It's the day after USC's first practice of fall camp. As we will have after most of the 24-practice schedule, here are a few observations and a video interview from Wednesday's opener:
The new practice policy worked as designed and severely limited the attendees at practice. Estimates put the total number of people on the sidelines around 60; roughly 50 of those were media members with a few family members and school officials mixed in between. All practice attendees -- even Ricky Rosas -- had to sign a lengthy agreement and present a picture I.D. prior to being outfitted with a wristband that allowed entrance into Howard Jones Field. The school's official site experimented with doing a live, narrated broadcast of the practice Wednesday and may continue those efforts throughout fall camp.
As for actual football, play was on par with a typical camp opener -- although the lessened intensity more closely resembled the start of a spring practice schedule than it did a typically-lively fall one. Players didn't really have an answer for why that was, although running back Allen Bradford did promise that any sign of it would vanish today. Speculating a bit, the decrease in energy on the field might have come directly from the decrease in energy on the sidelines, although quarterback Matt Barkley stopped short of saying that and center Kristofer O'Dowd said it was a "minor thing." Barkley did say the sense of quiet surrounding the practice field was a definite change -- save, of course, for the brief period during warm-ups when Jamie Foxx's "Winner" blasted through the Brian Kennedy Field speakers. "It's different," Barkley said. "I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, but it's definitely different." He went on to say that he expected players' parents to attend more practices later on in camp, padding the total a bit.
For the first time in a long time, sanctions were an afterthought. Players were still asked about them -- "It's been over with," O'Dowd said of the sanctions -- but the two-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships were, for once, out of the picture. Perhaps the only sign that things had changed since the spring -- other than the light sideline crowd -- was the absence of Mike Garrett and the appearance of new athletic director Pat Haden alongside a number of school officials. New USC president Max Nikias could be heard joking with Haden on the sidelines.
A couple roster-related observations: Wednesday was a perfect example of the real depth issues on the offensive line. Even without any long-term injuries at the position, the Trojans were severely shorthanded across the entire line for the duration of the practice because tackles Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith each were absent. Smith is expected to be back in action Thursday, lightening the loads on backup Martin Coleman, who took more snaps than usual in their stead...Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo's battle for the middle linebacker position will surely be the primo position battle all camp long, as both players began the fall looking sharp in Wednesday's practice.
In Wednesday's practice report, we mentioned that receivers Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods impressed coach Lane Kiffin, who said both were in "really good shape."
Well, senior receiver Ronald Johnson agrees with his coach. Johnson talked after Wednesday's fall opener about Ambles and Woods, plus the two receivers who will battle to start opposite him at split end this fall, Brice Butler and Kyle Prater.
Here's a video interview with Johnson: