USC’s Pac-12 opener against Utah marked the season debut for senior tailback Marc Tyler, who was reinstated last week following a suspension from parts of training camp and the Trojans’ season opener against Minnesota.
Against the Utes, Tyler finished with 24 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown, earning USC Credit Union Student-Athlete of the Week honors.
“I wouldn’t say it felt easier than last year, but I was more comfortable,” Tyler said after Tuesday’s early morning practice. “I feel that I am more mentally tough this year because of everything I have been through.”
Tyler, who lost 13 pounds since the spring, feels more prepared to take on the remaining season.
“It feels good to be down there with the first team offense and not be over there with the black jersey on,” he said. “Being around all the guys, [you] feel like you’re part of something again.”
Junior left Matt Kalil’s game-saving blocked field goal by helped earn USC its first Pac-12 victory. Kalil, who recently moved to special teams voluntarily, hopes to block seven field goals this year.
“At Fresno State there was a guy that blocked seven,” he said. “I’ve already blocked five so far, so I’m trying to beat that.”
With improvement made for the Trojans on special teams with two blocked field goals through two games, USC looks to carry that success from the first half over to the rest of the game.
“I think it goes back to the first half,” Kalil said. “We’re doing really well in the first half and we diminish the second half. I think that’s what we got to fix. Finishing strong in the second half of games and less turnovers.”
Though freshman kicker Andre Heidari has not been used much by the coaching staff so far, he is adjusting to his role with the team.
Heidari added a 47-yard field goal for USC in the first quarter against the Utes to give the Trojans an early lead.
“I thought I was going to be nervous going into the first and second game,” Heidari said. “When I get out there, it is kind of nerve-wracking, but you just got to go out there and do your thing.”
Redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony Brown worked with the first unit defense in place of redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris.
“We’re giving Anthony a shot,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “He’s another one of those young guys in that class that we signed that has done some good things. He’s physical, a good tackler and really wants to be good.”
Aside from Brown, freshmen offensive linemen Marcus Martin and Aundrey Walker were in at guard competing for the starting position.
“We’re going to give the young guys a shot,” Kiffin said. “Hopefully the two true freshmen can help out in there and do some things. But that’s up to them, not to us.”
With USC’s upcoming game against Syracuse, the Trojans’ first with the Orange since 1990, Kiffin believes the Orange will not be an easy opponent to face, praising the team’s offense and defense.
“On offense, they have a really good passing quarterback,” Kiffin said. “He’s over 80 percent in the second half of games. Anytime you have a quarterback that is playing extremely well that is as experienced as your opponent, you better be ready to go.”
The USC offense will also have to deal with a strong Syracuse defense.
“They were 17th in the country in total defense last year,” Kiffin said. “We’re going to have our hands full.”
With the first two games of the season coming down to the last few minutes of the game, Kiffin addressed criticism regarding junior quarterback Matt Barkley.
“The bottom line is to win the game,” Kiffin said. “In the fourth quarter of the game, we have had the lead. He hasn’t been behind yet; that’s really where an issue comes up. We have been very conservative in our calls to make sure that we win the game and not worry about stats.”