Thursday Practice Report

Unlike former head coach Pete Carroll, who was known to gush over a player's ability, Lane Kiffin dishes out praise in much smaller doses, so it was a bit of surprise to hear him rave about the athleticism of sophomore defensive end Nick Perry.

Unlike former head coach Pete Carroll, who was known to gush over a player's ability, Lane Kiffin dishes out praise in much smaller doses, so it was a bit of surprise to hear him rave about the athleticism of sophomore defensive end Nick Perry.

Kiffin didn't just say that the young lineman has a lot of potential or mention that he has a bright future - he described Perry's combination of size, speed and strength as "off the charts."


Nick Perry had a team-high 8 sacks last season.
"I mean you're talking about a guy who was a Freshman All-American last year, a guy who has had a great offseason and testing-wise is off the charts," Kiffin said. "I mean he tests right now as a top 10, top 15 pick on paper - height, weight speed, vertical."

USC fans got a glimpse of Perry's potential last season when he recorded a team-high 8 sacks as just a redshirt freshman, and if Kiffin's assessment proves to be true, then Perry has the potential to be a star.

"We were watching some film last night, I was in there with Coach O watching some drills and there's probably only 10-15 people like him in the world that have his ability," Kiffin said. "If you're talking about a guy who jumps 34 inches and plays defensive end, a guy who if you take his 10-yard and 20-yard dash it matches our DBs. Hopefully he'll reach that potential. We're very excited to get him back whenever that is."

Perry's expected return to the lineup this week should supply a boost to the defensive line that struggled at times against Hawaii's run-n-shoot offense, and has allowed the coaches to move Armond Armstead inside to defensive tackle.

"We're going to look at a couple things to make sure we're playing the best guys and we have the right rotation down," Kiffin said.

Going Back to Coli

The excitement has been building around Heritage Hall all week.

After an offseason to forget, the Trojans are now just days away from the home opener against Virginia on Saturday night.

"I think you kind of feel a sense of excitement amongst the players, as this home opener gets closer," Kiffin said.

For the new coaching staff and current players that have all endured a tough offseason, the opportunity to run out of the Coliseum tunnel can't come soon enough.

And for fans anxious to get their first look at Dillon Baxter or Robert Woods, the time has finally come.

"The excitement of playing in front of their families and our crowd and our people, especially after this offseason, is very exciting for them. I think we can feel that as we get closer to the game and the week goes on."

Baxter Ready to Bounce Back

Freshman tailback Dillon Baxter is one player that has created a lot buzz with his impressive play on the practice field during the spring and fall.

There were the two highlight reel runs during the spring that made him a YouTube sensation, and had the coaches and players raving about his seemingly unlimited potential.

Off the field, his transition to college life hasn't been quite as smooth, as the talented freshman was suspended for the season opener against Hawaii for unspecified reasons.

But as Lane Kiffin explained after Thursday's practice, Baxter has responded positively to being disciplined and has learned from the experience.

"He has seemed to mature. I would like to think that sitting out his first game...I think that helped," Kiffin said. "He seems to be handling his business. He is doing better in school and doing better with our academic services."

Hot Reads

- Injury report: Simione Vehikite (didn't practice), Nick Perry (limited), Brian Buacham (limited), Nickell Robey (limited).

- Cornerback T.J. Bryant was full-go on Thursday and is expected to play this Saturday against Virginia.

- After struggling against Hawaii's run-n-shoot last week, the defense will benefit from facing an offense that should be very familiar.

"There is a relief to playing a team that is more similar to what we practiced against all of spring and all of fall," Kiffin said. "We should be better because of that."

- Kiffin said that he wasn't pleased with the play of the backups along the offensive line against Hawaii and hopes to build more depth in the coming weeks.

"We need to get more confidence in our backups," he said.


Freshman tailback Dillon Baxter will make his highly anticipated debut on Saturday.


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