Spring Practice: Frustration on Offense

Turnovers mar Saturday's practice, as USC's offense struggles for second straight session.

Offense's Frustration Mounting
It's almost a given that the defense will be ahead of the offense at the start of spring practice.

There are too many moving parts, too much reliance on timing and precision to expect a smooth beginning.

But given how the USC offense looks after one week, patience is starting to wear thin.

There were three interceptions thrown, countless fumbles put on the ground resulting from bad exchanges or snaps and just a lack of execution that troubled coach Lane Kiffin on Saturday at Howard Jones Field.

"Obviously we've got a lot of offensive concerns," he said. "We've got a number of guys out and got to make the best of where we're at and continue to improve.

"I'd love for it to be like it was years ago and be able to take people to another level, but we got so many holes to work on, we're kind of spinning our wheels at times."

Much of those issues result from the hastily cobbled-together offensive line, which is working with only one player guaranteed a starting spot, left tackle Matt Kalil. Junior college transfers David Garness and Jeremy Galten have been thrown in to action to mixed results, same for holdovers like Martin Coleman, John Martinez and Giovanni Di Poalo.

Facing off against the equally banged up first defensive line in team period has resulted in massacres as quarterback Matt Barkley and the stable of running backs are finding defenders in their faces as soon as the ball is snapped.

"He's being a leader," Kiffin said of Barkley. "I'm sure he's frustrated, kind of like I am, by the injuries and his protection right now. There's some obvious mismatches with our first offensive line against our first defensive line.

"He doesn't get to run the whole offense because there's just a whole bunch of stuff we can't physically do, so we have to do it in 7-on-7."

But the defense has been able to capitalize on those woes, notably walk-on James Harbin.

The redshirt senior closed practice with an interception of Jesse Scroggins to the elation of white-clad teammates. Kiffin named Harbin the day's MVP, all the more remarkable after having worked the graveyard shift and arriving back on campus at 8 a.m.

"It's a pretty neat day for the guy," Kiffin said of Harbin.

Morgan Gets A Scare
Redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan tweaked his surgically repaired right knee during practice.

"Nothing serious, just normal stuff coming back from a knee injury," Morgan said. "We'll see over the next few days how it goes."

Morgan tore his ACL as a senior at Woodland Hills Taft and sat out last season to continue his rehab and recovery. He has impressed with several long runs, seemingly taking over as the lead back with Marc Tyler (hamstring) sidelined.

That left redshirt junior Curtis McNeal and sophomore Dillon Baxter as the only two available running backs, each of whom struggled with off-field issues last season.

"Both of them have had great attitudes this spring," Kiffin said.

Hot Reads
-The Trojans worked in full pads for the first time on Saturday, with a strong focus on tackling, especially in the secondary.

"You feel like it's a ticking clock, that the longer you go someone is going to get hurt," Kiffin said of the risk associated with tackling drills.

-Wide receiver Robert Woods was limited in practice by a tight hamstring that flared up Thursday.

-A large contingent of incoming players, including Taft defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, Beverly Hills defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. and Santa Ana Mater Dei wide receiver Victor Blackwell, attended practice.


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