Spring Practice #3: Notes

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A gorgeous Saturday proved to be a showcase for USC's first spring practice in pads...

  • The Trojans scrimmaged for 56 plays plus 4 penalties and one two-point conversion.
  • Injury report: LB Dion Bailey (hamstring), QB Jesse Scroggins (hip), WR George Farmer (hamstring), RB Buck Allen (hamstring), TE Xavier Grimble, WR Robert Woods (ankle) and C Khaled Holmes (strained calf).
  • McNeal-Kiff-Sprac2-McG.JPGLane Kiffin expects that spring break will give the injured players some time to heal.  He attributes the significant number of hamstring injuries to skill players to the low numbers and overuse.
  • The offense only scored two touchdowns.  Cody Kessler hit De'Von Flournoy on a perfect fade in the back corner and Marqise Lee scored on a play when it looked like Devon Kennard might have gotten a sack.
  • So basically, the defense dominated.  The secondary was flying around all morning led by Nickell Robey, who was named the MVP of the day.  He had an interception during 7-on-7 and forced a fumble during the scrimmage.
  • With all the returning players and assistant coach Marvin Sanders taking charge of the defensive back room, Kiffin anticipates the pass defense being dramatically improved.  "In year one, we broke a world record for explosive plays given up," Kiffin said about 2010.  "We got better there [in 2011].  We were still 102 in pass defense, which is obviously unacceptable.  We should be up there somewhere [near the top of the Pac-12 in 2012]."
  • Pressuring the quarterback is just as important in shutting down the passing game.  Wes Horton, who made a great play deflecting a Matt Barkley pass to himself for an interception today, looks ready to fill Nick Perry's shoes as the right defensive end.  "Wes has pretty much dominated," Kiffin said.  "He looks faster.  He's doing a great job with his hands." 
  • With pads on, the defense amped up the physicality as well.  LB Tre Madden had the biggest hit of the day on D.J. Morgan.  Madden has gotten a lot bigger since last season.  He's built a lot more like Hayes Pullard now than Dion Bailey.
  • Kiffin on Madden: "He's a great athlete.  As he gets more comfortable, he's a guy that we're going to want to blitz and drop.  He has great ball skills for a defensive player too."
  • The coaches were looking forward to seeing the running backs and offensive line in live action.  Without Holmes at center, the offense lacked "rhythm" and the line struggled, according to the head coach.
  • Curtis McNeal (photo from Thursday by John McGillen) has already proven himself as a runner, so now he's focusing on developing his all-around game.  "I'm always high on confidence, but I'm always looking to get better," said McNeal.  "I'm working on route running, catching the ball and picking up my blocks."
  • D.J. Morgan has regained confidence in his surgically repaired knee.  He showed off his blazing speed on the final play of the scrimmage, but ended up getting stripped of the ball, which was his weakness last year.
  • Buck Allen did not practice with a hamstring injury, so he remains a mystery.  McNeal's scouting report on Allen: "He's a real good player.  He's fast.  He's strong.  He's a good competitor.  Once he learns the system, he's going to be a great player for the Trojans."
  • The team is off next week for spring break.  Here's Lane Kiffin...

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Too many hamstring injuries, I'm thinking the "Stength and Conditioning" coach ought to get that addressed ASAP.

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