USC: Brice Butler

Film study: Minnesota

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
5:37
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We're officially one month away from the start of USC's 2012 regular season. Given that, we thought it appropriate to start a new series on the USC Report -- a film study set of posts looking back at the 12 games the Trojans played in 2011.

Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we'll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we'll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it'll be game week for USC's 2012 season opener against Hawaii.

Here are our five notes -- four big things and a bunch of little ones -- from USC's 19-17 win over Minnesota on Sept. 3, 2011.

A healthy Woods?

Coach Lane Kiffin has made some news of late with his comments that Robert Woods' ankle wasn't 100 percent at any point last season in an attempt to deflect attention away from his status for this year.

If Woods was much less than full strength in this game, we've yet to see him at 100 percent in a USC uniform.

Right away, Matt Barkley goes to Woods for the Trojans' first two plays of the 2011 season and finds him five times on the first drive. On the first, Woods is tackled to his side near the sideline after a screen and jumps up to his feet as if it's nothing. Later in the season, it's clear to astute observers that his ankle is bothering him at certain times.

Not here. It'll be interesting to see if there's a moment where it gets re-aggravated in the next few games.

(Read full post)

Updated scholarship math

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
4:10
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National Signing Day is in 16 days, on Feb. 1.

On that day, USC plans to sign 15 players, the most it's allowed to sign under NCAA-mandated limitations because of the sanctions. But will that work, considering the NCAA is also mandating the Trojans keep their total number of scholarships handed out at 75?

It's going to take some finagling. Looking at the updated scholarship math after the latest wave of transfers, USC will still have to create some more spots by the time the 2012 season comes around in one way or another.

Position by position, as of Monday, the Trojans have four quarterbacks, three running backs, two fullbacks, five receivers, four tight ends, four offensive tackles, four guards, three centers, four defensive ends, four defensive tackles, eight linebackers, six cornerbacks, five safeties and three special-teamers on scholarship.

That's 59 players, not including Amir Carlisle, Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, Armond Armstead, T.J. Bryant and Patrick Hall, who have all left the program or are very near leaving.

Then add six more players who are expected to begin attending classes at USC by the Jan. 27 spring-semester deadline: Morgan Breslin, Scott Starr, DeVante Wilson, Gerald Bowman, Chad Wheeler and Josh Shaw.

That's 65 players. With a 75-man cap and 15 players presumably coming in the summer in the class of 2012, that means five more players still have to go. Where will those five players come from?

There are a few possibilities -- let's run through some of them.

-- Three former walk-ons who earned scholarships could have them revoked: offensive lineman Abe Markowitz, linebacker Will Andrew and safety Tony Burnett.

-- Bowman may not finish his junior-college requirements in time to enroll for the spring. That would push him back to the summer and lower USC's total.

-- One or two or a few players could still transfer. Prime candidates would appear to be those locked in at their spots behind younger players.

Those are three primary ways USC could get down to the maximum. Other more-creative, less-likely options are the oft-thrown-around ideas that (1) certain players could give up their scholarships for a year or (2) players who participate in other sports could get supported on scholarships from those sports.

But neither makes much sense -- firstly, it's not just the cost of attendance that a scholarship covers, it also provides the chance to eat in the athletic cafeteria and other similar privileges. And, secondly, there aren't too many football players still playing other sports. There are a few Track & Field athletes, but scholarships are at a premium there too.

Of course, USC could also grey-shirt a signee or two who doesn't qualify and have him come in next January, by which time more current players could transfer. There are ways around it.

Butler to transfer to SDSU

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
11:34
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USC receiver Brice Butler is transferring to San Diego State, he confirmed in a text message to ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday.

The senior has considered transferring before, even leaving the football team last spring while choosing a new destination. But this time it's for real, he says, and he'll be able to play at SDSU immediately because of NCAA provisions allowing seniors who have already graduated to pursue graduate programs at new schools when they are not offered at their current schools.

Butler graduated from USC in December and plans to pursue a post-graduate degree in the communication field, although the exact program has not yet been determined. The spring semester begins at SDSU a week from Wednesday, on Jan. 18.

Butler, 21, chose the Aztecs over Kansas, among a few other schools.

