"I don't want to hear that," receiver Brice Butler said after Friday's practice, a session in which he shined brighter than perhaps any other offensive player, evading defenders left and right and displaying a well-tuned chemistry with quarterback Matt Barkley.
What, exactly, did he not want to hear on the second day of 2011 fall camp for the Trojans?
Lane Kiffin's praise. The coach who had been all over Butler since he arrived at USC in January 2010 has changed his tune quite a bit, to the point where Butler has to now be described as an early favorite to start across from Robert Woods this season.
"Completely different from what we saw before," Kiffin said of Butler. "Physical, aggressive, going after balls. Other areas he’s still doing well like he was before, like his preparation and his seriousness about the game -- he had that before and he continues to do that."
"I’m extremely pleased with where he is."
Butler was very aggressive Friday, even moreso than on a solid first day Thursday. After every pass he caught, he'd run with a full head of steam toward the end zone and not stop running until he crossed the goal line. He dropped one deep ball along the east sideline but caught most everything else thrown his way in team drills.
He said afterward he's attempting to bring out the "monster" inside him in fall camp. He also said he may have been wrong in the way he approached his relationship with Kiffin during his first stint at USC, before he decided to transfer.
“I feel like he’s always been on my side," Butler said. "I just didn’t really realize it. Coach Kiffin’s a good guy, man, and he wants the best out of his players. He has high expectations for everybody.
"It’s great to have a coach that expects that out of you.”
Statements like those are markedly different from what was coming out of Butler's camp last semester, when Butler's father, former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Bobby Butler, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kiffin didn't give his son a fair chance at USC. That came the same week, in January, that Butler announced he planned to transfer from USC to an FCS school where he'd be able to play right away and presumably start.
That didn't end up happening. Butler stayed at USC to attempt and worked out on his own By the time he decided he wanted to stay permanently, it was May and he had missed all of spring practice. But he doesn't regret taking the time off from the team. In fact, he said, he's glad it worked out the way it did.
“That helped me out the most, to be honest," Butler said Friday. "If I’d stayed and did spring ball, I’d probably be farther behind than I am now. My mindset was not in the correct state, so if I would’ve stayed on the team I would’ve brought a negative feeling to the team and that would have been hurting myself as well as the team.
"I really found myself and understood what it takes for me to do what I want to do in my life."