Trojans hold their first spring practice of 2012
As the Trojans entered Howard Jones Field for the first time in nearly three months, a lot of things looked different than when they left it last December.
Tee Martin is now a member of USC coach Lane Kiffinâs staff, coaching the wide receivers.
Gone are tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry.
But there were three constants that remained on the field Tuesday afternoon from last season that give Trojans everywhere a reason to be hopeful for the 2012 season: the return of senior quarterback Matt Barkley and his wide receivers, junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marqise Lee.
Many thought that Barkley had played his last game in cardinal and gold in the 50-0 victory over UCLA. But Barkley, who threw 39 touchdowns last season against just seven interceptions, decided to come back for his senior season, citing âunfinished businessâ as his reason for returning.
âItâs amazing. Iâm glad he came back,â said Lee, who recorded more than 1,000 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in his first season on campus. âWeâre gonna enjoy him while we [can].â
With the return of Barkley, however, comes raised expectations. USC is being widely hailed as a preseasonÂ top-five team, with some analysts saying the Trojans are the best team in the country.
The Trojans are not concerned with that, however, if Tuesday is any indication.
âWe donât really think about [the expectations],â Lee said. âWe just know weâre supposed to come out here and work hard. Thatâs the main mindset for us. And thatâs what we focus on.â
Though Barkley, Woods and Lee all return, Kalil will no longer be manning Barkleyâs blindside. In his place is redshirt junior Kevin Graf, who started at right tackle last season.
Kalil is expected to be a top-five pick in the coming NFL draft and was an All-American selection last season. Though many eyes are on Graf this spring, he said he does not feel pressure replacing a marquee player like Kalil.
âHeâs a great player. Iâm really happy for him, that heâs going so high,â Graf said. âBut Iâm trying to be a great player here too.â
The high expectations are not getting the best of Graf, either.
âThatâs where we want to be. Thatâs where we want to be focused at,â Graf explained. âWe always want to be at the top, and weâre happy about that.â
The Trojans will practice again on Thursday and Saturday and will then have a week off for spring break.