Despite the announcement he would be redshirted for the 2011 season, freshman George Farmer’s transition to tailback has gone well in practice, earning him praise from USC coach Lane Kiffin.
“I was surprised, having not played running back for a while, for him to go back there and look pretty natural at doing it,” Kiffin said. “It says a lot about the athlete that he is. If we could ever get that where he was really a real running back with that size and that speed — and we know what he can do outside — there aren’t many people like that ever.”
Farmer, who was the No. 1 wide receiver recruit out of high school, hurt his ankle in Tuesday’s practice, but came back Wednesday unhindered.
“It really says a lot about him to sprain his ankle yesterday and come back out today,” Kiffin said. “I wish all of our guys did that.”
Though Farmer struggled early on during fall camp and throughout early practices, Kiffin called true freshman struggles a normal problem.
“You probably only get five to seven unique, true freshman stories around the country where guys come in and make major, major impacts, like [sophomore wideout] Robert [Woods] did last year,” Kiffin added. “Once they get some time in the system, they get comfortable, the pressure’s off of them, you see what [they] did in high school.”
On a rainy Wednesday morning, Kiffin looked at the weather as a positive aspect for his team during its final bye week practice.
“The weather was good for us to have,” he said. “We haven’t really dealt with bad weather much. It was good, especially for our skill guys, to work in this [weather]. Obviously, [there is] a possibility of that coming up with a couple road games on our schedule.”
Starting Thursday, USC will prepare for its Oct. 13 game against California in San Francisco.
Starting with Cal, USC will face a slew of 3-4 and multiple defensive packages, which could cause problems for USC’s offensive line.
“If the team’s only 3-4, it’s a little bit easier because that’s all you prepare for the week,” Kiffin said. “But these guys are so multiple. Sometimes there’s two downsmen, three downsmen, four down linemen, so it makes it really difficult on young linemen especially.”
Senior fullback Ross Cumming’s play Saturday was solid and surprising although it was his first game at fullback.
“I wish we had done [the position change] earlier,” Kiffin said. “It’s just an example of a guy staying around here, understanding the systems, understanding the techniques. What we teach on special teams can really carry over to offense and defense regardless of positions, and Ross is a great example to step right in and contribute.”
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley returned to full practice after freshman quarterback Max Wittek took extended snaps Tuesday.
Sophomore Robert Woods was a full participant in the rain, although Kiffin originally thought Woods would sit out for a couple days to recover from an injured ankle and elbow.
Kiffin reported there were no major injuries sustained during Wednesday’s practice.