Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
The big news out of Howard Jones Field: two positions, strong safety and left guard, have officially been opened up for competition. Coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Marshall Jones and incumbent Jawanza Starling will split reps at safety for the rest of the week, adding that Starling's spot is "definitely" up for grabs. And at guard, redshirt junior Michael Reardon will get every chance this week to unseat Butch Lewis. Kiffin called Lewis' performance against Oregon "completely unacceptable."
Lewis, a senior, has started at least three games during each of his four seasons at USC. Interestingly, though, he has never kept his starting spot for an entire season and has twice lost it after starting the first several games of a season. Asked if he agreed with Kiffin's decision to re-open the battle at his spot, Lewis made his opinion clear. "Absolutely," he said. "There's been shades of good and bad and this last game was really bad, so it's time to really buckle down and get back to fundamentals." This is Reardon's first season as a guard. He spent portions of his first three years at USC working as an offensive tackle, center and tight end.
Jones, a redshirt junior, has never started a game at USC. In fact, the 25 or so snaps he earned Saturday against Oregon are likely the most he has played as a Trojan. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder spent the 2009 season at cornerback and played sparingly before seriously injuring his neck in late September against Washington State. He would go on to sit out the rest of the year and earn medical redshirt status. He missed 2010 spring practice because of complications from the injury. Now, he's healthy but will be playing a bit out of position, as he said he feels more comfortable at the opposite spot -- free safety, where T.J. McDonald appears entrenched. Still, he's glad to have the opportunity. "The best players will play," Jones said. "That's what the coaches always say." Starling had started the first eight games of this season after seeing limited time as a backup last year.
The play from the Oregon game that had everyone talking Tuesday was the botched snap/fumble that happened when quarterback Matt Barkley looked over to Kiffin as the coach whistled to him and center Kristofer O'Dowd snapped the ball. By the time Barkley realized what had happened, Oregon's Boseko Lokombo had recovered the ball; the Ducks scored on the next play on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to Jeff Maehl. Barkley and O'Dowd provided somewhat similar accounts Tuesday about the play. Here's O'Dowd's: "It was a throw-off play, so I looked under and gave a false call. I looked under again and usually, he would give us a call, but he gave me the speed count, which is his leg, which tells me to snap. So I'm assuming that the clock is running down, so I snapped it. As you see on the tape, Matt was looking at Coach Kiffin, so I don't think he was really paying attention to his foot."
Injury report: Tight end Blake Ayles and offensive guard John Martinez (foot) did not participate. Defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), safety McDonald, right tackle Tyron Smith (knee/ankle), running back C.J. Gable (knee) and linebackers Chris Galippo, Devon Kennard and Malcolm Smith (knee) were limited.
With Tyron Smith limited, the displaced Lewis played most of the snaps at right tackle but didn't look particularly mobile. Kiffin had high praise for Smith, who sat out of essentially all of last week's practice but returned to post a solid performance against Oregon: “Surprisingly, he played the best of the group, really probably the only one that played functional. It was surprising because he missed that time, but he’s probably that rare guy that can miss time and still go out and play really well. He’s done it a couple of times this year, because he prepares so well and he works so hard when he isn’t in.”
Final notes: Two more open practices remain for USC to prepare for Arizona State: Wednesday and Thursday, both at 4 p.m. ... On Election Day across the United States, Barkley said he voted last week via absentee ballot.
Kiffin spoke to the media after practice Tuesday and was very critical of his team's Saturday performance.
See what all he had to say:
O'Dowd was asked if he agreed with Kiffin's assessment that the offensive line played worse against Oregon than it had at any point in his time at USC.
"That's the head coach, and I'm sure that's what he saw," the senior center said. "I'm all behind him. It's just another opportunity for us to step up and get better."
See what else O'Dowd said after practice Tuesday, including his own straightforward analysis of the line: