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Early impressions from spring practice

3/11/2012

Here are five things that have stood out from the opening week of USC spring ball practice:

• Reserve wide receivers -- It’s already well-established that the Trojans have the best starting duo of wide receivers in the country, but the first week of spring has confirmed that the trio battling behind them is pretty good too.

George Farmer was the MVP of day one and came out strong. He looked good on the second day too before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the next week or so. Victor Blackwell hasn’t been quite as flashy but has some speed and big-play ability of his own. De’Von Flournoy -- a fourth-year junior -- looks like an experienced player in the system with crisp routes and fundamentals. This is his window to prove to the coaches that he is ready to be counted on before the talented freshmen arrive in the fall.

• Senior defensive ends -- So much has been made about the lack of experience in the middle of the line that it’s easy to forget just how experienced things are on the outside. One week of seeing where Wes Horton and Devon Kennard are at was a quick reminder of how solid the Trojans are at those spots. Both players are very impressive physically -- Horton stands tall at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds while Kennard has really filled out this off-season at 6-3, 260.

The extra bulk on Kennard is definitely noticeable in his upper body. Horton made a beautiful play in the Saturday scrimmage where he tipped a pass at the line and then made the interception. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said after practice that Horton has “pretty much dominated” so far this spring.

• The offensive line is good -- There was a lot of talk on Saturday about the defense controlling the line of scrimmage -- and they did -- but everyone involved was quick to point out that starting center Khaled Holmes was out due to a calf injury and tackles such as Kevin Graf were taking reps with both the first and second teams due to depth issues. When the starting five has been out there -- Graf, Marcus Martin, Holmes, John Martinez and Aundrey Walker -- they have been a real solid group. They are also big, and by the time fall rolls around there should be plenty of depth to fill in across the board.

• Bad timing for Scroggins -- It hasn’t been the spring practice that Jesse Scroggins envisioned. He’s battling a hip injury, academic issues and on Saturday he was forced to “roll” on the ground during the practice as punishment for missing a training session. As all of this is going on, fellow reserve quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are getting extended reps with the first- and second-team units as Kiffin is limiting the amount of work for Matt Barkley this spring. For someone like Scroggins, who is competing with Wittek and Kessler for a future role, it’s not the time to be on the sidelines.

• Defensive back group is deep -- There is talent for days everywhere in the secondary. The starting lineup returns intact, including the top-ranked senior safety in the nation in T.J. McDonald and a cornerback in Nickell Robey who could be the best overall athlete on the team. It is the reserve group that really could help make this unit shine this year though.

At corner, Anthony Brown is back and ready to show that his solid starting performance before his injury was no fluke. Ryan Henderson is ready for a role and even Brian Baucham -- who hasn’t made a contribution on the practice field in a long time -- has made a play in each of the last two practices. That doesn’t even include Torin Harris, who is still out with an injury. At safety, Drew McAllister really stands out as a guy who is looking solid and that should show even more once the pads come on. Demetrius Wright is out there as well, but the guy who looks natural is Tony Burnett, who looks way more comfortable at safety than he did last year at corner.