Fall Camp: Freshmen capitalize on injuries

Receiver Marqise Lee, linebacker Lamar Dawson and walk-on offensive tackle Nathan Guertler show their skills, as three Trojan starters rest with minor injuries.

LOS ANGELES – The Trojans worked without three of their most important players Wednesday, but there was an upside to being without wide receiver Robert Woods, middle linebacker Chris Galippo and left tackle Matt Kalil.

All are expected to be back in time for Sunday's third scrimmage of fall camp, but their absence has allowed a trio of freshmen to get some much-needed reps.

To no one's surprise by now, Marqise Lee again impressed in place of Woods, his teammate at Gardena (Calif.) Serra. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Lee, who missed the morning session because of a family emergency, was the "star" of the evening.

"Probably nobody even close to him," Kiffin said.

The Trojans have been looking for someone to step up at the split end position opposite Woods, ideally a bigger, more physical receiver in the mold of All-Americans Mike Williams or Dwayne Jarrett.

But with Lee and Woods both playing flanker, Kiffin indicated he would consider moving the sophomore to get the best personnel on the field, especially given quarterback Matt Barkley's growing comfort with the 6-foot, 190-pound true freshman.

Woods played split end last season, starting all 13 games and leading the team in receptions and receiving yards.

"He could actually flop back to X at any point, since he played it all last year. That is definitely a scenario that could happen," Kiffin said.

While Lee has the physical tools to play either spot, Kiffin does not want to overload him.

"It's hard to change the young guys once you put them somewhere, so we wouldn't want to flop him over there yet," Kiffin said.

The other standout true freshman in camp, linebacker Lamar Dawson, continues to handle all live drills as Galippo nurses a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.

The redshirt senior is dealing with a limited range of motion but said he could have played in a game. Galippo is being extra cautious to keep the injury from lingering.

"It's an injury that, if not properly handled, will last the entire season. For me, it's just all about resting and doing everything that doesn't involve running in there and throwing my shoulder at guards and stuff like that. That type of thing will make this injury last for 12 weeks," Galippo said.

"I feel like I can go out there and do it, but it's like, 'why?'"

In his place, Dawson continues to develop, notably with making the required calls.

Galippo says the mental demands of the position are second only to that of the quarterback.

"It's a tough job," Galippo said. "The way we run our defense, it's extremely complicated. You got to be so confident in your own job because a lot of times you don't even have enough time to think about what you are going to do."

The hidden gem is walk-on Nathan Guertler, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle from Norco (Calif.), who has been working with the first time in place of Kalil (knee).

Kiffin said Guertler has passed several scholarship players on the depth chart.

No Comment
Kiffin was asked if he could respond to the allegations of systematic improper benefits at Miami in one or two words.

"It would take me a lot more than one or two words," Kiffin said.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that convicted Ponzi scheme operator and Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro provided cash, gifts, entertainment and other extra benefits to at least 72 athletes over an eight-year span.

Paul Dee was the athletic director at Miami when most of the alleged infractions occurred and oversaw the program when it was hammered in 1995 for widespread Pell Grant fraud.

Dee chaired the Committee on Infractions that hammered USC with a two-year bowl ban, four years probation and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years in the Reggie Bush case, memorably stating that "high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance."

Quick Hits
-MRI results for tight end Christian Thomas (hip) did not reveal any serious injury, but the sophomore will need to be reevaluated.

-MRI results for running back D.J. Morgan revealed no setbacks in his surgically repaired knee.

"He's just really sore and can't come out and go full speed yet," Kiffin said.

-Associate head coach John Baxter has been using a bullhorn to announce the score during competitive periods between the offense and defense. Where he got the idea to use it, however, is a matter of contention.

"I said nothing about a bullhorn," Kiffin said half-jokingly. "Whichever side is losing really hates him at that point because you have to hear how annoying he is."

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