The Trojans’ defensive backfield might be down, but it is far from out.
With Brian Baucham (foot), Drew McAllister and Marshall Jones (neck) all sitting out of practice, the secondary reminded everyone that there are still people on the field who could hit. Hard.
Senior running back Allen Bradford and freshman wide receiver Kyle Prater were both on the receiving ends of some bruising collisions.
In the 11-on-11 scrimmage at the end of practice, Prater caught a pass on a slant route over the middle, only to be blindsided and sent to the turf by redshirt freshman Torin Harris.
“That’s the hardest hit I’ve ever felt,” Prater said. “That was a real good hit.”
A few plays later, senior cornerback Shareece Wright licked his chops when Bradford caught a 20-yard pass from Barkley near the sideline. Wright hit his former high school teammate as soon as he caught the pass. When asked if there was anybody he liked to hit more than Bradford, he didn’t think long.
“No, not really,” Wright said. “I didn’t really hit him as hard as I could though.”
Wright ended practice with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown on a three-step drop from Barkley, who was trying to throw a short slant route that Wright jumped.
“I didn’t know it was coming but it was a running back out there and he’s not going to run a deep route,” Wright said.
As the most experienced defensive back and only senior in the secondary, Wright likes the improvement of the younger players, such as Harris, freshman Patrick Hall (who played at cornerback yesterday) and sophomore Jawanza Starling.
“They’re working hard and trying to learn. They’re trying to make plays all together and working hard. That’s one thing I can say about them.”
Redshirt freshman Byron Moore might have had the play of the day. On a deep pass to Ronald Johnson, Johnson dove but failed to cleanly catch the ball and actually had the ball bounce off his shoe into the air, when an alert Moore snatched it.
Prater spoke to the media for the first time yesterday, and despite making some incredible catches, said his hamstring, which he pulled during winter workouts, is still only 75 to 85 percent.
Despite this, Prater feels that he has the same role in coach Lane Kiffin’s eyes as he did in Carroll’s and thinks he can make an impact right away.
“I really do feel like I can have an impact. If I didn’t feel like I could have an impact, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Prater said. “So I came here early to come out here and show them what I got.”
Prater has already made his mark on the cornerbacks, who have been surprised by his size and toughness.
“He’s a lot stronger and more physical than I thought he was going to be,” Wright said. “He’s not as light as he looks. He’s been taking hits and staying on his feet, which is good, and he has real good hands.”