He becomes the third USC Trojan to transfer this offseason. Last week, it was revealed running back Amir Carlisle would be moving to Notre Dame, near where his father is now employed at Purdue. And receiver Kyle Prater announced via Twitter earlier this week that he'd be transferring to a school closer to his home in suburban Chicago.

Butler, an Atlanta native, had considered mostly schools in the Southeast last spring but cast a wider net this time.

USC still needs roughly five more players to transfer before fall camp begins in order to stay under the NCAA-mandated limit of 75, assuming the Trojans sign their maximum 15 players on Signing Day in February.

Five questions for the New Year, No. 4

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
2:25
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We've looked at the USC Trojans' top 10 moments from 2011 and the top 10 performers as well. Now, with the final days of the year approaching, we take a look at the five most pressing questions surrounding Lane Kiffin's Trojans in 2012. We'll unveil one each day this week, counting down from No. 5 Monday to No. 1 on Friday.

Question No. 5 covered the Associated Press preseason top 25. Question No. 4, then, is this: How will USC work around the NCAA-sanctioned scholarship limits set to hit in February?

Here's the deal: Signing Day is Feb. 2. Most schools around the country will sign in the range of 25 players to letters of intent that day, setting it up for them to enroll over summer and join the team in fall camp.

USC can only sign 15, by the NCAA's mandate in sanctions placed upon the school in June 2010. And, to make matters worse, the Trojans have to keep their overall scholarships under 75, per another aspect of the sanctions.

That is going to be an issue. By our count, USC has 66 players on its roster who were on scholarship in 2011 and who plan to play football at the college level next year. The Trojans have already signed four players this month to enroll in January and plan to sign two or three more, per coach Lane Kiffin. There are also seven players verbally committed to USC and many, many more who are being recruited by the school. Even with just seven, though, that's already more than 75.

So, what gives? Some players are going to have to be dropped off scholarship or transfer, whether by choice or suggestion. Armond Armstead, Brice Butler and T.J. Bryant seem likely candidates to fall in the transfer category. Three former walk-ons -- Will Andrew, Abe Markowitz and Tony Burnett -- could see their scholarships dropped.

Even then, though, if all six are no longer on scholarship next fall and USC signs 15 players in February and takes on two more early enrollees for January to make six, that equates to 81 players. Six more would have to go.

The problem isn't so much depth -- the last 10 scholarship guys on a college football team are largely insurance policies in case the first 75 get hurt. The problem is that cutting 20-year-olds loose is never easy.

The challenge for Kiffin and the Trojans will be to do it gracefully.

Check back Tuesday for question No. 3, which deals with the new offensive systems taking root in a few Pac-12 schools and how USC will adjust to them.

5 things to watch: USC-Oregon

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
6:47
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1. The implications: As is the case with most late-season contests between top-25 teams, Saturday's USC-Oregon will have quite a few long-lasting after-effects. If the Ducks do win, as they are expected to, they'll put themselves in a serious conversation for the national championship game with only a game against lowly Oregon State. If they lose, it'll be a role reversal of epic proportions as the Trojans turn the tables on the Ducks and do what teams tried to do to them for so many years: ruin their BCS bowl aspirations. And, for USC, a win over Oregon coupled with a season-ending win over UCLA just about ensures that the Trojans will finish the season in the national top 10 -- really a remarkable accomplishment considering all the circumstances surrounding USC's 2011 season.

OregonUSC2. USC's No. 1 receiver: USC pass-catcher Robert Woods isn't fully healthy -- that much we know for sure. But what we'll see on the field Saturday is exactly how healthy he really is, and whether he can actually help the Trojans upset Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Lane Kiffin says he's 70 percent recovered from ankle and shoulder injuries that have bothered him, in one form or another, all season long, but Woods insists he's further along. Last week's game against Washington, when he had just two catches for five yards, indicated he wasn't feeling too great. Also, a corollary to this item: If Woods can't go or can't be at full strength, is there any possible way USC can still compete? Brice Butler would be the next in line to line up across from Marqise Lee, and he has had some success of late.

3. The conditions and the crowd: The snow some projected for this weekend in Eugene has been pushed back to Sunday, but, even now, Weather.com projects a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a high of 45 degrees. USC's had to play in some tough places this year -- windy Tempe, loud and cold South Bend and new Boulder -- but Autzen is likely to take the cake. In the Trojans' final road game of the year, expect 60,000 Duck fans to create by far the loudest experience yet of the 2011 season. Autzen only fits 54 thousand in seats, but Oregon filled it up well past its capacity last month against Arizona State, and it's likely the Ducks will do the same Saturday.

4. De'Anthony, Darron, Kenjon and LaMichael: Oregon has so many weapons. Any one of those four guys -- plus receiver Lavasier Tunei, really -- could be many teams' No. 1 offensive options. The Ducks have all of them, and Chip Kelly is sure to make good use of all his available players on the offensive end. LaMichael James, of course, is probably the biggest cause for concern from USC's perspective, but, as Kiffin said this week, the Trojans have to approach all of the Oregon runners in the same manner. They can't key in on James, because then De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner will go off. They can't key in on Thomas, because it's impossible to predict how he'll be used each week. And Thomas continues to quietly post solid numbers -- he has thrown fewer interceptions than both Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck this season.

5. The fourth quarter: All season, USC has talked up its supposed improvements in the final 15 minutes of games. We have seen signs of small improvements over the course of the year, but we've yet to see real, tangible evidence that the Trojans have fixed all that has ailed them in the past. As the fourth quarter began last season during the USC-Oregon game at the Coliseum, the Trojans were driving past midfield and on the verge of scoring a touchdown to put themselves within a field goal of the Ducks. Then they turned it over on downs and gave Oregon an easy field goal, and then, within another touchdown of making it a one-score game, Barkley was picked off by John Boyett in the red zone. Three minutes later, it was game and the final score (53-32) made it looked like Oregon had dominated the entire game. In reality, the Trojans weren't far away from making it very, very competitive.

Barkley named Pac-12 player of the week

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
12:20
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USC quarterback Matt Barkley was named the Pac-12 conference's offensive player of the week Monday after he broke the school's all-time record for passing yards in a win over Arizona on Saturday.

It's Barkley's second such honor of the 2011 season. He was also named the offensive player of the week following a 324-yard, five-touchdown performance against Syracuse in Week 3.

On Saturday, Barkley threw for 468 yards on 32-of-39 passing, including four touchdowns and one interception. He broke Carson Palmer's record of 448 yards that was set in his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 2002.

By halftime of the Arizona game, Barkley had already surpassed 300 yards on the day and had thrown for three touchdowns. He went on to break the yardage record early in the fourth on a 25-yard pass to Brice Butler that led to a USC touchdown.

Washington State linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis won conference defensive player of the week honors for a 12-tackle, two-sack performance against Colorado and Arizona State returner Jamal Miles took home the special teams honor after he had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown against Oregon State.

USC's T.J. McDonald and Andre Heidari were also nominated for the defensive and special teams awards, respectively. In a separate announcement, McDonald was awarded the Lott Impact Trophy, a national honor for the top defensive player each week.

USC's general scholarship fund will receive a $1,000 donation in McDonald's name from the Pacific Club Impact Foundation.

Injury updates

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
1:48
PM PT
USC freshman linebacker Lamar Dawson sat out of practice Tuesday because of a sprained left ankle originally suffered late in the fourth quarter of the Trojans' 38-17 win over Syracuse last week.

Dawson, the backup to Chris Galippo at middle linebacker, wore a walking boot to practice Tuesday, just as he did when leaving the Coliseum on Saturday. He said he planned to play Saturday against Arizona State and is calling himself day-to-day for the time being.

In other injury news, senior defensive tackle DaJohn Harris sat out of practice because of an undisclosed ailment. He declined to tell reporters after practice what his injury was but said he'd be back shortly. Redshirt freshman receiver Kyle Prater also sat out of practice because of an undisclosed injury, and junior pass-catcher Brice Butler joined him on the sidelines late in the practice session as well.

Guard Martin Coleman, no longer wearing the shoulder sling that kept him out of practice last week, also sat out. Guard Abe Markowitz was limited -- he has not practiced fully since the week of the season opener.

