USC’s offense outplayed the defense during Tuesday’s scrimmage, a sharp as the defense has dominated much of the early spring.
Despite missing players because of injuries sustained in Saturday’s scrimmage, the offense was successful, recording two plays of more than 50 yards and going 6-for-6 in short yardage situations.
Junior running back Curtis McNeal and redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan were the only tailbacks available for practice, although both were at less than 100 percent. Senior Marc Tyler missed practice with a concussion, while sophomore Dillon Baxter continued training work and did not practice.
McNeal continually ripped long runs in full-contact scrimmages behind a mostly inexperienced offensive line. Runs included a 70-yarder where senior Marshall Jones lunged and threw off McNeal’s balance just enough to force him out of bounds one yard short of the goal line.
“The catches are just telling us to run into holes when we see them,” McNeal said. “We run through the linebackers and then beat the safeties off the angles.”
Last season, McNeal was ruled ineligible to play.
“I would really like to have him eligible,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin. “He recovered from a busted back from Saturday and had a great day today.”
“Coming in the spring has helped a lot,” Vainuku said. “I’ve learned so much. It would have been a lot to learn if I came in the fall and had only three weeks to prepare for the first game.”
Depth has been a recurring issue for the Trojans, whether due to injury or lack of experience.
“We have a few great players, but we still have a lot of holes to fill,” Kiffin said.
“We hope to have a clear-cut number two by the end of the spring,” Kiffin said. “But they would really have to distance themselves. As of now, Jesse’s leading it by a little bit.”
The group split repetitions during full contact drills.
“All of the quarterbacks watch film together and Matt [Barkley] helps us out a lot,” Kessler said. “It’s awesome.”
Hitting drills have found their place on the practice field this spring after a lack of depth forced the coaching staff to make practices contact-free during the last fall.
Everybody, including the quarterbacks and kickers, had an opportunity to hit during practice. While running backs lined up against linebackers and receivers lined up against defensive backs, the quarterbacks were allowed to face off in one-on-one drills against the kickers and long snappers. Kessler started the drill with a huge hit against his opponent that elicited a loud roar from his gold-jerseyed teammates.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while and we finally got an opportunity to hit,” Kessler said. “Hopefully this can come every week.”