At the first practice after USC’s loss to Stanford on Tuesday, the message was clear: It’s time to move on.
USC coach Lane Kiffin expressed his team’s excitement for Saturday’s game against California, even joking that he wished it were baseball, so his team could have the opportunity to bounce back quicker.
“Good to be back out on the field I think for everybody, for our coaches, for our players,” Kiffin said. “Get rid of last week like we’ve talked about. We’re moving forward, but it’s always good to get the pads on and get back here and get to football.”
The Trojan coach is addressing several problems he identified on game film — most notably, offensive line play.
He has officially opened up sophomore Aundrey Walker’s starting left tackle position for competition. Over the next two days, Walker and freshman Max Tuerk will vie for the starting nod to protect senior quarterback Matt Barkley’s blindside.
Kiffin also expounded upon his criteria for making the decision.
“Finish, great effort,” Kiffin said. “We won’t tolerate lack of great effort. I think Aundrey’s going to respond well to this.”
During the loss to Stanford, freshman center Cyrus Hobbi, as expected with a nuanced position, experienced some growing pains. On one sack in the second half, Hobbi snapped the ball on the wrong snap count, leading to a flood of Stanford players in the backfield.
Still, after the game, Kiffin made sure to applaud his effort.
“Hang in there,” said Kiffin to Hobbi postgame. “[I’m] proud of the way that [you] competed, and we’re behind [you].”
According to Kiffin, senior center Abe Markowitz, who was No. 2 on the depth chart before Stanford, is healthy and available to play this week. If Holmes is unavailable to play against California, Markowitz will assume the starting center position over Hobbi.
Kiffin also insisted that California’s 1-2 record belies a talented and physical team.
“They’re [a] very talented team in general in all three phases. … Some guys on defense that give you some issues in the front,” Kiffin said. “There’s some pretty dominant players in there that give people a lot of issues last year, including us at times — another complicated defense.”
Though California quarterback Zach Maynard struggled against USC last season, Kiffin has seen growth from the lefty on recent game film.
“That was the best I’ve seen from him on film,” said Kiffin of Maynard’s performance against Ohio State last weekend. “He played really well in a tough game. I think you can tell that he’s improved. ”