Defense shines on goal line

LOS ANGELES -- The Sunday afternoon full-pads practice marked the end of the first week of fall camp drills and it featured a spirited goal-line session that was dominated by the defense.

Lane Kiffin said “it’s always exciting” when a goal line drill is held and this one was no exception, at least for the defense. More than a dozen plays were run and the offense only scored once, coming on a pass from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee over Nickell Robey.

Otherwise, the defense held and -- as the plays went by without the offense getting into the end zone -- the defense got more and more fired up. Some of the highlights included George Uko stopping Curtis McNeal up the middle, a Robey pass break-up of a Barkley attempt to Robert Woods and several stops on runs by Soma Vainuku and Silas Redd. The defensive line for that drill featured Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods, Uko and J.R. Tavai.

“Goal-line defense has been one of the major offseason emphasis points this year,” Kiffin said. They had good pad leverage and they lined up well. It was good to see that performance.”

The intensity was up throughout the day, including a team drill in which Xavier Grimble had a few good grabs. Barkley hit Grimble dragging across the middle for 25 and then Cody Kessler completed a pass to Grimble against coverage from Anthony Sarao. Josh Shaw was working with the first unit at cornerback opposite Robey. Antwaun Woods made a nice play to trip up his former high school teammate D.J. Morgan, who got a lot of work Sunday, at the line. The left tackle spot was alternated between Nathan Guertler and Max Tuerk. Kessler completed a nice fade to Woods. Tavai had a hard hit on Morgan behind the line.

No decision on No. 2 QB: Kiffin said there is still no decision in the backup quarterback battle between Kessler and Max Wittek.

“Both young quarterbacks have handled the huddle well,” Kiffin said. “We wouldn’t need to change the game plan for either one and that’s a good thing because they don’t get a lot of reps during the week.”

Red zone: A red-zone drill was held that got started with a Robey pick of a Barkley pass intended for Lee. Wittek squeezed in a touchdown throw to Woods and then came right back to hit Lee against coverage from Devian Shelton. Drew McAllister had a nice pass break-up.

WR vs DB drills: There was some good action in a wide receiver vs. defensive back drill in the red zone. Nelson Agholor ran a crisp route into the end zone for a catch against Shelton. Shaw had a good rep against George Farmer to force an incompletion. Lee had a touchdown against Robey. Woods caught a pass in the corner of the end zone against Robey. The play was called in but defensive back coach Marvin Sanders disagreed and playfully kicked dirt at the shoes of the guy who made the call.

Focus on Trojans: Kiffin said the team has not started preparations in practice for opponents yet as there is still plenty to work on for the Trojans to get themselves right.

Notes: The return men in a kickoff return drill included Robey, Woods, Lee, Morgan and De'Von Flournoy.

Farmer did several early drills today before shutting it down. Aundrey Walker and Torin Harris dressed but did not take part, Lamar Dawson, Anthony Brown and Buck Allen were not on the field. Greg Townsend Jr. and Dion Bailey both left practice, and Kiffin did not give specifics on why they left. Khaled Holmes went through the entire practice.

With Dawson out, Hayes Pullard moved to middle linebacker and Sarao took his place at weakside linebacker.

When asked if Kevin Graf could be moved to left tackle if Walker continues to miss time, Kiffin said “probably not.” He added that “if Max Tuerk has to start then he has to start. That’s a hard question to answer right now because there is a long way to go.”

Kiffin praised the play of the secondary, especially the fact that they haven’t been giving up explosive plays.

USC verbal commit wide receiver Steven Mitchell was in attendance.