Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's (nearly) three-hour practice, the first of fall camp:
If Lane Kiffin was serious about slowing down the pace of practice to accommodate the shortened roster, as he indicated last week at Pac-10 media day, it sure didn't seem like it Wednesday. Sure, the players were sans pads and in shorts, but the sheer length of practice made it tough to endure. But Kiffin seemed to say that the practices would get shorter as camp goes on. "We're gonna have to play it by ear," he said after practice. "We probably won't be able to, especially as our numbers are starting to diminish as we put pads on and practices become more physical."
Speaking of endurance, defensive end Armond Armstead came off the field early because he was dehydrated. According to Kiffin, he was taken inside and given an IV. On the injury front, projected starting left tackle Matt Kalil missed nearly the entire practice with a hamstring injury that he sustained last week. Right tackle Tyron Smith arrived late after attending a family funeral and did not suit up.
Safety Drew McAllister and tight end Rhett Ellison each made their formal returns to practice after missing the entire spring with injuries. Both have some ground to make up: McAllister played on the second team as sophomores Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald manned the first-team safety spots, Ellison moved over to fullback for the practice because of a lack of depth at the position and backed up senior Stanley Havili. "It was hard to see that much out of Drew," Kiffin said. "He did do some things, but he's still a little bit limited, so we'll go back and watch the tape and continue to do more with him." Asked if Ellison's move to fullback could be long-term, Kiffin said "it may have to" be.
The new freshmen receivers stood out. Both Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods impressed Kiffin in their first appearances under the coach's watch. Ambles appeared tougher than advertised, even finishing up the practice by fighting his way downfield on a final pass play. Kiffin stopped short of saying the two would be in-season contributors but did compliment each of them. "They both made up a couple plays today," the first-year coach said. "Markeith seems to be really smooth; Robert seems to be really, really fast. They're in really good shape right now for having one practice with us."
Taking a look at the few spots on the depth chart that are still up for grabs, it appears Torin Harris has the inside track to start across from Shareece Wright at cornerback. Harris got the majority of snaps at the position, while Brian Baucham also garnered some time. C.J. Gable looked motivated in the race to back up Bradford at running back. Jordan Cameron played plenty at tight end but dropped a couple passes, including one in the open field with at least five free yards in front of him. Christian Thomas probably got the most time of the three freshmen tight ends and made a nice catch-and-run that quarterback Matt Barkley spotlighted after practice.
On Barkley, he didn't throw an interception on the day but didn't look as sharp as he had toward the end of spring practice. Staying at quarterback, incoming freshman Jesse Scroggins displayed an early semblance of poise on his limited snaps but did deliver one pass painfully high and out of reach when aiming for a receiver on the sideline. "It's the first day," Barkley said of the offensive performance that seemed to lack a bit of crispness. "We're just getting back into it. I think of a lot of those passes were on key, but it's still a lot of the timing and the play-calling, getting used to everything."
A few final notes: USC's new president, Max Nikias, showed up midway through practice with a few other school officials, including new athletic director Pat Haden and associate athletic director of football J.K. McKay...USC's first padded practice will be Sunday...Several walk-ons joined the team Wednesday; their names will be released later in the week...All 70 scholarship players showed up for the first day of camp -- save for incoming freshman fullback Soma Vainuku, who reportedly is finishing up his academic coursework that will get him qualified for USC. Vainuku was at the throwing sessions last month but did not participate...We'll have more observations from today's practice and video interviews tomorrow morning.
Kiffin wasn't too pleased with his team's performance in their fall opener. Hear what he had to say afterwards:
Starting running back Allen Bradford will be a key part of the USC offense in 2010. After Wednesday's practice, he talked at length about the need for the Trojans to eliminate individuality from their practices and play as a unit. Asked for an assessment of the practice as a whole, Bradford gave his team a B-. Here's more from the senior leader: