LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were back at work Tuesday morning, and with a match-up with a struggling Colorado squad coming up Saturday, USC head coach Lane Kiffin held what he called the “most physical” practice of the fall in an effort to make sure that the team maintained its focus.
“We had probably our most physical practice that we’ve had all season,” Kiffin said. “So they understand that this is all about us improving. We have a lot of work to do -- a lot of areas -- whether it’s third down, whether it’s penalties…a lot of things to work on. And individually with our guys too, so we really challenged them and they responded this morning.”
One of those players who responded was running back Silas Redd, and he noted that the team was more than ready for the increase in intensity.
“Offensively and defensively it was really physical, and people were flying around so it was a great day,” Redd said. “We wanted it [and] we welcomed it.”
Back at home
Having been on the road in each of the last two games and four of the last five, it’s safe to say that Kiffin and the Trojans are thankful for the opportunity to finally be playing back at home this weekend. And they’ll be there for a majority of the remainder of the season, playing four of their last six games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with another one just down the freeway at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.
“I think somebody said that we’re one of only two teams that have only played two home games,” Kiffin said. “So it’s a very weird schedule. We made it through. It wasn’t perfect, we screwed up once, but we’re excited to come back to L.A., and a sold out crowd this Saturday with great energy in the Coliseum, and we’re ready to be home.”
The Trojans’ offense has struggled mightily on third-down situations so far in 2012, converting on just 30.1% of the opportunities -- the lowest mark in the Pac-12. The trend continued on Saturday, as they were able to convert on just 2 of 12 third down attempts. That lack of success is something that Kiffin said needs to be resolved.
“I would never have guessed we’d be where we are on third downs right now,” Kiffin said. “We just haven’t made the plays when they’ve been there, and at times too, we’ve been on the road, we’ve missed some calls and some protections and stuff, so we’ll clean up this week and come home and show up.”
Walker and Tuerk battling again
For the last couple of weeks Aundrey Walker appeared to have locked down the left tackle position after battling with freshman Max Tuerk earlier in the season. But after a sub-par performance against Washington, Kiffin revealed on Tuesday that the competition was back on between the two for the No. 1 role.
“Max took reps there with the ones today,” Kiffin said. “Aundrey has to play better -- he leads our team in penalties -- and we have to coach better.”
Cornerback competition continues
With both Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour going down with unspecified injuries against the Huskies, Josh Shaw received the lions share of reps at the cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey and responded with a solid effort.
But the competition continues this week as the Trojans continue to search for consistent play at the position.
“We’re rotating guys through there, trying to get as many reps out of the guys that we can that are a little banged up, and we won’t know until late in the week,” Kiffin said of the competition at the position.
Off night for Lee
Marqise Lee, arguably the Trojans’ most dangerous offensive weapon, had an uncharacteristically lackluster night versus Washington, hauling in just two receptions for 32 yards. Kiffin gave much of the credit for Lee’s outing to a talented Huskies secondary while also taking some of the blame himself.
“Well I think first off, they did a great job,” Kiffin said. “They had a specific plan for him, not just with [Desmond] Trufant but also helping with the safety -- credit to them.”
“I put some on myself too. We move him around so much -- and he’s still just halfway through his second year -- I’ve got to make sure that we’re not doing too much with him and it’s starting to water down because he does have a lot on him.”
Redd keeps getting better
Redd was the offensive star against Washington, rushing for 155 yards and one touchdown. His standout play this season has been one of the big storylines of the Trojans’ season, and even Kiffin is surprised with how quickly he has caught on after transferring in from Penn State just in time for fall camp.
“I think Silas has done great, and what you’ve seen is he’s gotten better every week,” Kiffin said. “Remember he got here two days before training camp -- that’s very unusual. So for him to come in that late -- normally you get a free agent and you have all offseason with him -- that was very strange and it’s taken him a little time to adjust like it would anybody. But he’s really sped up the process, [he] almost knows everything now and you can see his improvement on the field.”