LOS ANGELES -- It was a shorts and helmets practice for the Trojans as they gear up for Saturday's matchup with Washington in Seattle. With the team working a day ahead of schedule, Wednesday’s practice resembled more of a Thursday practice in regard to what was worked on, and Kiffin was pleased with where the team is now, in terms of its preparation.
“Once again, good to be a day ahead [and to] have a first Thursday -- we’ll have another one tomorrow,” Kiffin said. “I thought [the] guys looked good. I think they’re excited to go on the road again and play in a great environment.”
Shaw still in the mix at cornerback
After practice, Kiffin said no decision had been made as to whether the Palmdale native will see time against the Huskies at the position occupied by Torin Harris for the last three games.
“We haven’t figured out what we’ll do on game day yet,” Kiffin said. “We’ll go back after this practice, and after tomorrow’s, and I’ll obviously talk with the defensive staff about how he’s doing over there, and we’ll go from there.”
The emergence of Williams
Supplanting Antwaun Woods in the lineup, freshman Leonard Williams earned the second start of his USC career against Utah, and he responded with five stops at defensive tackle. According to Kiffin, the move had less to do with Woods and more to do with Williams' exceptional play so far this season.
“That was off of performance -- nothing to do with Antwaun,” Kiffin said. “That was all Leonard. Leonard had performed really well in his opportunities in the games, especially in the previous game, Cal. So it came down to how we run our program -- to create more production. So Leonard got the start and he did well, and he’s going to be a great player here.”
Night to forget for Heidari
As viewers saw on television, place-kicker Andre Heidari had what might have been his roughest night as a Trojan against Utah, connecting on just 1 of 3 field-goal attempts -- the first time in his career he has missed two field goals in a game.
But as Kiffin revealed, what most people didn’t see was that Heidari also lost his composure on the sideline, at one point appearing to have a verbal altercation with some fans in the stands.
“Andre had a really bad Thursday,” Kiffin said. “As much as we talked about our players and staff doing a good job of dealing with adversity, and the crowd and everything -- as I made note of, the improvement from the time before [when] we went on the road -- Andre didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t see it, but he was kind of yelling at the fans at one point, getting into it with them, and got really upset and showed some emotion on the sideline. So it’s a learning experience for him.“
To Heidari’s credit, he sat down with the Trojans coach the next day for a conversation that netted positive results.
“The good thing was -- in the conversation -- he knew it,” Kiffin said. “Sometimes you bring them in the next morning after you hear what happened, and they want to defend themselves. He knew he was wrong and there won’t be an issue again."
Banner's return home
Freshman Zach Banner, who hails from Tacoma, Wash., will be joining the Trojans on the trip this weekend to his home state despite the fact that he hasn’t seen any game action this season and figures to redshirt. That makes his trip somewhat unusual. But with USC's reduced scholarship numbers due to NCAA sanctions, Kiffin has had trouble filling the travel roster this season. He decided to reward the young offensive lineman with one of the open spots.
“Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can’t do that and we have enough players,” Kiffin said. “We’re only allowed to take 70, so some day we’ll get back to the point where there will be 70 players that are going to play in the game. We’re not at that point, and so we take some guys that never play. So the good thing about the sanctions is that Zach gets to go on a trip home. Hopefully we won’t be doing that for many years.”