Aside from the Marc Tyler news and Armond Armstead update provided at Tuesday's early-morning USC football practice on Cromwell Field, there were two primary takeaways from the two-hour session:, the first of the spring: (1) depth is going to be an ongoing topic of discussion for this team and around this team, and (2) the Trojans might soon be forced to get used to these brand-new 7:25 a.m. start times for practices, both for the rest of the spring and possibly in the fall as well.
Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday the early start was a long time coming.
"Well, it was actually something for the last couple years that I wanted to do, but because of class schedules you basically have to do it a year in advance, because of registration and to block these hours," he said. "At Tennessee I wanted to do it but we weren't there for a full year before spring and last year we got here and their class schedules were already set, so it's something that I just wanted to look at in spring that could be a possible move for the fall."
"Obviously you're getting your players up early, starts your day early, gets them going and they go to class from here."
It affects the coaches, too, allowing them to spend more time away from campus during the day if needed. And the rest of athletic department too, really, adjusting everybody's schedules.
“There’s a lot of good things to it,” Kiffin said. “The benefit is that you’re done now and you have the whole rest of day to review for the next day. But it’s all the same. There’s still 24 hours between practices in the fall. You just gotta be ready earlier.”
How early? Well, mandatory meetings start at 6 a.m, and players report for taping sessions with trainers sometime within the 5 and 6 o'clock hour. A 4:30 a.m. wake-up call was customary Tuesday.
With Monday classes often lasting until 10 p.m., those times make for a tough squeeze and can probably explain some of the sluggishness that was evident on Cromwell Field. But the Trojans said it wasn't an issue.
"I was happy with it," quarterback Matt Barkley said. "Meetings were kinda slow, guys were kinda tired, but they fed us down there -- bagels and orange juice -- and I'm happy with how guys responded out here. We're just getting used to it, so I think we'll have a lot better feel out on Howard Jones and the tempo should be better in the days to come.”
An interesting thought, too, is that Kiffin is essentially auditioning the morning practices this week as he attempts to determine their viability for the fall. With players' class registration beginning next week, the coach said Tuesday the staff had to decide by the end of this week about the next semester.
Barkley said it was "kind of a bummer" that he wasn't able to set up his prospective schedule yet because of the unknown about the practice times.
About the lack of depth, with 19 players out of contact drills Tuesday, the practice opener was a good introduction to the issues that are likely to plague the team for the rest of spring and possibly beyond. Six scholarship offensive linemen are healthy, currently. Five scholarship defensive linemen practiced. There will be four scholarship receivers available for the spring.
So, yes, walk-ons will be playing bigger roles than the coaches would like. And, yes, the Trojans would be severely disadvantaged if any more players get hurt throughout the spring.
“It is what it is,” Kiffin said. “It’s good to see some players make the most of the opportunities, especially the offensive line, where guys are pushing through with six scholarship linemen, two of which just got here.
"The bright thing about our numbers situation is that it means a lot of reps for some guys."