Keary Colbert lined up at wide receiver for USC during the team’s early morning practice Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Colbert’s collegiate eligibility had already expired — in 2003.
Though the 6-foot-1 wideout was primarily using Tuesday’s workout as part of a training regimen to stay in shape in an effort to re-launch his NFL career, Colbert’s participation served as a stark reminder of USC’s dwindling numbers this spring.
“It’s that time where guys have to push through,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin. “I’m sure numbers are down across the country, so it’s good for our guys.”
With sophomore wide receiver Markeith Ambles forced to undergo conditioning drills after being late for morning meetings, USC had just three scholarship players available Tuesday, allowing Colbert to line up opposite sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods during 7-on-7 drills.
Suffice it to say, there are fewer bodies available after 13 spring practices.
Despite the nagging depth issues that date back to last season, the team’s injury list has not stopped growing, as junior cornerback Tony Burnett and sophomore safety Demetrius Wright were both sidelined after suffering ankle injuries during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Burnett was only listed as day-to-day.
“They have me in a boot until further notice,” Burnett said. “I’ll be back out here on Thursday, but they want to make sure I’m safe and healthy for the scrimmage instead of irritating it. It’s for precautionary measures.”
Yet Kiffin remains optimistic things will be better in the fall.
“You’re looking at 10 scholarship players who haven’t practiced this spring,” Kiffin said. “So when you add the 24 coming in, that’s 34 new scholarship players. Not only does it help your depth, but it makes your practices better.”
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley became visibly frustrated with a lack of cohesion among the corps of walk-on wide receivers and other players.
Toward the end of practice, the normally soft-spoken Barkley shouted at teammates following poor route running and other miscommunications that led to consecutive incompletions. Minutes later, the third-year signal caller threw a pass that was intercepted by sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey, who returned it about 70 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s frustrating, because you think some things should be going a certain way,” Barkley said. “I’m at the point where I know what’s going on and I know my reads. So when someone else messes up, it kind of throws me off.”
Kiffin, however, did not appear too concerned with Barkley’s altered demeanor.
“You want him to be aggressive, but you want him to be very intelligent in how he’s being aggressive,” Kiffin said. “What happens is when guys get frustrated, whether it’s because of them playing poorly, the players around them playing poorly or the score at that time, guys tend to make more errors. So that’s what you have to fight through.”
USC’s annual spring game, which will be held Saturday at 1 p.m., will not be televised or streamed live on USCTrojans.com, according to Kiffin.
Various programs this spring have had their spring games televised on networks such as ESPN. The Big Ten Network in particular is expected to broadcast all but one of its schools’ games live.
“They have 92,500 people there, so it makes for a different environment,” Kiffin said. “So it’s the difference between the South and being out here.”
The spring game, unlike other practices, will be open to the public and charges $10 admission for adults. Admission is free for students.