Senior wide receiver Brandon Carswell caught a deep pass from junior quarterback Matt Barkley, drawing approval from media and family along the sidelines.
And it wasn’t the only play that was impressive. As a whole, the USC football team started and finished the first day of fall camp with a renewed energy noticed by the coaching staff.
“We look different,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “We look bigger, we look stronger, we look faster. I know it’s day one, but I love where they’re at physically and mentally.”
Although several players did not attend practice to focus on summer school, there were those ready with starting jobs up for grabs.
Running backs Dillon Baxter, D.J. Morgan and Amir Carlisle, who are all competing to start at tailback after senior running back Marc Tyler’s recent problems, showed speed and shifty moves out of the backfield.
“Dillon [Baxter] is definitely bigger, stronger and faster,” Kiffin said. “There’s no doubt about that. You can see that in individual drills. He’s a different guy attitude-wise and a different guy physically.”
Although USC has no clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver opposite sophomore Robert Woods, freshman wide receivers Marquise Lee and George Farmer looked sharp in team drills.
“Today showed an unbelievable job by our strength staff in the offseason and our players committed to doing things right,” Kiffin said.
Although depth and health was a concerning issue last year, only freshman offensive lineman Cody Temple was sidelined during Thursday’s practice with a back injury.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Prater, junior safety Drew McAllister and senior defensive tackle Christian Tupou all participated and looked good in drills.
Senior defensive end Armon Armstead was limited. He missed spring ball, but is still undergoing tests about an unspecified medical condition.
Kiffin, however, stressed that Armstead does not have a heart condition. He is expected to return and be ready by the season opener.