Kiffin indicated that all six of the players could be ready to play by game-time Saturday. Harris has been a starter through three games and one of USC's most pleasant surprises thus far; Butler and Dawson are key reserves.

Of course, USC's injury list pales in comparison to that of Arizona State, who has lost four starters on its defense alone since spring practice. Coach Dennis Erickson announced Tuesday that talented defensive end Junior Onyeali has a torn meniscus and will miss the USC game and potentially the rest of the 2011 season. The Sun Devils will also be without end James Brooks, cornerback Omar Bolden and linebacker Brandon Magee.

Onyeali, listed at 5 feet 11, 245 pounds, was the Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year in 2010 after he posted 6.5 sacks in just five starts.

Marqise Lee stars in Wednesday's practice

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
9:58
PM PT
Freshman receiver Marqise Lee missed Wednesday's morning practice because of a family emergency.

He made sure everyone knew he was back by the evening.

The Gardena Serra High product put on display his well-established connection with quarterback Matt Barkley in the 2 1/2-hour night session, catching a number of balls and dropping none. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin made a point of praising him afterward, as he often has in the first two weeks of USC's fall camp.

"He was the star of the practice by far, with nobody even close to him," Kiffin said. "He continued to make a ton of plays."

Lee, like all USC freshmen, is not allowed to talk to the media until next week. But Robert Woods, his high school teammate, provided a quick look at his perspective earlier this week when he said Lee's performance has reminded him of his own from fall camp last year. And a number of his other teammates, Barkley and Brice Butler included, have spoke out on how his on-field and off-field play has resembled Woods'.

What does this all mean? Well, Lee's going to play this season, almost without a doubt. And he could even start across from Woods. As of right now, he's probably just behind Brandon Carswell for the No. 2 spot, meaning he'd still play a ton as a slot receiver.

(Read full post)

Receiver, running back injury updates

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
1:49
PM PT
Receiver Brice Butler returned to practice Wednesday after missing the Trojans' last two practices with a sprained right ankle, but two other USC pass-catchers remained out.

Sophomore Robert Woods (ankle) and senior Brandon Carswell (quadriceps) did not practice; both players have been struggling to get healthy over the last several days. Woods' ankle injury is still the same one he hurt back in April playing pick-up basketball, but Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said it's not too big of a deal at this point.

"He prepares so well mentally that him missing as many practices as he is is not as concerning as it would be with some other guys," Kiffin said. "But, still, they gotta play."

At running back, redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan sat out with soreness in his knee dating back to the torn ACL he suffered in the fall of 2009. The injury that forced him to redshirt last season has continued to cause him problems this fall, but, like Woods, both he and Kiffin said it's not something to be worried about.

"It's just regular wear and tear," Morgan said Wednesday.

Dropped passes a serious issue

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
12:51
PM PT


It was a problem Sunday, during the Trojans' scrimmage at the Coliseum.

It was also a problem Tuesday, during the Trojans' practice at Howard Jones Field.

Truth be told, it's often been a problem with the Trojans this fall camp: dropped passes. A number of young receivers and tight ends have struggled with the crux of their position this camp, and it's hurt the offense as a whole as the USC quarterbacks have had their timing and continuity messed up.

There have just been a lot of drops.

“Yeah, a very large amount of them – especially with Matt in there,” Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday. “It’s disappointing, but it’s just something we have to continue to work on and continue to get our guys better at.”

The main offenders in practice have been receiver De'Von Flournoy and tight end Randall Telfer, although Kyle Prater has had troubles too. And most other players -- Xavier Grimble and Brice Butler, included -- have had notable drops.

Quarterback Matt Barkley took it upon himself Tuesday in practice to let some of the players know his displeasure. Afterward, he said he wasn't so much frustrated with them as he was simply worried about the fate of the team if the receivers couldn't catch his throws.

“These guys are here for a reason, and it’s to run around, catch balls and to block,” Barkley said. “If they are not doing one of those things, it’s my job to make them do that and to help them.

“I’m trying to make sure they are on the same page as me, focusing — not to think, just to react and play. A lot of these young guys are thinking too much and are kind of freaked out. Just calm them down and get them in the mindset, and everything will be fine.”

The funny thing -- Kiffin has said similar stuff about Barkley in the past. Sometimes, the coach has said, his junior quarterback thinks too much on the field and tries to do too much with too little available.

The lesson to be learned here? Don't think, just play.

Woods expected to miss scrimmage

August, 13, 2011
8/13/11
8:40
PM PT
Receiver Robert Woods has missed the last three days of practice because of a long-standing ankle injury that's recently flared up, and Trojans coach Lane Kiffin does not expect the talented sophomore to suit up for Sunday's scrimmage at the Coliseum.

Woods originally sprained the ankle back in April, the day before the spring game, while playing pick-up basketball. In the months since, he has often worked out and practiced on his own and in a team setting but never felt 100 percent. It seemed as if his condition was improving when he produced his best fall-camp performance during Wednesday's evening practice, but, the next afternoon, Woods sat out of practice and hasn't returned since.

“I doubt it," Kiffin said when asked if Woods could play Sunday. "We’ll move him around in the morning, but I wouldn’t think he would."

One positive about his absence: Instead of worrying about giving him enough reps with all the other receivers fighting for the No. 2 job, Kiffin and his staff have another open spot in which they can audition players during the scrimmage. And a number of guys really are fighting for time at receiver, from senior Brandon Carswell to junior Brice Butler to sophomore De'Von Flournoy to freshmen Kyle Prater, George Farmer and Marqise Lee. “

"Sometimes there is a good side to injuries, as far as opening things up for other people,” Kiffin said Saturday. “And we wouldn’t have played Robert all that much anyway.

"It does give more reps to the guys we’re trying to figure out."

As of right now, Carswell sits in the lead in front of the other primary candidates, Kiffin said. Butler and Prater are also believed to be potential No. 2 receivers across from Woods.

Video: Kyle Prater listens, learns

August, 13, 2011
8/13/11
7:08
PM PT
USC receiver Kyle Prater earned an earful from Trojans coach Lane Kiffin this week after he made a mental error or two in Monday's scrimmage at the Coliseum, but Prater appreciated the attention from Kiffin and did his best to learn from it, he said.

The redshirt freshman is a candidate to start across from Robert Woods this season but has so far been outplayed by older receivers Brice Butler and Brandon Carswell in camp. He wore a non-contact jersey in practice Friday because of a shoulder injury he feared might worsen if he were hit.

Here's Prater talking about his latest interactions with Kiffin, how he currently perceives the injury and more:

Injuries starting to take their toll

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
11:54
PM PT
Lane Kiffin was bracing for it, it seemed.

Each time he addressed reporters after the first few days of fall camp, he'd offer a brief injury report, updating the hurt players' statuses, and then say some variant of, "Luckily, we've stayed healthy up to this point. Hopefully we can keep it up."

And the Trojans did keep it up, for almost a full week, at least. But injuries caught up to them Wednesday, as two key players -- linebacker Chris Galippo and receiver Brice Butler -- sat out of practice and it was announced that reserve offensive lineman Giovanni Di Poalo will miss the season because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

"Normal injuries starting to mount at this time," Kiffin said Wednesday. "We've gotta push through and get guys back as much as we can."

The infirmary list has been getting long. On Wednesday, cornerbacks Brian Baucham (hamstring) and Torin Harris (concussion), safety Demetrius Wright (hip) and center Cody Temple (back) were all out, as was quarterback Jesse Scroggins (thumb). Tight end Christian Thomas (hip) was out; Xavier Grimble (neck) was limited. Other players like cornerback Tony Burnett (ankle) and defensive tackle J.R. Tavai (hamstring) practiced but were still recovering from injuries that sidelined them at various points this week.

And those were the more minor injuries, mostly to backups or players sharing time at positions. Three other noteworthy injuries also had updates Wednesday, as Kiffin announced that Di Poalo would be out for the year; he had been experiencing issues with his shoulder popping out since spring practice.

Then there was Butler, who Kiffin said earlier Wednesday was a likely candidate to start across from Robert Woods based on his high level of play through the first week of camp. Butler, a junior practiced in the morning session and didn't show any signs of being hurt but showed up to the night session sporting crutches.

