LOS ANGELES -- It was a surprisingly overcast morning during Trojans’ practice on what USC head coach Lane Kiffin called “Syracuse Wednesday.”
“An up and down day today for us,” Kiffin said. “I thought the defense came out and played a lot better than yesterday, until the end. So we’ll go back and look at the film. We have lot of work to do.”
Practice started out on an upbeat tone as Kiffin tossed the ball over to various players during warmups, while Kyle Negrete boomed some punts off to the side with some impressive hang-time.
During individual drills the secondary unit went through one station where the defensive backs had to fight off three blockers before they could make a tackle on a ball-carrier. Not surprisingly, T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey both had impressive reps where each made it through all three blockers before making the stop.
The pressure is certainly on Marvin Sanders’ group this weekend as they face the explosive Syracuse passing attack led by quarterback Ryan Nassib, and they definitely looked focused on Wednesday.
“We have to play big, especially our secondary, and this is going to be a really big test for our guys,” Kiffin said. “Last week we weren’t tested very much. We’ve got to do better.“
The entire team came together for a short 11-on-11 session that took place a little earlier than normal. Some of the more notable plays:
• Curtis McNeal had a nifty run that saw him make two defenders miss before taking it to the house.
• Barkley hit Xavier Grimble for a big gain.
A light rain started to come down at this point and the offense and defense split off into their separate groups against the scout teams before coming back to a 7-on-7 session that featured a Barkley to Telfer completion despite tight coverage by Anthony Sarao, a George Farmer reception against Anthony Brown, another completion from Barkley to Telfer and a Marqise Lee reception from Barkley.
It was then time for a closing 11-on-11 period. Here are some of the highlights:
• The offensive line had an impressive surge that cleared the way for Redd to gain 7 or 8 yards before even being touched.
• Barkley found Farmer for a short gain before Robey tackled him.
• J.R. Tavai applied some nice pressure and forced Barkley to scramble for a minimal gain.
• Max Wittek completed a short pass to McNeal, who made a nice move on Brown to get some extra yardage.
• Barkley had a pass attempt to Lee on the sideline, but Harris was there in coverage and the pass fell incomplete.
• McNeal with the carry, but he was stopped by Hayes Pullard for no gain.
• Barkley completed a pass to Victor Blackwell.
• Barkley hit Lee before a Wright tackle.
• Barkley had back-to-back completions to Grimble.
• There was an entertaining series at this point that saw Barkley attempt to go to Lee against Harris three-straight times. The first and third attempts fell incomplete with strong coverage by Harris, with Lee making the highlight-reel leaping grab on the second attempt.
• Tavai sacked Barkley.
• Barkley completed a pass to Lee.
Some selected post-practice Kiffin quotes:
On how hard it is to pressure Nassib:
“Well, it is really hard. They’re in the shotgun almost all the time and the quarterback gets rid of the ball really quick so you see teams getting free, but they still get the ball off. So we’re going to have to have a good plan and make them execute and make them hold on to the ball.”
On D.J. Morgan's Tweet that he was undergoing knee surgery:
“Yes, that’s true.”
On McNeal and Robert Woods staying humble despite the lack of touches against Hawaii:
“I’ve mentioned before that this team is really unselfish, and I think that that’s the biggest test. It’s easy to do in camp, but when you really don’t get many touches, how do you react? I thought they were great, especially Curtis in that situation -- for somebody who maybe years ago wouldn’t have been that way. And I talked to him after the game about how well he handled himself.”
On reinstating Simione Vehikite to the team:
“Well, I think one of the things of our job, we’re allowed to work with young kids that make mistakes and we’re allowed to give kids second chances. So I’m glad we’re able to do that. He’s paid a big price, and missed a lot of stuff...he’s very embarrassed. I’m glad we can give him this chance and hopefully he proves us right.”