Notes, quotes and video from Monday's practice:
Fresh off two full off-days on Saturday and Sunday -- the first time this season that has happened and the only time it will -- the Trojans continued with their up-tempo feel from the last week's abbreviated sessions and ran a fast-paced two-hour practice on Howard Jones Field. Coach Lane Kiffin shared an intriguing anecdote after practice, saying that defensive tackle DaJohn Harris told him after practice that he felt Monday's practice was a lot easier than any other practices the team has gone through this year. The funny part was that it definitely wasn't -- the team has just adjusted to a more intense feel on the practice field after last week's three brutal 6 a.m. sessions.
The much-shorter injury report, as compared to last Thursday's long list: Defensive end James Boyd, linebackers Marquis Simmons and Malcolm Smith (knee), guard John Martinez (foot) and running backs C.J. Gable (knee) and Dillon Baxter (toe) did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) was limited. Going off of Thursday's report, it's clear that defensive ends Wes Horton (back) and Nick Perry (ankle) have both improved significantly, although Perry is still sporting equipment on the right ankle hat he sprained in August. We'll have more on Horton on Tuesday, but, at this point, the "big" remaining injuries, in Kiffin's words, belong to Gable, Baxter and Smith. Baxter said last week that he would definitely practice Tuesday; Gable said he hopes to. More on Malcolm Smith further down.
For much of the season, Kiffin and his coaching staff have been criticized for not tackling in practice, with the common belief that the tackle-free practices have led to poor tackling in games. The coaches -- and players, for that matter -- have unequivocally denied any connection between the two, but Kiffin seems to have gone back on that a bit in preparation for Oregon. See, the Trojans are tackling again -- not a lot, but some -- and the reason is apparently because they haven't tackled well. "Going back through the bye and looking at how poorly we tackled, it’s been game-changing," Kiffin said Monday. "If we can tackle at all in the secondary, we’re 7-0 right now. It’s something that we decided to do. We didn’t do it all practice, but we did some live tackling drills and it was good to see. We did a little bit of that last Thursday, with the DBs and Michael Morgan, but we incorporated all the linebackers today.”
Asked about how the tackling actually looked, Kiffin didn't seem overly happy: “It’s rusty," he said. "You don’t all of the sudden tackle well when you haven’t all year, for the most part. It’s something we’ve focused on and instead of just doing drills, we did it live, basically with our second-team offensive guys, and so hopefully it will pay out.”
Running back Allen Bradford is not 100 percent healed from the sprained big toe that bothered him in USC's last game against Cal, but the redshirt senior looked fine in practice Monday and was actually running quicker and making more efficient cuts than he had in a while, it looked like. "I'm not completely better, but it feels better than what it felt like last week," he said after practice. "It's still in progress."
No. 2 Oregon's 60-13 stomping of UCLA last Thursday was a big topic of conversation among the players, it appeared. Said Bradford of what he saw from the Ducks' defense in the game: "They cause a lot of turnovers, they bring a lot of different pressure and they really rally to the ball. It's going to be a physical game."
Final notes: Barkley was earlier Monday named one of 16 national semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback award. He is one of only three returning semifinalists -- Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Boise State's Kellen Moore being the others. ... USC practices three more times this week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, all at 4 p.m.
Kiffin spoke to the media after practice and touched on a number of issues -- most of them focused on Oregon and its ultra-fast offense.
See what the coach said Monday:
Malcolm Smith said that the bye week helped the Trojans in two ways: resting up and getting an early start for the Ducks.
While he's not yet completely healed from the knee injury he suffered against Stanford, he said Monday he was feeling a whole lot better from last week. See what else the senior linebacker had to say, including his observation on the defense USC should model when playing Oregon: