- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- The guy who had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the Pac-12 last season is tossing a few more picks during spring ball than his coach would like to see. But USC coach Lane Kiffin isn’t too worried about quarterback Matt Barkley, who has thrown seven interceptions in eight practices. No expletives are being hurled, no panic buttons being pushed.
“He can still declare for the supplemental draft so I can’t yell at him quite yet,” Kiffin joked after practice Thursday night.
Not to worry, Kiffin said, explaining that the rise in picks is a product of Barkley not being able to work with his usual guys. Robert Woods is out for spring. Marqise Lee is balancing football with track and George Farmer continues to be hampered by a hamstring injury.
“Part of it is him getting a little bored,” Kiffin said. “He scrambles out and gets frustrated because he doesn’t have his normal guys out there and he throws the ball downfield. We’ll get him back out of it. We don’t like it, but it’s not the end of the world. As we get closer to game time, we’ll get him back to normal.”
Kiffin said to keep Barkley motivated, they have installed some different routes and concepts they’ve taken from the NFL.
“It’s been good to expose him to those and really challenge him to continue to master what he already has, but also add to his game,” Kiffin said.
Last season, Barkley threw 39 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. His 69.1 completion percentage was tied for second-best in the conference.
In other practice notes:
With so many injuries at wide receiver, Lee has been rotating in at every receiver spot. Kiffin recently said he thought Lee has the chance to be the best wide receiver ever at USC. “Marqise is doing great,” Kiffin said. “We’re so hurt so we move him around so much that he has to play every position with Robert and George not being there. But it’s good for him, any time you have to play all the spots. We really try to wear him out when we get him because we lose him sometimes [to track] so we try to maximize the time we get with him.”
The Trojans were scheduled to hold a scrimmage on Saturday – which will be open to the public at 11 a.m. at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – but might have to put that on hold due to the number of injuries. Tight end Junior Pomee re-injured his foot on Thursday, and with Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Christian Thomas all dinged up, there aren’t many options left at tight end. Kiffin said they might ditch the scrimmage and just hold a normal practice. "Unfortunately we can't seem to keep a tight end healthy," said Kiffin. "The problem right now is the offensive skill players [who are out with injury] aren't allowing us to practice the way we'd like, but we're making the best of it."
Tre Madden, who made the move last week from linebacker to running back, fumbled for the third time in three practices.