Written by blog contributor Ben Weiss
The penultimate practice before the team leaves for Honolulu shored up a few unanswered questions as the team is equally locked in for game one...
- A couple players returned to pads today, most notably of whom was defensive end Nick Perry. He participated in position drills, looking quick and fluid, although he did not partake in team play. T.J. Bryant was also back in the mix. Both were listed as "limited" by head coach Lane Kiffin after practice.
- Starters were officially announced last night, and a few players find themselves much higher on the depth chart than where they were at the start of camp.
- Marc Tyler took the number one spot at tailback, a far climb from where he sat earlier this year. After practice he said that his nerves were holding him back a bit last week, but felt much more comfortable on the field today.
- Devon Kennard was "humbled" and "honored" to find out that he will start at middle linebacker. "After my freshman year, I told myself I was going to work as hard as possible to make sure I was starting, at whatever position I was playing," he said.
- Kiffin stated Kennard's ability to be a bit more physical, combined with his speed, proved to be the deciding factors in the decision.
- As projected before, Chris Galippo will play at all three linebacking positions this year, a testament to his versatility.
- There certainly won't be a shortage of speed on either side of quarterback Matt Barkley, as Robert Woods joined senior Ronald Johnson as a member of the starting receiving corps. Kiffin was impressed by Woods' veteran mentality - seeing the wideout's face buried in the playbook rather than a TV in the lunch room. Kiffin offered that "his approach to the game is what allowed him to start."
- Cornerback Nickell Robey joins Woods as the only other true freshman starter. With Robey and redshirt freshman Torin Harris patrolling the field, it looks like teams may have to rethink using a heavy passing attack against this defense for the next few years.
- As for the on-field highlights, Woods used his speed to haul in a perfectly executed 40-yard touchdown pass from Barkley, who couldn't have placed the ball any more perfectly in the wideout's "breadbasket."
- Wide receiver-tight end David Ausberry made an impressive one-hand sideline catch, despite being blanketed by Shareece Wright. Even fellow defensive back Patrick Hall appreciated Ausberry's effort, remarking that the catch was "tight as cheese." That's a phrase I can see myself incorporating into everyday vernacular.
- Kiffin didn't liken any of today's play to dairy products, but still he had a few things to say following the two hour practice. Here's the video...