At one point after USC concluded practice Wednesday, just before coach Lane Kiffin was due to talk shop and while players were concluding one-on-one interviews with members of the media, Kiffin stopped for a second and looked around.
Six players were being interviewed, he later said. And all six of them were first- or second-year players, another in a long list of signs to Kiffin that he and his staff have recruited well since their arrival in January 2010.
"The majority of our really good players and best prospects probably for the long term, for the next level, are in their first or second year," he said. "It's great."
Kiffin made the point after being asked about freshman kicker Andre Heidari, who has been unexpectedly solid through six games this season, making 10-of-11 field-goal attempts and all 18 extra points.
The Bakersfield native, has quietly been one of USC's most reliable players, already the Trojans' best kicker since David Buehler in 2008. His kickoffs haven't been as powerful as Buehler's, but they've consistently gone past the opponents' 10-yard line and forced opponents into returns.
"I think he's doing great," Kiffin said. "Not too often do you find a true freshman kicking like that in big-time games. He's another freshman reminder of the future here."
Heidari is one of nine true freshmen to suit up for the Trojans this season, a list that also includes running backs George Farmer, Amir Carlisle, receiver Marqise Lee, linebackers Lamar Dawson and Tre Madden, defensive lineman J.R. Tavai and offensive linemen Aundrey Walker and Marcus Martin.
Several other redshirt freshman and true sophomores have also played significant roles with the team this season.