Spring Practice: Scroggins Steps Up

Overcoming naturally shy disposition, Jesse Scroggins is working on being a leader in the huddle and off the field.

Scroggins Steps Up
Hitting the dog days of spring practice, not much is surprising right now.

Quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods delivered strong performances in practice Tuesday, connecting on a leaping one-handed touchdown to end the morning.

"The two guys who shined on offense were Barkley and Woods," coach Lane Kiffin said. "They had great days. Not much new on that."

The offensive line continued to struggle.

"I'm impressed with Jeremy Galten's toughness, playing with a grade-2 MCL," Kiffin said. "But none of those guys have performed like starters would need to for us, outside of Matt (Kalil)."

But the steady growth of two first-year players, quarterback Jesse Scroggins and linebacker Hayes Pullard, has been a pleasant, albeit quiet, development.

Scroggins has solidified his standing as backup quarterback to Barkley, a crucial position given the two starts missed the last two seasons.

It would also seemingly give Scroggins, the former Lakewood standout, an edge in the competition to replace Barkley if he declares for the NFL after his junior season.

"He continues to develop, which is exciting to see," Kiffin said. "Still a long way to go with the huddle, like any freshman would, but he's making a lot of strides."

"In summer, I was still fumbling the words. I was all over the place. Now it's getting better," Scroggins said.

That verbiage has been the toughest thing for Scroggins to grasp on the field. He makes it a point to say every play out loud as he learns the playbook, but everything else is progressing.

His arm strength has always been unrivaled, but there is more touch now. He has more understanding of where receivers and defenders are and will be. His reads are quicker.

Off the field, the challenge is overcoming a reserved nature to becoming that outgoing leader like Barkley.

"I'm on the shy side," Scroggins said. "I still got to work on that, saying hi to everybody."

"Being a USC quarterback is different from any other college I feel. Quarterbacks have to set themselves different from everybody else. You just got to be that guy, the leader, the guy everybody likes."

The other player making a move has been Pullard, who looks to be in serious contention to join Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo in the starting lineup this fall.

"The guy for sure that has jumped out has been Hayes," Kiffin said. "Another guy in the same class again. If these guys keep developing, that could be a pretty special class three years from now.

Even bulked up to 225 pounds, Pullard is showing more speed than he did last season, even before he was slowed by a knee injury.

"He didn't really flash that much to us last year but really has had a great offseason and looks really good out there."

Hot Reads
-Wide receiver Markeith Ambles returned to practice, but struggled badly with four drops. One was intercepted by safety T.J. McDonald, while another should have been picked off.

"I think he dropped 75 percent of his balls today," Kiffin said.

-Tight end Christian Thomas (foot) missed practice. Xavier Grimble (chest/shoulder) practiced in a yellow no-contact jersey that was roundly ignored by the defense.

-Several players, including Barkley, McDonald and safety Jawanza Starling, took batting practice at Dedeaux Field after practice. McDonald and Starling each hit home runs.

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