Big plays on both sides of the ball plus lots of injury news...
- On the injury front, the good news is Xavier Grimble (chest/shoulder) was in pads after undergoing tests over the weekend. Also, TE Christian Thomas cleared up his academic issue and was back at practice.
- However, Dillon Baxter (ankle) and Marc Tyler (concussion) were both held out leaving just two scholarship tailbacks. "I am going to try and be back Saturday, maybe, but hopefully next week," said Baxter.
- Markeith Ambles was forced to do punitive exercises after missing Saturday's scrimmage without properly informing the coaches. "I was upset with the coaches," admitted Ambles, who missed a practice last week because he was late to a weightlifting session. "I wish I would have come. I need to communicate better with my coaches."
- "We hope that he continues to grow and learn from his mistakes," said Lane Kiffin about Ambles. "It's really neat when they change. It's hard sometimes to give up on them, especially when you have known the kids for a while and you know what they are going back to."
- The safety position thinned out with Drew McAllister (hip) and T.J. McDonald (tooth) rehabbing injuries. However, McDonald won the toughness award of the day. "T.J. actually kept practicing (Saturday) after knocking his tooth out," Kiffin reported. "They had to go in and dig it out, so he wasn't able to practice today."
- Curtis McNeal was the MVP of the day. The mighty mite running back broke a 75-yard TD run on the first play of live scrimmaging. "Curtis was about as bad as we've ever had when he got here as far as respect," Kiffin compared him to the Ambles' situation. "He's night and day right now."
- If McNeal remains academically eligible, he could turn into a versatile piece in the backfield and on special teams. "Curtis McNeal would have blocked about three punts last year if we would have had him available," special teams coach John Baxter said. "He's matured a lot in a year and he's really embracing that part of his life."
- Also out of the backfield, Soma Vainuku looked like Stanley Havili making a great catch and run on a wheel route. He showed his grace in the catch and physicality by running over safety Cody Romness during the run.
- The tight end corps continues to impress. Rhett Ellison is the steady starter, but Christian Thomas showed his explosiveness by breaking away from the secondary for a long TD catch during 7-on-7. Xavier Grimble is the best blocker and Randall Telfer is a combination of both, according to Kiffin. "They are just really different," said Kiffin, who cited the group as an example of what he'd like the whole roster to look like.
- Jesse Scroggins is the leading candidate to win the back-up quarterback job, according to the head coach.
- With his father and 87-year-old great grandma in attendance, Cody Kessler was impressive today making a strong throw on the run to the sideline and a perfect deep ball. They also let the quarterbacks, except for Matt Barkley, compete in the board drill. Kessler proved the scrappiest of the bunch.
- The QBs were plagued by interceptions again though. Hayes Pullard had a highlight reel one-handed pick-six, while Demetrius Wright and Patrick Hall also secured INTs.
- We have pictures and a special teams story to come, but here is Lane Kiffin wrapping up the day.