Impressive plays by the defense and the team’s persistent injury bug stood out in USC’s penultimate practice before the spring game Saturday.
The quarterback group as a whole threw four interceptions. Starter senior Matt Barkley threw two picks, with senior safety Jawanza Starling and redshirt sophomore cornerback Anthony Brown each returning one of Barkley’s throws for touchdowns.
The decision by the coaching staff to start sophomore Aundrey Walker over redshirt junior Kevin Graf at left tackle is still reverberating. After allowing redshirt sophomore linebacker Hayes Pullard to run past him on multiple plays in practice, Graf seemed a bit shaken.
“I’m going out there and doing what coach is asking me to do,” Graf said.
Walker sounded excited about his new role and opportunity on the line after playing on special teams in 2011.
“I have to get my plays and package down,” said Walker. “Last year I played but I didn’t. Now I’m excited and trying to know my plays inside and out.”
After sophomore running back sophomore Tre Madden tore his left ligament and was lost for the season last Thursday, the focus has been on redshirt freshman tailback Buck Allen. After Allen looked a little lost in Saturday’s scrimmage, USC coach Lane Kiffin noted his improvement.
“He was mentally prepared to go out and play for the whole time,” Kiffin said.
Allen busted out a couple of runs almost as proof of his successful adjustment.
Though redshirt sophomore tight end Randall Telfer and sophomore wideout George Farmer returned from injuries, Farmer was limited to team drills as the persistent problem with having healthy pass-catchers on the Trojans’ roster is continuing to keep the coaching staff up at night.
“It’s hard on the quarterback and the coaches,” said Kiffin about the injured receiver and tight end cores. “We’re going to kids who I don’t think ever played high school football. They came out here because they saw a brochure floating around somewhere in their English class. It’s really tough.”
While the situation hopefully improves as players become healthy over the summer, Kiffin is still light-hearted about the unfortunate injury bug among Barkley’s targets.
“[New wide receivers coach] Tee Martin is ready to go back to Kentucky,” he jested.