On a sweltering Saturday at the Coliseum, the defense once again asserted itself, scrimmaging against a depleted offensive line and running back corps.
USC’s defensive front seven, which features none of next fall’s projected starters at linebacker next fall and is without talented defensive end Armond Armstead and defensive tackle Christian Tupou, continued to make plays.
As the scrimmage progressed, junior quarterback Matt Barkley became visibly frustrated with his offensive line’s inability to prevent the defensive linemen from raising their hands in the passing lanes.
Seven penalties were called against the offense during the scrimmage, compared to only one against the defense.
Much of the offense’s inconsistent play was attributed to the absence of senior tight end Rhett Ellison, who is normally called upon to motion before a snap.
In Ellison’s place, USC used freshman fullback Soma Vainuku and sophomore tight end Christian Thomas.
The only explosive play through the air Saturday was a 40-yard pass from freshman quarterback Cody Kessler to sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods. The play was negated, however, because the coaches determined Kessler would have been sacked if the defense was allowed to hit the quarterback.
“I thought the defense came out flying all over the place, great mentality about themselves,” Kiffin said. “It was very good to see the offense help them by not playing all that well.”
Kiffin said he was upset with the freshmen offensive players’ effort, though he would not identify specific players.
He said he was glad that their low-energy effort happened now, when he can correct it, rather than during the season.
One player who has made a name for himself, however, is redshirt freshman Hayes Pullard. After a nondescript first season for the Trojans as a practice squad player, Kiffin continues to tout Pullard as a player who will figure heavily into the linebacker rotation next fall, perhaps even having an outside chance to start.
“[Hayes Pullard] is a guy who would not be getting as many reps necessarily with all of the other guys healthy,” Kiffin said. “He is a good example of [someone who is stepping up].”