Spring Practice Report: Day Three

USC's defense dominated in the Trojans' first spring practice in full pads.

The wise Monte Kiffin has a saying he tells his defense:

You see a little, you see a lot.
But if you see a lot, you see nothing.

After the USC defense dominated the offense in the Trojans' first full day in pads, it's clear they took the assistant head coach's words to heart.

"When you're seeing a lot you don't get it down as well. But I think the more you play, the more it happens," Kiffin said. "We got better today. We look better now, we really do."

Kiffin said the first two years under his son's regime saw its struggles. Take 2011, where half of the secondary hadn't before recorded a start or where injuries plagued the cornerbacks.

"I just think that being back in the system; Jawanza [Starling] was a first-year starter, [T.J. McDonald] has started a couple years, Nickell [Robey], they're all back. And no doubt about it, we lost Torin Harris, that really hurt us. We had to move Tony [Burnett] to corner and he was a safety, he's back at safety now. And then Anthony Brown got hurt. So we scrambled a bit. Hopefully we have more depth this year."

While early enrollee Josh Shaw is still out, nursing a back injury, the Trojans have more depth with redshirt freshman Ryan Henderson challenging for a spot and practicing well, Brown looking like his old self after breaking his ankle and Wiley already looking much improved from last season.

At safety, Starling looks confident and is tackling better through the first week of spring ball while Drew McAllister needs an interception-tracker attached to his pads as he seems to latch onto the ball at least once per practice. Demetrius Wright is also looking better from 2011 and Gerald Bowman will bring even more competition when he enrolls in the summer.

"Tuesday we had two turnovers, Thursday we had three, a couple more today so I think we're getting better," Kiffin said. "We go against good offenses right here, it's the best test you have going against our offense."

On the Line

A handful of redshirt freshmen are getting their first real reps on the Trojans' defensive line and are already making the most of it. Antwaun Woods, Cody Temple, Greg Townsend, Charles Burks and Christian Heyward have done well in their first week backing up veterans Devon Kennard, Wes Horton and George Uko, who recorded a start last season.

Townsend made a big play Saturday when he sacked Max Wittek in 11 on 11 play. Woods, Townsend and Burks worked with the twos while Townsend, Burks, Temple and Morgan Breslin made up the third string.

"The young guys are coming along, very pleased with the defensive line. We've got a lot of work to do with our offensive line and that became more glaring today, with Khaled [Holmes] being out," Lane Kiffin said.

Abe Markowitz snapped for the "ones" after Holmes came out of Saturday's practice early with a calf strain. The offensive line just looked a bit out of sync, couldn't open up the running game much and gave up a couple sacks.

The play of the day might have been from Horton, who tipped a pass from Matt Barkley, caught it midair and took it to the house.

"I think Wes pretty much dominated, looks faster, doing a great job with his hands. We did move him only to the right," Kiffin said. Last year he was at the left because Nick [Perry] was to the right which is where more explosive plays should come from because it's the backside of the quarterback so he's doing great."

Final Thoughts

A variety of skill players sat out of Saturday's practice to nurse hamstring injuries. Javorious Buck Allen and George Farmer didn't play; Farmer expects the injury to heal in at least a week. Linebacker Dion Bailey also missed practice because of a hamstring issue, Xavier Grimble with a turf toe and then Holmes with the strain.

Only two touchdowns were scored in scrimmage play, by Marqise Lee and De'Von Flournoy. The lack of offense caused Bailey to shout across the field to Robert Woods: "Hey Woody, they can't even think without you out there. You're a one-man offense."

The Saturday sun brought out lots of families, including some of the coaches' kids.

Other attendees included 2013 Alemany wide receiver Steven Mitchell and 2012 signees Kevon Seymour and Jabari Ruffin, according to Kevin Carden.

A familiar face, that of former USC linebacker Chris Claiborne, was also present Saturday. The one-time wearer of the renowned No. 55 jersey coached current defensive lineman DeVante Wilson at Corona (Calif.) High School.

Nickell Robey was named the Most Valuable Player of Saturday's session, according to his head coach.

Brian Baucham and Tre Madden both had unusually good days. Madden, who played with the "ones" with Bailey out, is really turning into quite the player. Will Andrew worked out at weakside linebacker for most of the session. David Garness, a junior college transfer who enrolled and redshirted last season, has been on the field quite a bit, backing up both tackle spots.

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