He said afterward he sprained his right ankle midway through the morning but decided to push through it. But while sitting in meetings in the afternoon, he started to experience pain and had it checked out by team doctors. X-rays were negative, he said, and he expected to be out only on a day-to-day basis.

Galippo missed practice because of a shoulder injury he suffered Tuesday, but an MRI exam he underwent Wednesday came back negative. He was wearing a sling over his right arm but didn't appear to be in too much pain.

Kiffin and his staff are still somewhat lucky, in that no essential players have come down with anything long term. And, with more depth on this year's team than last, they can afford to have certain linemen and defensive backs miss short periods of time.

But, even so, the 10 players who were affected by injuries Wednesday represent nearly 15 percent of the Trojans' scholarship roster, so it does have some effect, obviously.

Dion Bailey takes two in the Coliseum

August, 8, 2011
8/08/11
11:13
PM PT


Under the lights at the Coliseum for the first time this fall, USC redshirt freshman linebacker Dion Bailey seized on the opportunity and seized on a tipped pass from quarterback Matt Barkley for his first interception of the camp season and the first turnover of the three-hour scrimmage Monday.

Then, on the next play, with freshman Cody Kessler and the second-string offense in for Barkley and the first-stringers, Bailey jumped on a telegraphed short throw intended for Brandon Carswell and returned it 25 yards for a pick six.

The 19-year-old converted safety from nearby Lakewood High was the certifiable star of the scrimmage, as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin spotlighted him afterward in his opening statement to the media.

“I was very pleased with the way I played today,” Bailey said on the field at the Coliseum after the scrimmage. “But it’s just practice. I’m not gonna get too excited about things I’m doing in practice.

“I should be doing things like this in practice every day.”

Listed at 6-0, 200 pounds, Bailey was moved to outside linebacker before spring practice this offseason in order to provide a hybrid look of sorts in the USC defense for all the three- and four-receiver sets the Trojans expect to face in 2011.

“I feel like I [fit in there well], especially in the conference we play in, the Pac-12,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of spread teams and I’ll be able to give that feel of a heavier nickel back, so I can play against the pass and support the run game too.”

His first pick Monday appeared to be mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time. Defensive end Nick Perry tipped the Barkley toss and Bailey jumped right on it, getting tackled almost as soon as he corralled the ball. The second showed his instincts as a ball-hawking linebacker.

Kessler, a true freshman from Bakersfield competing with Jesse Scroggins and Max Wittek for the backup quarterback spot, had thrown just one incompletion in nine attempts until that point, clearly having a good day. But he hiccupped a bit when he did only a cursory look off of his other reads and chose to deliver the ball to Carswell on the left side, maybe five yards past the line of scrimmage.

Bailey had a bead on it the whole way and jumped the pass before it ever got to Carswell, easily running it back 25 yards to the end zone without being touched.

“I saw a bubble and I just jumped it, feeling like I could make a play on it,” Bailey said. “And I was able to catch it, keep my balance and run it in for the score.”

Big-play turnovers like those were sorely missing from the Trojan defense last season, for a variety of reasons, and it sorely hurt them when they fell behind in games, because it was almost like the offense had to try to complete the comeback on its own at times. Part of that, the coaches say, was because the defense as a whole was adjusting to the new perspective of Lane and Monte Kiffin’s defense. Part of that was also understood to be because players in place at certain positions were more tackle-oriented than focused on producing turnovers.

“He made the move look pretty good today, as far as moving him down to linebacker to get a more athletic guy there to help in the pass game,” Kiffin said.

Putting guys like Bailey in the first-string defense would be a big step in the opposite direction, as he showed Monday.

Fall camp practice No. 4 tidbits

August, 8, 2011
8/08/11
4:28
PM PT


Two main stories out of the fourth day of fall camp Sunday: the USC receivers have the potential to be a dominant group, and right tackle Kevin Graf is showing the Trojans' coaching staff he is a completely different player after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Here's the rest of what went on at Howard Jones Field:

Carlisle impresses again

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.

Highlights

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.

Injury report

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."

Final notes

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.

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J. Smith5165812.95
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense158.2294.6452.8
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring35.123.811.3