All the talk at practice Tuesday was about a player who currently resides in New Orleans and hasn’t played a down for the USC football team in five years.
Yet, it was almost business as usual for the Trojans.
“I know you guys view this as a really big deal to this team but most people [didn’t] even know Reggie Bush. None of them were here when he was here. So it’s not as big a deal to them as you might think,” USC coach Lane Kiffin told reporters. “We didn’t even discuss it in the team meeting. The only reason I brought it up was so they weren’t surprised when [the media] asked them.”
Despite the fact that Bush has dominated the headlines for the last 24 hours, the team still practiced Tuesday — though you wouldn’t know it.
The offense worked on some no-huddle plays that it might look to incorporate into the game plan this week. The Trojans were most successful in the no-huddle against Virginia, scoring 14 out of their 17 points late in the first half. That’s something that sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley said he wouldn’t mind seeing more of.
“I have experience of that in high school along these same lines,” Barkley said. “Not where we all have the wristbands and looking down but where it’s a slower-pace no huddle. I’m really comfortable with that — not that I have a preference of really wanting to do it or not — but I do feel comfortable if we were to go to that and I think we’ve been effective in it so far.”
Kiffin, however, stressed that a two-minute offense doesn’t have the same effect if it’s run before the last two minutes of the half.
“You got to remember too that if you start doing that when you’re not in the two-minute it’s a different situation,” Kiffin said. “Everyone says, ‘Well why don’t you do it more often?’ Well, the defense doesn’t play you the same way if you do it at a normal time because of the clock. They are in more of a preventive mode, but it’s something to look at.”
Junior defensive tackle Armond Armstead and redshirt sophomore defensive end Nick Perry were both limited in practice Tuesday. Perry, who didn’t play in the Hawai’i game because of a high ankle sprain, left the Virginia game early because he said his ankle was bothering him. Armstead was injured in the Virginia game as well.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, this leaves the team very thin at defensive line. Many of the reserves don’t have much playing experience, as Kiffin didn’t use the normal seven or eight-man rotation in the first few games that most teams use to get players experience.
True freshman Christian Thomas, who was slated to play tight end just a few months ago, redshirt freshman Kevin Greene and senior Derrick Simmons, a converted defensive tackle, are players Kiffin said could see more time.
“It’s an opportunity for some different guys,” Kiffin said. “It’s good for us because it’s a reminder that this is what it’s going to be like in the next four years, so we’re getting used to it.”
The Trojans are also looking to use senior fullback Stanley Havili more this week.
Kiffin has limited Havili in his touches because there is no other scholarship fullback on the roster after D.J. Shoemate transferred to UConn over the summer.
But the Trojans’ offense stalled without the usual touches from Havili last week and Kiffin recognizes that he can’t afford to rest the senior much more.
“I never anticipated we would struggle the way we did Saturday on offense. I thought we would be able to move the ball without using him that much,” Kiffin said. “He’s a really good player. We haven’t given him the ball much and it almost backfired, besides the two-minute drill.”
Kiffin said he still hasn’t heard why redshirt junior tight end Rhett Ellison was ejected with four seconds to go in Saturday’s game, but he said Ellison has been cleared to play this week.