A few takeaways from the players-only throwing sessions USC has held this week:
Freshman running back Dillon Baxter continues to improve athletically, and his separation skills may be second to none on USC's roster when he splits out wide and matches up one-on-one with a Trojan defensive back. But Baxter still has a lot to learn in terms of the offensive playbook, which was made very clear by a route late in Tuesday's workout. In it, Baxter ran a post-corner and beat Patrick Hall for the touchdown pass from incoming freshman Jesse Scroggins -- who, by the way, appears to have a rocket arm. Problem was, Baxter ran the wrong route, as was quickly noted by his teammates who stood just behind the line of scrimmage watching the play. Baxter saw Hall in perfect position to cover the post route he was designed to run, so he switched it up on the fly. While it did result in a score, the general sentiment from the players seemed to be that a decision of that nature would do more harm than good in a real game situation.
On the "clear" front, it's becoming more and more clear that Matt Barkley will be a captain of the 2010 Trojans -- and as a true sophomore no less. Now, Barkley is the fourth- or fifth-youngest of the Trojans' 22 projected starters, depending on the middle linebacker position, but the 19-year-old is still the clear-cut offensive leader. During Tuesday's workout, he pulled aside freshman receiver Kyle Prater and gave him detailed instruction on how to improve his running of a particular route while fourth-year receiver Brandon Carswell chimed in as well. Thursday, he stood on the figurative sidelines for most of the team's mini-session and guided Scroggins and walk-on quarterback John Manoogian.
USC's bundle of receivers may be the most talented position group on the roster, especially when included with tight ends. Kyle Prater gained an edge on the two other incoming freshmen receivers by enrolling early and participating in spring practice, but both Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods have quickly developed rapports with the USC quarterbacks through summer throwing sessions. One of those players could end up edging redshirt sophomore Brice Butler for the starting spot opposite Ronald Johnson. Plus, the Trojans will have seven — yes, seven — scholarship tight ends from which to choose from: returnees Jordan Cameron, Blake Ayles, Rhett Ellison and former receiver David Ausberry, plus incoming freshmen Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Christian Thomas. At least one of the freshmen tight ends will likely redshirt; Ellison, blessed with solid size at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, has so far looked fully recovered from the mononucleosis that reportedly sidelined him for all of spring practice.
In other news, it appears as if the exodus of transfers for USC does not necessarily have to stop when fall camp begins on Aug. 4 but could extend well into the season — and even after the season.
This, according to the NCAA's latest correspondence, detailed in an email to USCfootball.com from NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn.
"There is not a deadline for them to transfer as long as they meet the requirements of the rule," Osburn wrote. "While the penalties a school is appealing are stayed until the decision is reached, this does not impact the student-athletes wishing to transfer that are under this rule.
"If the postseason penalty is reduced by the Division I Infractions Appeals Committee, a student-athlete who has transferred and has previously been granted a waiver to compete immediately will remain eligible for competition at the new institution."
Translation: Any Trojan junior or senior could conceivably finish off the season and semester at USC — the football season ends on Dec. 4, final exams finish on Dec. 15 — then transfer to a school that is slated to play in a bowl game, enroll for the spring semester and compete immediately.