The seats might have been nearly empty, but the USC football team didn’t seem to notice.
On Saturday, the team had one of its liveliest practices of the spring at the Coliseum. Beside the empty seats, it looked a lot like an actual game.
“It was very spirited and competitive,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
When the offense went for an early fourth and goal, the defensive sideline hollered in an attempt to distract the offense. They couldn’t stop senior running back Marc Tyler from smashing it up the gut and in, however.
It was Tyler’s first practice participating in full-contact drills.
He went through no-contact drills in his return Tuesday and soft-contact drills Thursday. He said his hamstring felt good in the beginning of practice, but then it got tight and cramped up a bit.
Sophomore running back Dillon Baxter, who impressed in Tyler’s absence, exited midway through the scrimmage with a high ankle sprain.
Kiffin said after practice it was too early to speculate as to the extent of the injury, but he thought Baxter could still return this spring.
The injury was the result of an extremely hard-hitting scrimmage.
It started off with goal-to-go situations, where the injury-depleted offensive line dominated.
This was a dramatic change of pace from other practices, in which the defensive line has been overpowering.
For the first time this spring, USC practiced its two-minute drill. Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods was the target for the first play of all three attempts in the two-minute offense, and he scored both touchdowns.
The offense moved the ball with ease in the hurry-up, the highlight coming when Barkley dropped back, and noticing no one in front of him, tucked it 25 yards for a first down.
The offense faced just one third down, while picking up four first downs.
“Matt did really well,” Kiffin said. “[I] thought he commanded the huddle great.”
The offense went four-and-out in the second two-minute drill, but bounced right back in the third.
The first play was a pass to Woods who would be Barkley’s intended target on five more plays.
Woods snagged a skinny post for 14 yards on a third and 15 that allowed the offense to convert the ensuing fourth and one.
The drive was capped by an 11-yard touchdown grab on third and 10.
“We moved the ball well on offense,” Barkley said. “Our [offensive] line played a lot better than they have in the past, especially in terms of protection.”
Sophomore cornerback Anthony Brown sacked Barkley on one of the scrimmage’s first plays and walk-on senior cornerback Boomer Roepke followed suit midway through the scrimmage.
Junior safety Jawanza Starling had the day’s only interception, which came off freshman quarterback Cody Kessler in a seven-on-seven drill.
When defending a third and 20 early in the scrimmage, USC secondary coach Willie Mack Garza called out his unit, asking them if they remembered the Washington game last season.
The Huskies converted a fourth and 10 for 18 yards against the Trojan defense, which set up a game-winning field goal.
USC invited the 243rd Battalion, known as the “Trojan Battery,” to speak to the team before practice.
The seven-man unit, headed to the Persian Gulf in a couple weeks, and delivered an inspirational speech to the team and presented Kiffin a Battalion coin.