LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans held an open scrimmage today at the Coliseum in front of a gathering of USC fans anxious for their first look at the team this spring. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually a true indication of what the team can or will look like in the fall.
Matt Barkley took part in the early position drills but did not participate in the scrimmage. The two starting wide receivers were not there -- Robert Woods is out for spring with an ankle injury while Marqise Lee is with the track team today -- and there were no scholarship tight ends or fullbacks available either.
That meant a fairly skeleton crew for the offense, which resulted in a pretty good day for the defense. It also meant a lot of work for backup quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, both of whom will take any work they can get at this point in a practice setting.
“We’re just competing the whole time,” Kessler said. “Coach Kiffin says we’re in an open competition so it’s good to come out here and get after it. It was also nice to have some fans here watching and supporting us.”
Kiffin pointed to the reserve quarterback battle as a good example of why these scrimmage situations are important, even if all the available weapons aren’t in uniform.
“We can still focus on individual development when we come out here,” Kiffin said. “For guys like Max and Cody, that’s invaluable. They seem very mature when you are around the huddle with them. Right now we would feel comfortable playing either of them if needed.”
Kiffin gave the play calling duties during the scrimmage to quarterbacks coach Clay Helton, along with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and Barkley.
“I had a feeling what the stats would be like so I didn't want those on my resume," Kiffin joked.
There was some scoring in the scrimmage. Curtis McNeal had a 4-yard touchdown run after a drive that featured a nice completion from Wittek to De’Von Flournoy, who continues his solid play this spring. Tre Madden also had a 1-yard touchdown run after he had made a 13-yard run to get the ball down near the goal line. Madden said the coaches also began installing some packages for him today as a possible Wildcat quarterback option.
Victor Blackwell had a highlight catch along the sideline where he went up high for the ball and was upended by T.J. McDonald, but he held on for the catch and the first down. Blackwell later left with minor injuries but is expected to be fine. Isiah Wiley had a big play for the defense when he tackled Madden with a hard hit on fourth down to force a change of possession. Antwaun Woods had a sack and Drew McAllister led the defense in tackles. At one point the kickers were working on one side of the field while the rest of the team was on the other end and Andre Heidari made a 51-yard field goal.
Part of the excitement of the day for those in attendance was a series of videos shown on the Coliseum video board. One video was a historical look at USC football that featured highlights of the Trojans through the years and it should certainly be a crowd favorite if it is shown again at the spring game. There were also video packages from both the Notre Dame and Oregon games from last season which captured the emotion from those USC victories.
There was a good group of recruits in attendance including QB Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), LB Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta), CB Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza), CB Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), S Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), DE Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif./Upland) and 2014 QB Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) . 2012 signees DB Gerald Bowman (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) and WR Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson) were also there, as were former USC stars Mark Sanchez, Damian Williams and Patrick Turner.