Three main stories out of the first day of fall camp Thursday: Defensive end Armond Armstead expects to be cleared by the season opener, running back Dillon Baxter is bigger, stronger and faster than ever before and quarterback Matt Barkley has a new roommate keeping him up at night in camp. Here's the rest of what went on at Howard Jones Field:
A cheery Kiffin
Now that was rare.
USC coach Lane Kiffin was positively delighted throughout his seven minutes with reporters at the conclusion of Thursday's fall camp opener, taking the time to credit his players and members of his support staff for their offseason dedication. He was clearly enthused about the way his team began practice, and, for Kiffin, that actually means something.
He's not always happy about his squad. But he had good reason to be Thursday, as the Trojans looked sharp all-around, especially considering there's still a month and 28 practices to go until the season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 3. There were no pads, which is a valid reason to hold most judgment, but there were still hits here and there. For a first day, it was close to as good as it gets.
"We look different than we did a year ago," Kiffin said after practice. "Even than we did in the spring. We look bigger, we look faster, we look stronger. I know it's Day 1, but I love where they're at, physically and mentally.
"Now we've got to put all this talent and all this hard work they've done and put the pieces into place."
To help put those pieces together, Kiffin had a simple message stenciled in white paint just inside the doors on USC's Howard Jones Field: "No distractions."
Waiting on a select few
Two freshmen are still home finishing up summer-school classes at their high schools, Kiffin said: tight end Junior Pomee and running back Javorious 'Buck' Allen.
Pomee's in nearby Moreno Valley; Allen is in Tallahassee. USC hopes both players will be in Los Angeles as soon as this weekend.
Other players the Trojans are waiting on include sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles and redshirt junior running back Curtis McNeal. Ambles, who had one catch as a freshman in 2010, is being held out of practice by USC's coaching staff for the final days of summer school while he focuses on maintaining his eligibility.
McNeal is practicing but has not yet received official word on his eligibility for the upcoming season. He missed 2010 while academically ineligible.
The best-looking play of the day went to senior linebacker Chris Galippo, who smartly tipped a Matt Barkley pass into the hands of Shane Horton for a pick six the other way. Kiffin praised Galippo after practice for being alert on the play. The reason he was able to make the tough play, Kiffin implied, was that he knew exactly which play was coming once the offense lined up in a specific trips set, as they had only installed one in practice preparation.
Still, other players didn't pick up on it like Galippo did, Kiffin said.
The other top defensive play was made by safety Drew McAllister, who came up out of nowhere to snare a Max Wittek pass near the end of practice.
Offensively, sophomore De'Von Flournoy caught two deep passes from Barkley on the day, including one that included a tough adjustment over his back shoulder to grab the ball. Second-year receivers Robert Woods and Kyle Prater also caught pretty deep balls from Barkley.
Freshman running back Amir Carlisle fumbled three times but broke off several long runs and earned thoughtful praise from Kiffin.
Aside from those injured in the offseason, defensive back Patrick Hall (knee) and defensive end DeVante Wilson (knee), the only player who was held out of practice Friday was freshman center Cody Temple (back).
But eight players missed time throughout the three-hour practice because of cramping, including Prater and defensive end Nick Perry. Perry missed the conditioning drills at the end of practice because of foot cramps.
The first-string offensive line layout Thursday went like this, left to right: Matt Kalil, Jeremy Galten, Khaled Holmes, John Martinez, Kevin Graf. At other contentious spots, Dion Bailey led off as one outside linebacker and Demetrius Wright started opposite T.J. McDonald at strong safety... After the second no-pads day Friday, a 5:15 p.m. practice, USC will put on shoulder pads for Saturday and Sunday's practices and then move into full pads beginning Monday, per NCAA policy...In a statement, USC vice president of athletic compliance David Roberts praised a bill passed this week by California governor Jerry Brown that is expected to punish agents who victimize student-athletes in the state.