LOS ANGELES -- USC took the field on Wednesday morning for another day of prep work for Stanford, and Dedeaux Field served as the practice site for the first time in quite awhile as the Trojans look to keep Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field fresh.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin was particularly pleased with how the defense performed today and looks for them to have a strong showing against a Stanford offense that the Trojans have had problems containing as of late.
“I think that, going back to Saturday, our players weren’t pleased with the way that they finished in the second half,” said Kiffin. “So, its good to see not just the coaches, but the players take ownership in it. I think we’re going to play really well on defense.”
Practice started with a lot of focus on special teams, with coach John Baxter involved in every facet as usual.
In the individual drills the quarterbacks threw to all of the weapons at their disposal today -- first the running backs, then the tight ends and finally those big-play wideouts.
After their work with the quarterbacks, the running backs spent some time running cone drills and weaving through a set of trash barrels, and in watching, it’s hard not to notice Curtis McNeal’s lightning-quick feet.
The running backs then finished up with a drill that you might expect to see the offensive line go through – where two backs at a time lunge at a blocking sled with two dummies. It’s safe to say that they expect a physical match-up with the highly touted Cardinal linebackers.
The entire team then got together for an early 11-on-11 period that was marked by a lot of energy and some big defensive plays right off the bat. Here’s a look at some of the action:
• T.J. McDonald stopped McNeal for a short gain.
• Barkley found McNeal for a five- or six-yard pick-up.
• Kessler found Flournoy, with Anthony Brown coming up to make the stop.
• Agholor hauled in a Max Wittek pass on the sideline.
• Wittek hit Flournoy deep with coverage by Ryan Henderson.
The next set of highlights came out of the 7-on-7 session:
• Barkley completed a pass to Lee along the sideline with Nickell Robey draped all over him.
• Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick made a nice reception right over the middle on a Barkley toss.
• Wittek tried to squeeze a pass in to Lee, but Dion Bailey tipped the ball away on a great effort by the linebacker.
• Wittek hit Agholor -- who was covered by Brown -- over the middle.
• Wittek tried to hit Lee, but this time Brown had nice coverage on the wideout and the pass fell incomplete.
• Kessler attempted to hit Agholor, but Brown knocked it away.
The day then concluded with a final 11-on-11 period, with another outstanding defensive play to open things up:
• Hayes Pullard showed off his speed in his pursuit of McNeal, stopping him for a minimal gain.
• Barkley passed to Soma Vainuku, who picked up seven or eight yards before being tackled by Bailey.
• Barkley hit Lee for a nice gain before Wright made the stop.
• Lee made the grab on the short Barkley pass, but Harris and Robey both came up in a hurry to keep the gain to a minimum.
• Wittek found Redd for a nice pickup before Harris made the tackle.
Selected Kiffin post-practice quotes:
On whether or not there is a revenge factor in going against Stanford:
“Not at all -- every year is new. Every team is new. They’re a really good team. We’ve got to play really well on the road versus a team that’s really well coached. They’re hard to beat, that’s why they’ve won a lot of games the last few years.”
On the performance so far by Morgan Breslin:
“Very impressed. For him to come in, in his first Division I college game and make as many plays as he has, has been huge for us. Probably our biggest surprise.”
On facing the Stanford offense:
“Well, first we’re going to have to stop the run. We’re going to have to play very aggressive. We’re going to have to really knock them back, otherwise the game gets really long and all of a sudden you have to get out of your normal defense and now you get the big play-actions. We’ve got to play really sound defense against these guys.”
“They push each other. They’re great kids. I’d say Randall [Telfer] was probably ahead at one point, and then Xavier [Grimble] really matured and rounded out his entire game. I think they’re both first-day pick guys.”