Spring Practice: Baxter Grows Up

A more mature Dillon Baxter is looking for the same growth in his on-field game.

Baxter Grows Up
There haven't been many of the highlight reel plays that made USC running back Dillon Baxter a YouTube sensation last spring.

"Everything's been kind of mellow lately," Baxter said after practice at Howard Jones Field on Saturday.

But after an eventful and often controversial freshman season, he'll take the monotony.

Baxter was suspended for the season opener for violations of team rules, then missed another game after accepting an impermissible golf cart ride across campus from an agent. He played sparingly, rushing for 252 yards and one touchdown and throwing another out of the Wildcat.

Asked to sum up his first year, Baxter said, "Man … a mess.

"But it's passed and I learned a lot from last year and matured more and became a bigger man."

After a record-breaking career at San Diego Mission Bay, Baxter admitted he arrived on campus with the wrong mindset.

"I kind of came in my freshman year reliving my senior year in high school. It's a lot different here. You have to be a lot more accountable and be your own person," he said.

Coach Lane Kiffin sees the change in Baxter and is pleased with his development.

"It's still a growing process. The guy is still in his freshman year of college, but it's good to see him maturing. He's not the first guy to come in and make mistakes as a freshman," Kiffin said.

On the field, Baxter's focus is on becoming a more decisive runner, setting aside the style that made his high school film a must-see and drew comparisons to former USC star and fellow San Diego native Reggie Bush.

Still, old habits are tough to break.

"When I see someone out of the corner of my eye, I want to cutback so bad cause I'm used to high school. You can't just cutback and run around. I just got to get over it I guess."

Trojans Get Physical
USC went through its longest scrimmage of the spring Saturday, with quarterback Matt Barkley throwing two touchdowns, one to tight end Randall Telfer at the end of practice.

Barkley was also intercepted by linebacker Hayes Pullard.

None of the three freshmen quarterbacks vying to backup Barkley were able to get on track, with Jesse Scroggins throwing a pass that was tipped and intercepted by walk-on Cody Romness.

It was a very intense session with plenty of big hits, including corner Anthony Brown body slamming Telfer and safety T.J. McDonald and corner Nickell Robey combining to wrestle down running back D.J. Morgan and knock his helmet off in the process.

"I'm excited to get to this film because there was a lot of tackling in there, a lot of realistic game situations to watch our guys perform in," Kiffin said.

Armstead Begins Conditioning
Senior defensive end Armond Armstead has been cleared to participate in conditioning drills, including running and weight lifting.

However, doctors still have not signed off on contact for Armstead, who was hospitalized last month.

"They did another set of tests on me yesterday and I have another follow-up in like a month or so. They have ruled a lot of stuff out," he said.

Hot Reads
-Defensive tackle Christian Tupou (knee) and defensive end Wes Horton (foot) could begin live action next week, Kiffin said.

They have been limited to individual drills so far this spring.

-Wide receiver Brandon Carswell practiced after tweaking his hamstring Thursday.

-Linebacker Dion Bailey returned to action after suffering nerve damage in his right forearm last Saturday in a collision with running back Curtis McNeal.

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