March 29, 2011
Nothing's really new.
Alright maybe a few of the quarterbacks are, but the second week of spring ball begin as a continuation of the first. A dominant defense is keeping a green-around-the-ears and injury riddled offensive line from making as much progress as Head Coach Lane Kiffin would prefer. From a certain perspective, it was bound to happen. Last year's secondary had the highest concentration of rookies last year and the defensive line kept several key returners including Christian Tupou who spent all of last year recovering from a knee injury. They had to grow up at some point and they had no other choice but to do it together. And fast.
The amount of injured players seen working out on what some would call "Muscle Beach" ebbs and flows. As linebacker Ross Cumming suits up again, wide receiver Robert Woods nurses a pulled hamstring from Friday (he, however, did participate some at the beginning of practice). Wide receiver Kyle Prater is finally walking around sans boot or limp yet center Abe Markowitz still needs crutches six months after breaking his foot in practice. It seems to still be a continuing battle recovering from the wear and tear that resulted from a very depleted 2010 roster. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but its not as bright for some position groups as it is for others.
One of those bright spots is the depth behind, as Coach Kiffin likes to say, Matthew. For the first time in quite some time, the starting quarterback is out of the limelight while his seven proteges are the talk of the town. Though Kiffin said the three other scholarship quarterbacks are in a dead heat toward the finish line that is earning the back up stop, their completions rates in practice seem to have Cody Kessler taking the lead followed by Jesse Scroggins and Max Wittek respectively. Needless to say, the media attention surrounding Kessler after practice made him the second to last person out the door (the last being your hardworking USCFootball.com staff who had to take a heavy hint from the security guards before relocating).
Though many of these story lines reflect what you might find on any given spring at USC (a sign that normalcy of some kind is one again returning for the Trojans), there were a couple issues today that were, shall we say, unique. One issue is that moving practice to the early mornings means dealing with a heavy dew on the grass causing certain moments in practice to resemble that of a slip-and-slide competition, especially for the receivers. The coaching staff is talking to experts about this issue which might result in a Howard Jones staying covered by a giant tarp when not in use. The second issue resulted when two young dogs escaped, found their way through an opening in the gate and decided they wanted to frolic with the defensive linemen during practice. Though I'm sure they would play with great tenacity, I don't think the NCAA allows such practices.
Practice continues again on Thursday, but not before USC Pro Day happens tomorrow where many of last year's stars will have another chance to raise their draft stock. It is interesting to note that if they are drafted, coaches will not be allowed to contact their new players until after lockout making these new graduates' futures even more uncertain than normal.