You can read the full stats of the 122-play scrimmage on USCTrojans.com. Here are the highlights...
- The defensive coaches emphasized getting faster defensively in the offseason by switching Devon Kennard to defensive end from linebacker and Dion Bailey from safety to linebacker. The latter move paid huge dividends tonight as Bailey used his natural cover skills to intercept passes on back-to-back plays, including returning one for a touchdown. "When I guard tight ends now, it is like taking candy from a baby," said Bailey about his confidence in coverage. "When the quarterback throws the ball to the tight end, I feel like I should get my hands on it every time."
- D.J. Morgan (24 carries for 160 yards and a fumble) started at tailback, but after tonight, Dillon Baxter (12 carries for 103 yards and 1 TD plus a receiving TD) has a nose in front on top of the depth chart. Both runners posted gaudy stats, but Baxter did not fumble and earned some hard yards against the top defensive unit. While he came in with a reputation as a scat back, the San Diego native is bulking up and running more downhill. "Once you hit the hole, a lot more things will open up for you," said Baxter about dancing less.
- Speaking of moves up the depth chart, Cody Kessler looked like the future USC quarterback tonight. The true freshman completed a nearly perfect 16 of 18 passes for 187 yards to go with 3 TDs and an INT. While he does not light up the radar gun like Jesse Scroggins and Max Wittek, Kessler plays his best when the lights are the brightest. "He's not the guy that walks on the field and blows you away," said Lane Kiffin who described the young QB as a "gamer."
- 6'5" Kyle Prater (pictured wearing the new double striped practice pants) is an inviting target for Matt Barkley (10 for 20 for 82 yards and 1 TD/1 INT), but the lanky redshirt freshman struggled with drops tonight despite reeling in six balls for 38 yards. Instead, once forgotten 6'4" Brice Butler is looking like the classic X receiver earning praise for his toughness and contributing 5 receptions for 90 yards and 2 TDs (1 rushing).
- The much ballyhooed freshmen receiving trio (George Farmer, Marqise Lee and Victor Blackwell) did not play a single snap in the first half. They did make some highlights late in the night, including a leaping hands catch for a score by the uber-athletic Lee. Lane Kiffin bemoaned the typical freshmen mental mistakes at all positions, but made the point that RB Amir Carlisle (10 carries for 82 yards and a TD) was the exception.
- A few more starting lineup notes: Anthony Brown (6 tackles and 2 pass deflections) is the third corner as of now. Defensive tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris started over George Uko. Rhett Ellison took the first reps at fullback.
- Starting safety Demetrius Wright suffered what appeared to be a serious injury, but it turned out just to be a hip pointer, according to Kiffin.