- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES -- Because of the long layoff after USC's final regular season game against UCLA, head coach Lane Kiffin wanted to begin spring practice early in order to get his players back on the field as quickly as possible. The early start also allowed for spring break to land immediately following the first week of practice. This week off likely comes at a good time for all players looking to clear their heads after the first full-pads practice and come back refreshed for the next four weeks. But for some players, the break comes at a perfect time to hopefully bounce back from a slow start or nagging injury.
Kiffin chalked up some of the injuries to skill players as the result of extra reps due to limited numbers, but missed time is missed time, and the longer they are out, the better their chances of falling behind.
1. Quarterback Jesse Scroggins -- It's already a heated battle for the backup quarterback spot, and rolling up and down the field as punishment for missing a team function isn't the best way to move forward in that race. Scroggins hasn't gone through a full practice yet, as he sat out the first one due to a hip injury, then the next two for disciplinary reasons. He has all the tools to throw himself in the mix to become the next quarterback at USC, and a week off to get things right mentally and physically could be huge for his progress.
2. Tight end Junior Pomee -- Pomee missed much of last season due to a foot injury, but there is no denying that he shows flashes of brilliance when healthy. He suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of spring ball and has only done light work since then. Fellow tight end Xavier Grimble is out with a toe injury, but he's a proven commodity. With the Trojans down to just one healthy tight end -- Randall Telfer -- now would be a great time for Pomee to take strides forward and earn some time in the rotation.
3. Tailback Buck Allen -- Allen is still an unknown commodity to the USC coaches. After coming in late and missing all of fall camp, Allen worked on the scout team and was never able to prove himself against live hitting. Now, with a chance to step up as the third back at worst this spring, a hamstring injury has limited his impact. It's likely that Curtis McNeal's touches will be somewhat limited as full pads come on, and while D.J. Morgan has been very good through three practices, his final carry on Saturday resulted in a fumble. It would be a huge benefit to Allen if he can hit the ground running next Tuesday and prove himself against the defense.
4. Cornerback/safety Joshua Shaw -- Shaw proved during winter throwing sessions that he is more than capable of playing for the Trojans this season. It remains to be seen if the NCAA will grant his waiver request for immediate eligibility, but Shaw also missed the first week of practice with what Kiffin called a back injury. The play of the back four has been outstanding no matter who has been on the field, and the battle for the backup cornerback or safety positions will ratchet even higher once Shaw hits the field.
5. Wide receiver George Farmer -- Farmer had a terrific day one and was off to another solid performance before a hamstring injury forced him to the sideline during the second practice. While Farmer has the ability to take over the No. 3 wide receiver position, Victor Blackwell and De'Von Flournoy will have something to say about it. After some ups and downs during his freshman season, Farmer has a chance to prove he belongs in the discussion with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but he'll need to stay on the field to do it.
7dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller