Spring Practice: Many Happy Returns

Wide receiver Prater, running backs Tyler and Baxter all back in action Thursday.

Many Happy Returns
The last day of spring practice was the first for wide receiver Kyle Prater.

Not that he was complaining, mind you.

"It felt real humbling to get back out here on the field. It's been a long time coming," he said.

Prater was one of three Trojans to return Thursday ahead of this Saturday's spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, along with running back Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter.

A broken foot that ultimately required surgery sidelined the redshirt freshman for the previous 13 practices, latest in a series of nagging injuries that forced the 6-foot-5 Prater to sit out last season, including a broken thumb and lingering hamstring and groin pull.

Prater was at his best and ready to compete for the starting job opposite Robert Woods before suffering hurting his foot in February during offseason workouts.

"Before this spring, I was healthy, the most healthy I've ever been since I got here," Prater said.

While he knows his size offers him a chance to carve out a role in the offense, Prater won't rush back to play in the spring game.

"It's no point in forcing anything right now because the season is a long way from here," he said.

While Prater will only participate in warm-ups and individual drills Saturday, both Tyler and Baxter are expected to play, coach Lane Kiffin said.

Tyler had been sidelined by a concussion, Baxter a high ankle sprain, with both injuries coming in a scrimmage at the Coliseum two weeks ago.

The subsequent post-concussion tests, consisting of memory exercises, flummoxed Tyler, needing several tries to finally be cleared for action.

"It was hard even if you didn't have no concussion. That's what I was trying to tell them," he said.

As for Baxter, who declared himself 60-70 percent healthy, his injury came just as he was getting comfortable after a slow start.

"I started getting the hang of it, started changing my style of running a little bit, putting my foot in the ground. I kind of got a hold of it and then that's when I got hurt. I kind of got a feel for what I want to do this year as a runner," he said.

Baxter said his main goal for the summer is to improve his speed.

Depth Chart Coming … Kind Of
Under former coach Pete Carroll, a formal end-of-spring depth chart would be released the day before the spring game coinciding with a press conference where the preceding 14 practices would be wrapped up.

Kiffin did the same last year, but will not this time around.

A depth chart will be released, "but it won't mean very much," Kiffin said.

"There will be a lot of question marks on there. As far as I'm concerned, it won't mean anything."

Kiffin's attitude isn't much of surprise given the number of projected starters and significant contributors that missed part or all of spring, including linebackers Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo and offensive linemen Khaled Holmes and Kevin Graf.

Second Thoughts
Kiffin said he regretted his decision not to go full contact in practice last season, which manifested most notably in poor tackling.

"It's easy to second-guess because we didn't win as much as we wanted – I look at it as, we should have done things different last fall," he said. "We should have hit, and we should have tackled. We probably would have gotten more guys hurt, but we were fully healthy and didn't tackle anybody for the first game of the year.

"We're going to go about it a different way. We're going to practice like we used to around here when we were full strength."

Hot Reads
-Cornerback Tony Burnett (ankle) and safety Demetrius Wright (ankle) are both expected to play Saturday in the spring game, Kiffin said.

-Tickets for the spring game Saturday are $10 and are available at the Coliseum, online at USCTrojans.com or through the USC Ticket Office (213-740-4672). Gates open at noon.

Parking will be available for $10, starting at 8 a.m.


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