Fall Camp: Woods makes unexpected return

USC head coach Lane Kiffin says he will remain cautious with sophomore receiver Robert Woods, even after returning to practice Friday.

LOS ANGELES – Robert Woods was supposed to be limited Friday, but an hour on the treadmill demonstrated his sprained right ankle was good to go.

It didn't take long for the sophomore to show off, pulling in a ball quarterback Matt Barkley placed right on his fingertips to best the coverage of cornerback Nickell Robey.

"I feel pretty good," Woods said. "Today I was going full speed. I was happy to be back out here with the team."

The injury initially happened one day before the USC spring game playing pickup basketball, but its lingering effects months later have raised concerns about Woods' status, which the Gardena (Calif.) Serra product downplayed.

"As of now, it feels healed," he said. "It's a little shaky at times, but other than that I feel like I can go through the whole season right now."

USC head coach Lane Kiffin said he would be cautious with Woods, who caught 65 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns last season, but hoped to have him available for the team's third preseason game this weekend.

"It's important to make sure that he is right physically because I'm sure he'll be right physically," Kiffin said.

Changing of the Guards
USC's biggest remaining question mark with fifteen days before it opens the season against Minnesota is on the offensive line, where Kiffin is still trying to figure out both guards.

It has been a constant rotation, shuffling players in and out at both spots to identify the best combination to join left tackle Matt Kalil, who returned to practice after missing several days with a minor knee injury, center Khaled Holmes and right tackle Kevin Graf.

Over the last few practices, however, redshirt junior Abe Markowitz has become a presence at left guard with the first unit. Kiffin praised the 6-foot-1, 290-pound former walk-on, but came up short of anointing him one of the answers up front, at least until the scrimmage Sunday at the Coliseum.

"Hopefully he'll play well this weekend, but Abe has impressed us," Kiffin said.

Redshirt sophomore John Martinez and freshman Aundrey Walker each saw reps at right guard.

Kiffin declined to say when he might name starters at either spot.

"Too many variables," he said. "They will decide that more than we will based off how they play, especially in this game coming up."

Wittek Pushes Through
Coming out of the spring, it appeared to be a given that freshman quarterback Max Wittek would redshirt this season, seemingly overwhelmed by the jump to college football.

Months later, Wittek is now even with fellow early enrollee Cody Kessler to backup Barkley.

The difference for the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Wittek is that now he has mastered the complexities of the USC offense.

"There is an adjustment to the speed of the game, but I think more than anything it's just the knowledge of the playbook," he said. "When you are in the playbook enough and know where everyone is supposed to be, know everyone's responsibilities, in your mind it is able to slow down for you and you feel that much more comfortable."

Redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins was also competing for the job before injuring his right thumb last week, requiring surgery.

Scroggins is currently unable to attend practice or meetings as coaches have taken him off the 105-player active roster for fall camp, but can rejoin the team Monday when classes resume.

Quick Hits
-Linebacker Chris Galippo (shoulder) and wide receiver Kyle Prater wore yellow no-contact jerseys and were limited.

-Safety T.J. McDonald (ankle) returned to practice.

-Safety Drew McAllister left practice early with a left thumb injury.

-Linebacker Shane Horton absolutely leveled freshman running back Amir Carlisle with the hit of fall camp.

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