LOS ANGELES -- After over a week away from action, the Trojans went back to work on Wednesday, and with Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field having recently been re-sodded, the team took part in a rare practice in the Coliseum. It was a loose and notably high-spirited workout that USC head coach Lane Kiffin said had "great energy," even going as far as to call it "probably the best practice we've had since maybe the first day of training camp."
With quarterback Matt Barkley still in New York after receiving a scholar-athlete award from the National Football Foundation, and Marqise Lee in Orlando as a finalist for the Biletnikoff award that will be handed out Thursday, Wednesday's practice centered around the development of some of the more inexperienced Trojans players, while Kiffin and Co. also tinkered around with a couple of position moves.
"Good to get back out on the practice field -- a luxury we haven't had the last two off-seasons -- to get some extra practices," Kiffin said. "Our early bowl week practices, we focus a lot on younger guys, our backups, and moving some guys around at times."
One of those players who spent time at a different position on Wednesday was Josh Shaw, who moved over to his original safety spot after playing a majority of the season at cornerback.
It was a day off of sorts for seniors such as Khaled Holmes and T.J. McDonald as they traded in their shoulder pads and helmets for warm-up gear. But Kiffin didn't let them off completely scot-free, instead using their veteran experience to the team's benefit as coaches as they filled in for some of the regular staffers such as Ed Orgeron and Kennedy Polamalu, who were out on the recruiting trail.
"We've never done it before," Kiffin said. "We just kind of wanted to let them see what it was like to coach, and plus we didn't have all of our guys here because of recruiting, so it was good to let them kind of run some of the drills."
Markowitz not coming back on scholarship
One of the USC seniors who provided tutelage to the younger players on Wednesday was offensive lineman Abe Markowitz, who recently petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. But as Kiffin revealed after practice, if Markowitz is granted the extra year, he won't be able to spend it at USC because the Trojans don't have a scholarship available.
"Abe will not be coming back with us," Kiffin said. "There's a potential that he's looking into about potentially going somewhere else, but this is his last year with us."
After practice there was talk, however, that there is a slight chance that Markowitz could still return to the team as a walk-on in 2013.
Barkley still expected to play in bowl game
Kiffin again confirmed that all indications point toward Barkley -- out since suffering a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder against UCLA -- playing against Georgia Tech on Dec. 31. Both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler saw extensive time in his place Wednesday.
"We anticipate that Matt will play," Kiffin said. "We've anticipated that all along, especially with a bowl game at a later date, so we're moving as if he would be. But in the meantime obviously, he's not here right now, so we divided up the first and second team reps with the other two quarterbacks."
Burnett apologizes, Kiffin excited for bowl game
After making some critical comments about El Paso, Texas, and the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Twitter following the Trojans' selection to play in the game, Tony Burnett issued an apology on Monday before later pulling down his account. And while the senior linebacker has done his best to put the incident in the past, Kiffin expects the topic to come up again once the team lands in Texas.
"Yeah I would think so," Kiffin said. "We discussed it with Tony immediately. Obviously we were very disappointed in what Tony said, and Tony immediately took it back and apologized. So we're very excited about this bowl game and going down there, meeting the people of El Paso, and everything we've heard is that they do a phenomenal job of welcoming you and taking care of you while you're down there."