cornerback Isiah Wiley concluded practice with the only interception of the day, a leaping in-the-end-zone pick of freshman Max Wittek's lob to Brice Butler.
Receiver De'Von Flournoy and tight end Randall Telfer both scored on pretty skinny-post routes during drills, Flournoy corralling his ball on a pass from redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins and Telfer from junior Matt Barkley.
Junior running back Curtis McNeal broke two long runs, including one on the first play of 11-on-11 drills Sunday.
Freshman defensive tackle J.R. Tavai (hamstring), freshman center Cody Temple (back) and redshirt freshman guard Giovanni Di Poalo (shoulder) continued to sit out of practice. Junior cornerback Brian Baucham (hamstring) and sophomore tight end Christian Thomas (hip) were added to the injury list. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris (concussion) did not suit up and will have to pass traditional post-concussion tests before he's allowed to step on the field again.
Senior defensive tackle Christian Tupou sat out again after suffering a flare-up in his surgically repaired knee on Saturday, but Kiffin said "it was not a major issue."
USC's Monday night practice at the Coliseum will begin at 7 p.m, under the lights. It'll be a scrimmage in the style of the NFL preseason games that Kiffin has often referenced since arriving at USC, and the Trojans will tackle for the duration of three-hour session, unlike last year. ... Incoming freshmen Javorious "Buck" Allen and Junior Pomee have not been present at any USC practice yet, despite Kiffin's claims that the Trojans expected them in attendance as soon as this past weekend. ... Summer-school classes end Monday, meaning receiver Markeith Ambles should theoretically rejoin the team Tuesday. It also means final eligibility rulings will be delivered in the coming days for guys on the border like McNeal.