Fall Camp: Increased numbers equal options

Working with 79 scholarship players this fall, Trojans expect to benefit from increased competition.

LOS ANGELES – Robert Woods made another spectacular play in practice, but what else is new?

On Friday, it was a diving rolling catch on a deep ball from quarterback Matt Barkley against double coverage. But the sophomore wasn't alone, as freshmen George Farmer, Marqise Lee and Kyle Prater added impressive receptions of their own at Howard Jones Field.

They did so against a defensive backfield also up in numbers and talent, the overriding theme of fall camp through two days.

After barely having enough wide receivers to finish the spring game in April, enough linemen to hold a practice, the Trojans now have 102 players available, 79 on scholarship. Included in that total are 35 scholarship players "that did not practice a lick in the spring," USC coach Lane Kiffin said, including the 20 true freshmen and a junior college transfer that are now on campus.

The increase in numbers will have tangible effects on how the team practices but also in its attitude.

"There were so many times in the spring, as much as you try to stay positive, it was discouraging. We were coaching a number of people that were never going to play Division-1 college football and spending a lot of energy and a lot of time on them," Kiffin said.

Barring injuries, scrimmages will be as close to games as possible, right down to the three-hour length.

"It will help us from a conditioning standpoint and a playing standpoint, but it's going to help us as a staff to figure out (what we have)," Kiffin said.

That will be quite helpful as the Trojans try to address the offensive line, which Kiffin said it starting to come together, but must still address both guard positions.

"We feel great about our center, great about our left tackle. We're starting to feel better about our right tackle and we got a lot of work to do at the other two spots," Kiffin said.

"Our guards haven't played at all. They are going to have to show us."

One potential option is freshman Cyrus Hobbi worked at right guard with the second-team, next to fellow freshman Aundrey Walker, who manned right tackle but could move to guard.

"There's tremendous talent there," Kiffin said of Walker. "His feet at 364 pounds, they don't make many humans like that."

But Kiffin was even more effusive when discussing the wide receivers, bolstered by the return of Prater from injury and junior Brice Butler, who missed the spring after announcing his intention to transfer but rejoined the team in May.

"Those are probably, if we went today, our first two Xs and they weren't even here doing anything," Kiffin said. "And then to add George, Marqise and Victor (Blackwell), that's like adding three rookies but also two free agents that already know our system. It's a pretty neat room.

"Our young skill guys on offense are starting to look like what they used to here. Now they got to continue to do that for two more years and that's when you get back to what you saw before."

Quick Hits
-Center Cody Temple (back) did not practice for a second straight day, while defensive tackle J.R. Tavai left early with a hamstring injury.

-Tight end Rhett Ellison worked with the running backs in individual drills, specifically focusing on lead blocking. Kiffin said the senior could be used as an H-back to supplement limited numbers and inexperience at fullback.

-USC players that recorded a 3.0 GPA or better in the spring wore a special patch on their jerseys. Defensive end Devon Kennard, who posted the third-highest GPA on the team, said the recognition was another invention of associate head coach John Baxter, who oversees the team's academic progress.

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