USC begins bye week practices

LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on Tuesday morning for the first practice of the bye week.

The first noticeable thing at practice was that it was just a little bit quieter out on the field than it normally is. But it didn’t take long to figure out why -- defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and his booming voice were nowhere to be seen. Orgeron, wide receiver coach Tee Martin and offensive line coach James Cregg were all absent to focus their time and efforts on the recruiting trail -- one of the bonuses that comes with no game to prepare for this Saturday.

“A lot of our guys are not here right now,” said Kiffin. “We want to make sure that we maintain the level that we’ve been recruiting at, and that nationally, players understand the importance of our future. So guys are in and out, and a lot of guys left Sunday, and they’ll be back tomorrow.”

Kiffin also noted the added time a bye week gives to the injured players to rest up and get healthy, as well as the extra reps that it allows the backups in practice.

“This gives us a little more time to focus on [the backups], in all three phases of the game,” Kiffin said. “It’s going to be critical down the stretch, because we know injuries are going to happen, and we’re going to need those guys.”

As practice started, it was evident that Matt Barkley wasn’t about to let up, bye or no bye. Leading the quarterbacks through their individual drills, he was just as determined and focused as ever.

There was a physical early half-line drill with offensive linemen Abe Markowitz and Jeremy Galten both drawing praise for their performances, while Lamar Dawson, Morgan Breslin, George Uko and Leonard Williams all stood out on the defensive side with big plays of their own.

The team then got into an early 11-on-11 session with some of the following highlights:

• Barkley tried to connect with George Farmer, but Nickell Robey was there in tight coverage and the ball fell incomplete.

• Barkley hit Victor Blackwell over the middle for a short gain.

Max Wittek found Nelson Agholor over the middle before the stop by Simione Vehikite.

Tony Burnett made the first of a host of solid plays on the day, stopping Buck Allen for a minimal gain.

• Barkley connected with Farmer for a gain of about 20 yards before the stop by Jawanza Starling.

• Allen took a handoff but was met at the line by Christian Heyward and Vehikite.

Cody Kessler threw to De’Von Flournoy but Starling was there to break it up.

The team then got together for a 7-on-7 session. Here are some of the highlights:

• Barkley threw a nice pass along the sideline to Blackwell with Torin Harris making the stop.

• Wittek connected with Blackwell for a gain of about 10 yards.

• Wittek found Flournoy in the end zone despite coverage by Gerald Bowman.

• Barkley connected with Blackwell who got behind Josh Shaw in the end zone.

• Kessler found Randall Telfer for a big gain over the middle.

• Wittek connected with Junior Pomee who put a great juke move on Ryan Dillard, picking up five or six extra yards as a result.

Finally, it was time for a team 11-on-11 red zone period featuring some of the following highlights:

• Flournoy hauled in the Barkley touchdown pass.

• Burnett picked off Barkley and took it all the way back for a touchdown.

• Then it was Wittek’s turn to throw an interception, this one going to Kevon Seymour.

• Kessler connected with Xavier Grimble for a 20-yard score.

• Robey intercepted a Wittek pass.

Some selected post-practice Kiffin quotes:

On what can be done to free up Marqise Lee and Robert Woods as teams continue to focus on them:

“If they’re going to do that, we need to run the ball. And so last week, if you run the ball for 300 yards, you’re going to win a lot of games. We understand that, Matt understands that, the receivers understand that. If they’re going to do what we’ve seen this year, and guys are going to come in and play completely different defenses than they’ve put on film before, just for these two receivers, then we’re not going to be ignorant and just keep trying to throw to them in double coverage.”

On whether Matt Barkley’s patience is being tested by the defensive schemes he’s facing this season:

“Yes, it’s being tested and you’re seeing him do a great job with it. You’re not seeing balls thrown downfield, forced into coverages. For instance, Saturday, that could have been one of those games that he’s frustrated because the numbers aren’t there, and he’s done a great job of not giving into that.”

On Abe Markowitz and whether or not he’ll stay in the starting lineup:

“I don’t know that yet. I know that we’d like to keep him playing. So regardless of who’s starting, or who’s up or who’s down that week, he’s going to play.”

On the condition of Brian Baucham:

“Legally, I can’t get into that.”