- Garry Paskwietz, Publisher, WeAreSC.com
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It’s easy to notice the upbeat style of play through the first two days of USC spring ball, and it was evident on Thursday with a team drill that featured some explosive plays from the offense.
The team drill started off strong for the defense, as the offense was backed up near its own goal line on the south end of Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field, and the defense had some stops, led by the interior front with Antwaun Woods, George Uko and Leonard Williams.
After the offense switched to the north end of the field, however, things began to change. Max Wittek hit Nelson Agholor for a short gain, and Agholor showed his burst of speed to outrun the secondary and make it a long gain. With the ball placed again deep in the offense's end, Silas Redd took a handoff and went 85 yards down the left sideline before being driven out at the 10-yard line by Kevon Seymour.
Justin Davis added a 40-yard run, Cody Kessler hit Jahleel Pinner with a screen pass in the open flat, Max Browne hit Agholor on a long gainer and Wittek threw a touchdown pass to Victor Blackwell. It was a nice showcase for the offense as the team gets ready to hold practice in the Coliseum on Saturday.
“Today was another step forward for the offense,” Agholor said. “We just want to keep getting better because if we’re not getting better each day then we are regressing in a way.”
Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin gave a lot of praise after the practice to the early enrollees, as there have been some notable efforts so far.
“I thought Justin Davis looked good for the second day in a row,” Kiffin said. “I’m impressed with him. Su’a Cravens and Chris Hawkins also continue to make plays. It’s been a strong start for this group. The two things that are the biggest adjustment usually are the speed of the game and learning the playbook. So far they have done a nice job.”
Hawkins, Cravens and Leon McQuay all had pass break-ups during throwing drills. Cravens got reps in the nickel package at safety, with Josh Shaw moving to the slot. Darreus Rogers caught a pass from Wittek and shook off a tackle attempt from Ryan Henderson to gain 20 additional yards.
Max Tuerk continued to take reps as the first-unit center. He had fumbled snaps on two of the first three plays of a drill on Kennedy Field -- and ran laps as a penalty both times -- but Kiffin said there is a lot of hope that the move is a permanent one.
“We took a look at Max at center for a couple practices before the bowl game,” Kiffin said. “It’s something we hope is a long-term situation, because that would mean it worked. He’s very smart, and that is a key for that position. He’s a little tall at 6-foot-5, but Mike Summers coached a first-round draft pick at center who was that tall, so it can work.”
Kiffin also said Cyrus Hobbi is healthy after battling injuries last fall. Hobbi has been running with the second unit at center so far this spring.
Kiffin said Silas Redd and George Uko were the MVPs of the day.
Kiffin said he is leaning toward holding practices in the afternoon next fall after the last two years of morning sessions. He said the academic standing was an issue last fall compared to previous years, and the early sessions were cited by several players as leaving them tired and worn out during the day.
“They will rush more than they drop. It’s really good for Devon Kennard, it’s his best role. It allows for things to be more spread out, which is good for the offenses we face.”
-- Lane Kiffin, on the role of the defensive ends in the new 5-2 defense
“If the rule is passed, we have a plan for what we would do. There are pros and cons to it for both the schools and the players, but we’ll do it, because we’re not going to let others have an advantage. ”
-- Kiffin, on potential new NCAA rules on recruiting contact
“I tried to work on all parts of my game this offseason. I just want to progress. The thing I learned my first year from Robert (Woods) and Marqise (Lee) is how to be professional with your approach to the game. That’s what I’m trying to do, just work hard on my technique and be accountable to my teammates.”
-– Sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor