It was another competitive practice in full pads for the Trojans on Wednesday, as they continue to gear up for an Arizona team that USC coach Lane Kiffin believes is much better than its 4-3 record indicates.
“I thought it was a good, long practice again -- following the theme last week of not about who we’re playing, but really continuing to get better -- and two hard days of practice,“ Kiffin said. “So [we] still have a lot of work to do. [We] play a team that very easily could have one loss. This is a really good team, and I’m actually surprised they’re not ranked.”
Method to the madness
Catching most observers by surprise, the Trojans used a heavy rotation on defense against Colorado right from the opening quarter. Even stars like T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey -- both of whom normally rarely leave the field – were taken in and out of the game at a feverish pace.
But as Kiffin revealed on Wednesday, the sudden increase in substitutions had less to do with the Buffaloes than it did to do with the Trojans’ next two opponents, Arizona and Oregon. Both the Wildcats and the Ducks feature fast-paced, no-huddle offenses that are sure to test USC’s depth on defense.
“We rotated based off of preparing for the next two opponents,” Kiffin said. “We wanted to not get to this week and all of a sudden have a no-huddle rotation. So even though they weren’t no-huddle, we treated our reps that way … It was good, regardless. To get guys snaps in the beginning of games instead of just at the end of games was critical for us, because we’re going to need those guys at some point during the year. So I just thought it was critical to get our guys to understand the rotation and get a feel for it.”
No suspension for Williams
Kiffin couldn’t comment on the status of Leonard Williams on Tuesday, but with the news officially out now that the 6-foot-5 defensive tackle has avoided any further disciplinary action by the Pac-12 for his ejection for throwing a punch in the Colorado game, the coach said he believes the highly regarded freshman has learned from his mistake.
“It was a learning moment for a true freshman,” Kiffin said. “I know he understands that, and I can’t imagine it ever happening again.”
Kiffin wouldn’t get into any specific details as to what kind of, if any, punishment was handed down to Williams by the USC coaching staff, saying only that the issue is being dealt with internally.
“We’ve had some internal stuff, not conditioning, but some other things that we’ve done,” Kiffin said.
Last time out of SoCal
When the Trojans hit the field at Arizona on Saturday, it will mark the fifth time in the past seven games the Trojans have played away in 2012. And while the trip to Tucson is certainly one of the less-demanding road trips of the year, Kiffin is looking forward to playing the rest of the regular season entirely in Southern California.
“It’s a good thing,” Kiffin said. “We’re going out there to try to get a win and get back on the plane knowing we don’t have to get on another plane the rest of the regular season. A very unique schedule to be this way, and obviously our goal is to get through it with another win and get back home.”
The Trojans play a rare mid-day game on Saturday in Tucson with a 12:30 p.m. start time -- something that Kiffin believes will be beneficial to his team.
“As you look at our numbers, I think we’ve played really well in early kickoffs in our time here,” Kiffin said. “We like it as coaches, our players are used to the morning format of being up early, so I think it’s really good for us, especially on the road.”
Tuerk continues to impress
Kiffin once again praised the play of freshman offensive tackle Max Tuerk, although it’s still uncertain as to how much playing time he’ll see on Saturday with the status of Aundrey Walker still undisclosed.
“Max did really well,” Kiffin said. “I thought he’s done really well the last couple of weeks, especially going from tight end to tackle -- it’s not an easy transition. So we’re very excited about Max’s future.”