It doesn’t appear a sophomore slump is on the horizon for wide receiver Robert Woods.
The second-year wideout dominated practice Saturday, when USC held its first scrimmage of the spring.
He broke out of a dogpile of tacklers and ran 70 yards for a touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage, after returning a punt for a touchdown in a special teams drill. The first play of the scrimmage was a quick out to Woods, and he was quarterback Matt Barkley’s first look on nearly every play.
“You can feel the difference when you have a dominant receiver,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin. “We have that when [Woods] is out here. And you can really feel the difference when he’s not.”
The offense won the scrimmage on the very last play, converting a fourth and five from the 10-yard line for a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Markeith Ambles caught Barkley’s pass at the three, spun around and dove into the endzone as the offensive sideline stormed the field.
Apart from that play and Woods’ run, however, much of the scrimmage was controlled by the defense.
Freshman linebacker Hayes Pullard intercepted a Barkley pass and was on his way to returning it “to the promised land,” according to the redshirt freshman. “But then I got tired and fumbled.”
Later, on a fourth and one, redshirt freshman tailback D.J. Morgan got two yards and a first down on a swing route before he literally got his helmet knocked off. Naturally, the defensive sideline erupted, but Morgan got up and quickly pointed out he had in fact gotten the first down before an official intervened and sent him back towards his own side.
“It was a live practice,” Kiffin said. “We had the live team scrimmage at the end and some live drills early in practice. It’s good to get a lot of tackling in; a lot of realistic, game situations to watch our guys perform in.”
Morgan appear pleased as well.
“We’re just getting in to full contact drills, so everybody wants to show they can hit,” he said. “They come in trying to tee off. So I’m trying to deliver the blow to them and hit them harder than they hit me.”
Senior defensive end Armond Armstead returned to practice after being hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition in early March. Armstead met with university doctors Friday and got the OK to participate in non-football activities.
He will be reduced to weightlifting and conditioning for the rest of the spring as he awaits the results of tests taken following his release from the hospital.
Nonetheless, the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder who started 11 games for the Trojans last year is happy with the step in the right direction.
“I feel really good being able to be out here and work out and run,” Armstead said.
Armstead again refused to reveal the reason for his initial hospitalization, saying only that he had been feeling sick.
Among the spring storylines rest a few interesting position battles on the horizon. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins took most of the reps with the second team and seems to be the favorite to back up junior quarterback Matt Barkley.
Freshman Cody Kessler was the only other quarterback to get reps in any full-team drills.
At placekicker, freshmen Craig McMahon and Andre Heidari went toe-to-toe with field goals in the scrimmage.
Both were nearly perfect. McMahon had a pair of misses from 35-yards, and Heidari had his only miss from the same distance.