Two main stories out of practice today: Marc Tyler sounds as if he's going to miss the spring because of his hamstring injury, and coach Lane Kiffin is just about set on moving fall practices to the morning. We'll have more on a new Trojans' signal-caller in a traditional day-after post Friday, but here's the rest of what went on Cromwell Field early Thursday morning, in tidbit form:
There were two more interceptions thrown by quarterback Matt Barkley and another by freshman Cody Kessler. Max Wittek is still interception-free for two days of spring practice. Barkley's first pick came by the hands of sophomore corner Nickell Robey, who has shined early in the spring. His second was a short throw picked off by walk-on Will Andrew, who has been serving as the starting middle linebacker so far with the Trojans' top four 'backers temporarily out because of injuries. "We've gotta do a better job on offense of protecting the ball," Barkley said afterward. "We've gotta get our chemistry down. It'll come."
Kiffin talked about the work Kessler, Wittek and Scroggins must put in throughout the spring to avoid days like they had Thursday, but it's clear Kiffin's mind is focused on the defensive end much more than usual in the spring. The goal is to eliminate the big plays that the Trojans gave up with regularity in 2010, and create more turnovers. It's spring, obviously, and there are a ton of backups and walk-ons on the field, but, so far, it's working pretty well. "It’s obviously a huge emphasis," Kiffin said Thursday." I think we led the world in explosive plays last year at any level. It was good to see through two days us get better at it. We’re going to get better at it this year." There's more to do, clearly. Many of the players -- especially the new ones -- have a lot of the playbook still left to learn, and the coaching staff is thus introducing it bit-by-bit in the spring. First up is the late-game defense, which the Trojans had well-documented struggles with in 2010. "As soon as we get our whole two-minute in, you’ll see it every single day and it will be an emphasis," Kiffin said. "If we just play two-minute defense decent, we’re 11-2 [last year.]"
Early enrollee freshman kicker Andre Heidari continued with his strong performance Thursday, two days after making 3-of-3 field goals in live game situations. “He’s got a strong leg," said Kiffin, before mentioning freshman long snapper Peter McBride's performance as well."The snapper and the kicker, for guys that were supposed to be seniors in high school, are really at the top of their game ability-wise, from the speed of the snap to the kick and the leg. It’s great to have them here already."
USC completed its second straight day of practice in helmets and shorts. The Trojans will move to full pads for Saturday's practice, which could also be back on the team's regular practice field, the real-grass Howard Jones Field. They have been practicing on the turf of Cromwell Field this week because of heavy rain the nights before the practices.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was in attendance alongside son Luke, a sophomore quarterback at Episcopal High in Jacksonville. The Del Rios visited with a number of USC assistants after practice, including Kiffin, linebackers coach Joe Barry, running backs coach Kennedy Pola and assistant head coach Monte Kiffin. Del Rio also introduced his son to Barkley. Young 14-year-old quarterback David Sills -- the subject of quite a bit of controversy after the Delaware native committed to USC last year -- was at practice for the second straight day.