USC did welcome back a healthy player Thursday, its first healthy tight end this week. Xavier Grimble practiced for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury in week one. He said he's not 100 percent but was able to go during the practice.
"It's just like anything else you never really know how valuable a running back or receiver or tight end is until you lose all of them and they can't really go so we can obviously tell it's taken a toll on the offense," Grimble said.
"For me it's just hard on myself just to not be out there and be around my team. Even as hard as we work and as tired as I get I still would rather be out there with the team."
Soma Vainuku and Khaled Holmes were active in their second practice back. The contribution of Holmes couldn't be more valuable to the Trojans' offensive line, who look to their center as the true offensive leader behind Matt Barkley.
"When Khaled is in there he's played really well. Abe has done good at center [too]," Kiffin said. "The two guards are playing really well, they've really improved from a year ago, as they go into their second year starting.
"[But] the tackles are a work in progress. We still got to prove there. We're actually playing better inside than outside which is very unusual over the years here. We've been blessed with phenomenal tackle play over the years…so we need our tackle play to improve."
Holmes said the shoes of Matt Kalil have been hard to fill so a dropoff is expected without him, at least momentarily.
"Having such a dominant player at a position for two years, you get spoiled," Holmes said of Kalil. "So we'll see after spring how everything looks in the then after camp but that's a tough question to answer."
More Tackle Talk
Lane Kiffin said Aundrey Walker will continue to play at left tackle, and if there was a game tomorrow the Ohio native would get the start.
"He just fits better over there. His length and his size, when you look at left tackles that's what they look like. So hopefully we can work through, he (can) get used to it over there and play better."
When the head coach was asked whether the left tackle competition would reopen in the fall, Kiffin paused.
"That I don't know. We'll look at the whole spring after the 15th practice and put it all together in the cutups and look at it," he said. "It's looking that direction because Kevin (Graf) played better, too. Thinking where he started 12 games at, he played better. So there's two side to it."
Kessler Gets First, Not Second
Quarterback Cody Kessler had a first Thursday. Newly turned linebacker Tony Burnett intercepted Kessler for his first pick all spring.
Burnett said he just turned early, expecting him to throw it to Burnett's left. He guessed correctly and within just two practices, the cornerback turned safety turned linebacker has quickly made an impact.
After working with the "ones" Tuesday in Dion Bailey's absence, Burnett's interception with the "twos" (Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao completed the trio) seriously puts him into the playing conversation, if not the rotation.
Trojan alum Patrick Turner and Damian Williams returned to practice with the team Thursday. The two NFL receivers are in Los Angeles for some of the offseason.
Walk-on Cody Skene caught practically everything in receiver drills. He's really impressing, despite his 5'9, 165-pound frame.
With only one healthy scholarship tight end available (Grimble), the Trojans used six offensive linemen in various formations Thursday.