LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans practiced under beautiful conditions out on Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones field once again on Wednesday, and there was a definite upbeat tone on the day for what turned out to be a sharp practice, particularly on the offensive side of the ball -- a positive sign considering how the Trojans struggled in that department against Stanford.
“It was a really good practice today,” Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said. “I thought the offense came out and was really crisp in both the running game and the passing game, and it was good to see. It’s obviously going to be needed to get back on track, and we fully expect that to happen on Saturday.”
That offensive crispness was immediately evident early on when the quarterbacks were working with the tight ends and wide outs. USC quarterback Matt Barkley was in-synch with his receiving options all day, and it wasn’t just the usual Marqise Lee and Robert Woods show either -- tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer made their share of receptions too.
The development of Nelson Agholor is also apparent. Watching him go through individual drills, the talented freshman looks to be leaps and bounds ahead of where he was just a few weeks ago. And while he isn’t quite in the same league as Lee and Woods yet, you’ve got to assume he’s ready for more games like the one he had against Stanford, where he made a nice contribution of three receptions for 77 yards.
The defensive backs weren’t taking it easy either, particularly in the drill where they take on three blockers before attempting to make a tackle on a scout-team running back. T.J. McDonald shined here, as usual, with Joshua Shaw and Nickell Robey also standing out.
There was a high-energy 11-on-11 at that point, featuring some of the following highlight plays:
• McNeal ran for a gain of four yards or so before McDonald met him with a hard pop.
• Barkley found Lee for a short gain before the stop by Dion Bailey.
• Agholor made a grab over the middle before the Gerald Bowman tackle.
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• Max Wittek did a nice job of moving around in the pocket, avoiding pressure from Williams and hitting Woods for a big gain downfield.
The offense and defense then split apart and went into an 11-on-11 session against the scout teams. On the offensive side, McNeal and Redd made some noise early on by breaking off back-to-back long runs to start the period off. On the defensive side, McDonald was focused as usual, making at least two interceptions, including one that he took back for a touchdown.
It was then time for a 7-on-7 session. Here are some highlights:
• Barkley found Telfer downfield, with the big tight end showing off some nice hands.
• Barkley went deep to Lee -- who slipped past Anthony Brown -- for a long gain.
• Woods hauled in a short Barkley pass before the stop by Ryan Henderson.
• Telfer made another nice catch over the middle before the stop by Anthony Sarao.
• Barkley made a beautiful throw downfield to Woods, threading the defense.
Practice concluded with a short 11-on-11 period with the following highlights:
• Redd with a run where he made a nice cut to pick up a gain of about 20 yards.
• Barkley tried to find Vainuku, but McDonald came up to lay a nice pop on the fullback, causing the incompletion.
• Barkley had to throw the pass away after pressure from Morgan Breslin.
• Barkley hit De’Von Flournoy over the middle before a Bailey tackle.
• Wittek attempted the pass to Flournoy, but Ryan Dillard was there to break it up.
• Greg Townsend Jr. and Christian Heyward pressured Wittek, and his pass went incomplete.
• Wittek completed the pass to Flournoy, who was met hard by Drew McAllister.
There are no quotes from Lane Kiffin today. Following his post-practice opening statement to the media, the first question that was asked by one reporter concerned an injured player, violating the new practice policy put in place. Kiffin left at that point without answering any further questions.