Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Updated: March 15, 10:40 AM ET
Superlatives after week of spring ball
By We Are SC staff
WeAreSC staffers give their thoughts on the opening week of spring ball: best offensive player, best defensive player, most improved, best position group, biggest surprise.
Receiver Marqise Lee has been the unanimous offensive standout in Trojans' spring practices.
Best offensive player
Garry Paskwietz:Marqise Lee. During one of the practices last week Lee went high up in the air to bring down a pass that should have sailed over his head. The highlight play was brought up to head coach Lane Kiffin after practice, and Kiffin said, only half-jokingly, "The amazing thing about Marqise is that when you say highlight play, I'm not 100 percent sure which play you are referring to, because he makes so many of them."
Erik McKinney:Matt Barkley has been very good, but Lee has been spectacular as the go-to guy in the passing game for all three quarterbacks. With Robert Woods out due to injury, Lee has stepped up and proven that he can handle all the responsibility that comes with being a No. 1 receiver. Oh yeah, and he's still just a freshman.
Greg Katz: There have been a number of players that have stood out for various reasons, but Lee has been the biggest standout during the first week of practice.
Best defensive player
Garry Paskwietz: Based on the first week, senior defensive end Wes Horton is playing as well as anybody. He has physically matured into a 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame, and Kiffin said he has "pretty much dominated" during the opening days of spring.
Erik McKinney: The jump we saw in Nickell Robey's play from freshman to sophomore year is the same one we're seeing from the end of the fall to beginning of the spring. He has shut down his side of the field, and the only thing preventing it from being a perfect first week was a few dropped interceptions.
Greg Katz: I liked the performance of Horton, who seems to really be coming into his own. Horton showcased some of his production the first week with a bang-bang deflection and interception of a Matt Barkley pass.
Garry Paskwietz: Much has been made about Aundrey Walker's weight loss, and it's well deserved -- the young man put in the work this offseason, because he knew the team needed him to step up with the vacant spot at right tackle. Walker went out and got it done, dropping down to 315 pounds. He had a real nice opening week of spring to help solidify the offensive line.
Erik McKinney: It's remarkable what Tre Madden has been able to accomplish in just a handful of practices. Dion Bailey missed Saturday's first full pads practice, and Madden stepped in with no visible drop off. He looks to be ready for significant time this season, something that wasn't completely true last year.
Greg Katz: Although he is behind the starting receiving duo of Woods and Lee, junior De'Von Flournoy had a productive first week. He certainly looked like he knew what he was doing in the first three days in route-running and yards after the catch.
USC cornerback Nickell Robey had two interceptions in 2011.
Best position group
Garry Paskwietz: The entire defensive backfield stands out to me. Everywhere you look there is talent and a whole lot of experience. Things will look even better by the time fall camp rolls around; Torin Harris will be healthy, Gerald Bowman, Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton are scheduled to arrive, and Josh Shaw might even be eligible.
Erik McKinney: Cornerbacks. It starts with Robey, but Isiah Wiley has been terrific, barely giving an inch as the rest of the group pushes for a starting spot. Brian Baucham has returned from academic ineligibility to make several impressive plays this spring, while Anthony Brown also has been impressive. That doesn't even include Ryan Henderson -- one of the best athletes on the team -- or Torin Harris, someone Kiffin constantly mentions as a player he hopes returns to the field soon.
Greg Katz: It would be easy to name the wide receiver unit, but I thought the linebackers stood out because of their athleticism, aggressiveness and experience. The sudden depth of the position showed itself through the performance of sophomore outside linebacker Madden, who showed some lethal hitting.
Garry Paskwietz: The move of Greg Townsend to defensive tackle was a surprise to see on the first day of spring, albeit a pleasant one. Townsend has good size, and it's easy to imagine him adding the bulk which would allow him to be an impact player in the middle. With Christian Heyward scheduled to miss spring, there was a chance the defensive tackle spot could be without any depth, but moving Townsend inside now gives the Trojans another talented body to work with.
Erik McKinney: I don't think there was any concern about Horton's ability coming into the spring, but it's been shocking just how good he has been through three days. The Trojans obviously will miss Nick Perry, who left early for the NFL, but Horton appears ready to offset much of that loss, and perhaps pick up right where Perry left off.
Greg Katz: It might not be all that much of a surprise, but we thought the offensive tackle combination of junior Kevin Graf on the left side and Walker on the right side appears to be, thus far, a seamless and natural transition. Next Saturday's anticipated first scrimmage in the Coliseum should provide further evidence.