Lee misses early practice; defense shines

Geared up in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, the Trojans hit Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field early Saturday morning for the first of two practices on the day.

After suffering an undisclosed injury on Friday, all eyes were watching for star wide out Marqise Lee, but the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner was not in attendance, and with USC head coach Lane Kiffin and the rest of the team taking a break from media interviews following the two-hour workout, no update will come in regard to Lee’s status until after tonight’s practice.

Also sitting out were Justin Davis, Ty Isaac and De'Von Flournoy, with Leonard Williams, Cody Temple, Devian Shelton and D.J. Morgan all held out from portions of the workout.

With no Lee or Flournoy, it was a thin wide receiver unit today, with Nelson Agholor, Victor Blackwell and Darreus Rogers serving as the only available scholarship players in the group.

Left tackle Aundrey Walker and right tackle Kevin Graf were both in action today, and each took extended reps with the first unit, although Chad Wheeler still appeared to get the majority of the snaps on the left side, and Zach Banner saw time with the first group on the right side, as well. Su'a Cravens also returned today, looking good with the second unit at strong safety.

There was a short one-on-one red zone period early, with the wide receiver-cornerback match-ups drawing the most interest, and it's safe to say the defense got the better of the offense in this one. Marked by some inspired play, the session was highlighted by a Kevon Seymour pass-breakup on a Max Wittek toss intended for Agholor, as well as a fantastic athletic play by Chris Hawkins in which he tipped a ball into the air that was intended for Agholor near the sideline, then collected himself in time to pick the ball off.

During the 11-on-11 period, the defense continued to dominate from the get-go, forcing some big turnovers that had the entire group jumping and hollering. On the second play of the session, Wittek hit Agholor for a quick strike, but Seymour came up immediately and stripped the ball, with a collection of defenders jumping on it. Cody Kessler tried to hit Soma Vainuku on the very next play, but the ball was deflected, and freshman inside linebacker Quinton Powell was there to corral it. Demetrius Wright came up to lay a nice hit on Darreus Rogers over the middle that jarred the ball loose for an incompletion.

There was also some stellar play by the defensive line. J.R. Tavai -- who ran with the first unit at defensive end in place of Williams -- broke through to tackle Javorius Allen for a loss. George Uko and Morgan Breslin combined for a sack on Wittek. Antwaun Woods followed that up by meeting Silas Redd -- who ran without a yellow jersey today -- at the line to stop the run for no gain.

The offense eventually came around though, with Wittek hitting Xavier Grimble deep downfield, and Tre Madden -- who continued to wear a yellow jersey -- coming up with a nice run around the right side. Against the scout team later on, both Madden and Allen looked sharp and had some impressive runs for big gains. Kessler, meanwhile, finished his day strong in the same period, connecting on at least five consecutive completions at one point -- to Rogers, Agholor, Robby Kolanz, and two to Victor Blackwell.