The Trojans hit Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field one last time on Thursday before they take part in the team’s spring game on Saturday in the Coliseum. Donning shorts and helmets, the practice was the least physical of the last four and a half weeks -- a fact not surprising considering a total of 20 players have been ruled out for Saturday’s contest including Randall Telfer, Antwaun Woods, De’Von Flournoy and Jabari Ruffin -- all suffering injuries within the last week.
“There are some good parts about it,” said Kiffin in looking at the pros and cons of the physical way the team has practiced this spring. “I think that our guys that are still healthy are playing more physical than they were at the end of last year, and our front seven on defense is better because of it. But at the same time, obviously, we have a lot of players out.”
With Woods sidelined, it was Cody Temple who saw action with the first unit at nose tackle when the defense went to its base 5-2 look, but it’s the injury suffered by Telfer that will make perhaps the biggest impact in regards to Saturday’s game. Suffering a torn meniscus in his knee during Tuesday’s workout, he underwent surgery on Thursday and figures to be back in action in 4-6 weeks. But with Xavier Grimble already out with a chest fracture, the USC offense will have just one tight end at its disposal for the scrimmage in Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.
“It’s been kind of the theme of the spring -- very physical -- as we come down to one practice left here,” Kiffin said. “I think you’ll still see the stars out there making plays. We’re just going to have to be creative because we’re not going to be able to go at the same speed in between series, and obviously we can’t have two teams with only one tight end, and all of our formations use a tight end, so we’ll figure it out -- probably just a little more time in between [each] series.”
Agholor and Lee at corner?
With the cornerback corps struggling as a whole this spring, Kiffin revealed today that he’s actually considered utilizing Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor at the spot in the fall. And while he’s confident that both could perform solidly at the position, he still isn’t totally sold on the idea just yet.
“I thought, ‘Well, you do it in high school a lot of times,’ but the speed of the game ... I just don’t know how those guys could take that amount of plays, especially in this conference, because you have games where you’re playing 90 snaps on defense. Maybe in a limited role, but my fear there is that if we do that, he’s going to be less productive on offense, because of more reps, and just the exhaustion of doing that. So, I’ve thought about it -- hopefully we won’t be in a situation with our numbers being so low that we’d have to do that.”
Early in the seven-on-seven red-zone period, Cody Kessler tossed the ball in the corner of the end zone and Lee made a phenomenal one-handed grab despite tight coverage by Kevon Seymour and Josh Shaw. It was the start of a very good day for No. 9.
In the 11-on-11 team period, Max Wittek hit Lee on a quick slant over the middle, and he outraced the entire defense for a long score.
Wittek found Cope-Fitzpatrick over the middle, and the big tight end made a great grab for a 15-yard pickup even with Anthony Sarao draped all over him.
Wittek found Jahleel Pinner coming out of the backfield for a 4-yard touchdown toss.
Working from the 5-yard line, Kessler hit Victor Blackwell in traffic over the middle for the touchdown.
With the offense near the goal line, Wittek tossed the ball into the corner of the end zone where Lee leapt over Seymour to make another impressive touchdown catch.
Notables in attendance
Curtis Conway, Pat Haden, J.K. McKay, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco OL Damien Mama (Class of 2014 prospect), Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco OL Nico Falah (Class of 2013 signee) and Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany WR Steven Mitchell (Class of 2013 signee).