Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
Another day, another 6 a.m. practice. The Trojans completed their second of three scheduled early-morning practices Wednesday and again finished it off with a grueling round of sprints in the rain. The 90-minute practice was held on the artificial turf of Cromwell Field because of the rainy and wet conditions at practice time.
With strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus shouting out encouragements every few seconds, the Trojans concluded the practice with three heats of full-field sprints split up by position groups. The first heat was won handily by freshman receiver Robert Woods. Punter Jake Harfman came in first on the second and walk-on tight end/defensive end Peter Yobo won the last one with competition from left tackle Matt Kalil.
Said sophomore safety T.J. McDonald of the fast-paced practice style this week -- and the sprints at the end: "No one's gonna say that they like to run, but it's gonna help us. We need that. And after those two losses, Coach [Lane Kiffin] called us up and we said that we would do anything not to feel that feeling again, not to have that nasty taste in our mouths. So, this running, if that's what we have to do, then we're all willing to do it. We bought in completely and we're ready to play Oregon."
Injury report: linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee), offensive linemen Tyron Smith (ankle) and John Martinez and running backs Dillon Baxter (toe), C.J. Gable (knee) and Allen Bradford (toe) did not practice. Defensive ends Wes Horton (back) and Nick Perry (ankle), running back Marc Tyler and linebacker Marquis Simmons were limited. We'll have more on Baxter later in this post, but the freshman was still sporting a protective boot on his left foot. These 10 players spent the duration of the sprint session doing push-ups and sit-ups on the sidelines simultaneously.
With all four running backs limited in some form this week and Curtis McNeal in the proverbial doghouse because of academic ineligibility, freshman running back D.J. Morgan has been a key part of the Trojans' run game during practice. Morgan will still redshirt this season, but he is impressing Kiffin in his return from a knee injury suffered early on in his senior year of high school. Said the coach: "It's been very good to see him, and he's showed some explosion, some quickness." He continued: "To think that, here's Dillon Baxter that we all think has all the potential in the world and here's another running back in the same class...If you can have a player like that redshirt, like him and [receiver] Kyle Prater, that's pretty exciting to look at."
Kiffin complimented both freshmen skill position players but also said that the typical bye-week practice of letting freshmen get their time to shine doesn't apply so much for the Trojans because of their lack of numbers with inexperienced freshmen and sophomores. "I would love to have that problem, of having a lot of really good young players to look at right now that aren't playing," Kiffin said, indicating that he doesn't feel his team has that problem. "That's a good thing to have."
Final notes: Center Kristofer O'Dowd didn't finish practice because of an apparent injury but was not listed on the injury report by Kiffin. Two weeks ago on the same practice field, he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the second half of practice. ... Practice is scheduled for 6 a.m. Thursday, after which the Trojans will have two off days -- including a meeting- and practice-free day Saturday -- before returning to the field Sunday evening.
As usual, Kiffin spoke to the media following Wednesday's practice and, once again, addressed Oregon's impressive team speed as it relates to his squad's preparation for the game.
See what he had to say:
Baxter sat out the Cal game because of a left big toe sprain. He said it was the first game he has ever missed because of an injury in his football career -- and, to top it off, the first injury he has ever suffered.
The highly-touted freshman spoke Wednesday about his hopes to return to the practice field Thursday, Tyler's success running the Wildcat formation and other topics. He also said he would "definitely" play against Oregon next week: