Receiver Brice Butler is among a group of receivers who USC coaches are counting on to help replace the lost production of Damian Williams, who declared early for the NFL draft. Butler was third among Trojans receivers in both catches and yards with 20 catches for 292 yards and two scores. With senior Ronald Johnson presumptively moving up to be quarterback Matt Barkley's No. 1 target, Butler will be an important safety valve. At 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, scouts have said he represents almost the prototypical receiver in terms of size and route-running ability. We caught up with Butler, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, to get his take on the approaching season, his memories of last year and all kinds of other topics:
Pedro Moura: Spring practice is approaching in less than three weeks. What can you do in that time to prepare?
Brice Butler: The only thing we can do right now is just work hard. We've got a whole bunch of new coaches, so we're just making sure that they know that we're here to work and not lolly-gag. You don't want to make a bad first impression on any of the coaches. Everybody right now has a real big sense of urgency. A lot of guys are just hungry and they're just working hard right now. We have an all-new coaching staff. The only guys who really know these coaches are the fifth-year seniors, and they don't really have anything solidified either.
Moura: USC athletes have performed well in postseason workouts. What was your take on Taylor Mays' much-talked about 40-yard dash time?
Butler: I knew he was gonna run fast, I just didn't know he was gonna run that fast. He was the fastest guy, pound-for-pound, at the combine.
Moura: You have a new strength and conditioning coach, Aaron Ausmus. He replaced a guy, Chris Carlisle, who was very well-respected by Trojans current and past. What's the difference between those two coaches?
Butler: I like Coach A a lot. He holds everybody accountable. I wasn't here when Coach Carlisle first started at USC, so I don't know if he had more fire to him when he first got here, but you can tell that Coach A has more fire than Coach Carlisle. Coach A's a lot more hands on with everything that we do than Coach Carlisle. I'm not sure that Coach Carlisle should have been doing that, but I know they're two different people. From my standpoint, I like what Coach A's doing right now. I'm not saying I didn't like Coach Carlisle's workouts, but I just really like the fire that Coach A brings to the training room.
Moura: You've got a couple of guys, Kyle Prater and Dillon Baxter, in workouts with you already this semester after they enrolled early. Describe your thought process on having guys in camp who essentially are trying to take your spot?
Butler: I don't worry about anything, but I like it for them. For them, it's pretty much, learn what you can learn, and I try to tell them as much as I can tell them. It's fun. If everybody could come early, that'd be good. We never really have to worry about a spot being taken, everybody has the same amount of fight for the same job, so it doesn't change regardless of who comes.
Moura: In daily conversation with your teammates, does the focus of the conversation trend more toward next season or revisiting last season?
Butler: Everybody's putting last year aside, since we didn't do too well. We feel like, 'Man, that was a bad season. We haven't had a season like that in a long time.' Everybody knows how that feels, and it doesn't feel good. With Coach Kiffin here, everybody's just excited about next year.
Moura: Talk a little about yourself. From Georgia, you're known to be proud of where you're from. How do all of the USC guys from different states get along — and is there ever anything like Southeast vs. West or something like that?
Butler: Yeah. Me and T.J. [Bryant] are always talking to the California guys saying the South is better than California, since California's equal to like three East Coast states. There's plenty more guys on the team from California, so me, T.J., Jawanza [Starling], we always get into like cool arguments about who's better. But it's all in good spirits.