Three big stories out of practice today: Marc Tyler pulled his hamstring, Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard have picked out positions and Armond Armstead is playing the waiting game. We'll have more on the Trojans' lack of depth in a day-after post tomorrow, but here's the rest of what went on Cromwell Field early Tuesday morning, in tidbit form, with video of coach Lane Kiffin (above) and quarterback Matt Barkley (below) to boot:
Dropped passes were not at a premium Tuesday -- and neither were interceptions. Every quarterback except for early-enrollee freshman Max Wittek threw at least one pick, even Barkley, who was intercepted early on by converted cornerback Tony Burnett. The mess-ups were present across the board with the team, although a positive was that the intensity was up pretty high for most of the session. “A lot of nerves out there today,” Kiffin said. “Probably half the roster’s never played a snap of college football. A lot of nerves today – hopefully we’ll be able to improve on Thursday.”
Barkley, ever the optimist, didn't appear too worried about his mistakes and the offense's mistakes Tuesday. He stressed he was paying much more attention to his and his teammates' overall awareness on the football field at this early point in the spring than any minor mishaps, especially in regards to the two freshmen quarterbacks, Wittek and Cody Kessler. "Studying the playbook and studying in the film room and getting the offense down is the most important thing,” Barkley said. "Throwing the ball well and getting used to the speed of the game will come, but if you set your mind to knowing the offense backwards and forwards then you’ll do well.” For his part, Kiffin also downplayed the mistakes and attributed them as a necessary evil early on in the spring. “That is pretty normal when you don’t have pads,” Kiffin said. “You can’t cut people, can’t knock ‘em down, so the defensive linemen are able to get their hands up more. We had a couple of those type of interceptions today.”
As for Burnett, the junior starting spring practice atop the depth chart at corner across from Nickell Robey is another step in what has been a meteoric rise for him on the football field over the last several months. He got his first defensive chance in the Notre Dame game at safety after excelling on special teams early on and then proceeded to start the season finale against UCLA, again at safety. Now, the coaches are projecting him as a better fit at cornerback. “Just looking at how long Tony is and how well he tackles, we thought to put him out there,” Kiffin said. “He’s fast enough – usually the big guys aren’t fast enough – but he’s one of our faster players and we do have a number of safeties that have played. That adds competition out there at corner, a position that we don’t have a lot of numbers at.”
Kiffin talked up redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan quite a bit entering into spring practice, and the speedster made good on at least a bit of his promise with two big runs down the sideline during Tuesday's practice. “I thought he flashed a couple times,” Kiffin said. “The ball bounced outside and you could see the speed." Kiffin has always seemed to be particularly enamored with Morgan's pure quickness, which is interesting because sophomore Dillon Baxter is often perceived to be the fastest guy in the backfield. Not so, per Kiffin. "That is something with the returning guys that is not their strength, with Marc and Dillon: long speed," he said Tuesday. "D.J. does have that, so it’s good to add that to those guys."