Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
Quarterback Matt Barkley appears a whole lot more likely to play this week than last week, with the sophomore taking a good portion of snaps in scout-team play Tuesday and walking around without any real complications. Said USC Coach Lane Kiffin of Barkley's status, four days before the final game of the season: "I hope he’s going to play and I think he’s going to play, but I don’t know for sure he’ll play.” Backup Mitch Mustain, who started the Notre Dame game, is once again preparing as if he will start against UCLA. We'll have more on Barkley, including a video interview with the signal-caller, further down in this post:
Injury report: safety T.J. McDonald (shoulder), right tackle Tyron Smith (knee) and cornerbacks Brian Baucham (neck) and Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice. Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring) and Barkley (ankle) were limited. McDonald, who hurt his shoulder on the first series of Saturday's game against Notre Dame, said there was no chance he'll play against UCLA, although Kiffin didn't rule it out. Smith, who missed the Notre Dame game because of a knee injury, said he would begin practicing Wednesday and planned to play against the Bruins. Both Baucham and Harris look like longshots to play at this point.
With those two likely out and McDonald out as well, it's fair to say that the secondary is in a shambles. Asked Tuesday if there were enough pieces back there to form a serviceable unit, Kiffin flatly said: "No. It’s just the way it is. If you lose that many like we have, and now our most consistent guy, T.J., being out as of now, and already the injuries that we have suffered there, there just aren’t many people to go to. It is what it is and we need whoever is in there to play well.” Behind the starting cornerbacks, Shareece Wright and Nickell Robey, USC will likely have only walk-ons Saturday, with junior Daniel Harper the best of those options. If Jawanza Starling returns -- he said Tuesday he was 100 percent -- and starts at one safety spot alongside Marshall Jones, walk-on Tony Burnett could also feasibly play some corner when extra defensive backs are needed. We'll have more on Burnett and his story on Wednesday.
Dillon Baxter spoke to the media for the first time since the golf cart incident with USC student and NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan that left him ineligible for the Oregon State game. The true freshman, who Kiffin said Tuesday has made "a lot of poor decisions" this year, carried the ball only once against the Irish in his return, also completing one pass for four yards out of the wildcat formation. "What have I learned?" Baxter asked Tuesday when asked to evaluate his statements earlier in this year about making better decisions and thinking through things. "All eyes are on you. Even when you don't think so, all eyes are on you."
Receiver Ronald Johnson has evidently made some progress in getting over his crucial drop on the Trojans' final drive against Notre Dame. At first, he could hardly speak after the game Saturday, and Kiffin said Sunday that Johnson had taken the drop harder than he had ever seen someone take a play or a game in his history in football. But he participated like normal in Tuesday's practice and looked fine. "It was pretty tough, but I'm over it now," Johnson said. "This is just going to help me build as a man, as a football player. I just can't wait for the future to come." Mustain, who threw the on-target pass and soon after threw the game-clinching interception, minimized the importance of the play Tuesday, saying that it was one of many problems for USC -- not the deciding factor: "That's just one of the many mistakes and misfires that we had. I think that was probably the most glaring, but, again, I don't think it's any more critical than a lot of the other issues that we had that night."
Final notes: Freshman cornerback Anthony Brown provided the two highlights of practice in a short sequence when he tackled -- hard -- walk-on quarterback John Manoogian and Baxter. The hit on Baxter, in particular, got the defensive sideline on Howard Jones Field talking. Brown, out of nearby Fontana Kaiser High, is redshirting this season. ... Kiffin said running back Allen Bradford had a "really good practice" as the position gets a bit clouded after starter Marc Tyler struggled last week. "Maybe this will be his week," the coach said of Bradford.
Kiffin spoke to the media after Tuesday's practice and addressed Baxter, the possiblity that the UCLA game would be another "bowl game" for the Trojans and other topics.
See what he had to say:
Barkley gave an update on his status Tuesday, keeping with his style from last week of saying that he planned to play and again refusing to get too specific about what he can and can't do at this point.
He did, however, provide some context on what about the high-ankle sprain he suffered against Oregon State is still causing him problems: