Hard to believe it was only a week ago that USC head coach Lane Kiffin said goodbye to his vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
"I apologize if somehow anybody thought I was misleading them, by far I had no intent of misleading anybody," Kiffin said in regards to his statement earlier in the week when he said that he would not vote USC No. 1. "We have informed them that we have just made a decision not to continue voting and they said that it was not any inconvenience because it being so early it would be easy to replace us."
Hello, No. 1 in the AP Poll
The Trojans woke to the news Saturday morning that they were voted No. 1 in the first AP Poll of the season.
"I think it's great for our fans, I think it's great for our university," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "After everything that they've been through, after everything that was taken away from them, to have a statement made that this is where the media evaluates your football program, I think means a lot to them. So, it's our job to go out and play really well"
What's that old saying, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"? That would seem to be the case at USC this season if the Trojans play to these lofty expectations following their two-year bowl ban.
Barkley's a Cover Boy
The Trojans are back on the cover of Sports Illustrated and who could be more fitting than quarterback Matt Barkley to put them there.
Barkley tweeted his excitement over the cover on Tuesday night and told the media Wednesday it is an accomplishment he's dreamed of since he first started reading Sports Illustrated for Kids when he was a young boy.
He's also proud to put the Trojans back on the cover, where head coach Lane Kiffin says they should be.
"'SC should be on the cover of Sports Illustrated," Kiffin said. "That should be a normal thing and so I think we're on our way back to being there."
"It's a pretty cool deal," Barkley said. "It got me real excited just because, I wouldn't say it was a goal, but kind of like a bucket list type thing in your football career. I think it's kind of cool for the program, for USC to be back in that position."
Practices in the Bank
The Trojans originally scheduled a two-a-day practice on day 8 of camp, August 14th, but Kiffin decided one would be enough.
"We still got some good stuff done inside with some meetings and film and so we can always bank the practice," Kiffin said. "You've just got to know your team and know that sometimes it's not smart to just go out to hit when a lot of your guys are out anyway, so we may come back and replace it later."
No word, yet, if the Trojans will utilize the saved practice.
Injuries in Perspective
Everyday the injury list seems to grow more than it shrinks, but as the first game of the season draws near – now just under two weeks away – players are trickling back to practice.
They were a concern during the Trojans' first scrimmage, on day nine of camp, and again at Sunday's final scrimmage.
On day nine, dressed only in jerseys and shorts – no pads – the Trojans let go of the ball three times.
"For a thud tempo to have three fumbles when it's not tackle and it's not center exchanging like that, just fumbles, it's a good job by the defensive strips and not a very good job by the offense of taking care of the ball," Kiffin said.
…Just a pesky problem to keep an eye out for as the final two weeks of practice start to roll on before game day.
The Trojans spent the week practicing on Dedeaux Field instead of the normal routine on Howard Jones. The team is relegated to the baseball outfield as new grass is laid at Howard Jones.
The heat and constant play during fall camp were key ingredients to creating a grass surface that actually made the grass on week two of Wimbledon look nice.
Only one week remains until Kiffin needs to set his roster for the season.
"You can't have over 75 guys on scholarship for next season when school starts and so we won't," he said.
As of Monday morning, it is still unclear if Marquise Simmons and Isiah Wiley will be academically eligible.
Also as of Monday morning, redshirt freshman Darreus Rogers had yet to be cleared by the NCAA. Although, Rogers is becoming proficient at cryptic Tweets, tweeting Monday "At SC rite now brb meeting ;)" from his @D_Rog5 twitter handle.
Season Ends for Wilson
Luck just won't turn for freshman DeVante Wilson.
Kiffin announced last week the defensive end suffered a season ending injury, tearing his left ACL.
Wilson will redshirt the 2012-2013 season.
"DeVante actually had two good practices in a row after being out for a long time," Kiffin said.
Wilson enrolled at USC in the spring of 2012, after delaying enrollment when he tore his right ACL.
Kiffin says he can insert either backup and does not have to adjust the calls or game plan to accommodate either quarterbacks ability, that inserting them is a seamless transition.
"Both guys again we feel great about," Kiffin said during the week. "We feel very confident with both of them, we don't call any different plays with them which is very unusual for two backups, so I think both are doing a great job."
Asked following Sunday's scrimmage if a decision is around the corner, Kiffin said, "There's never been a date on that and there won't be. It will be more after some separation and if there's not, we'll just keep going."
He did mention during the first week of camp that eventually the Trojans will have to name a backup due to the limited number of reps to go around in season.
At Sunday's scrimmage, neither backup nor starter Matt Barkley had a memorable day.
Barkley and Wittek combined to throw four interceptions, two each.
Here are their stats from Sunday: Barkley was 9-of-19 for 119 yards, including a touchdown and two interceptions. Kessler went 3-of-8 for 29 yards and a touchdown. Wittek was 6-of-16, for 104 yards, including two interceptions.
As mentioned earlier in the week, if Robert Woods really is not back to 100%, it should be very scary for his opponents what 100% may look like.
Woods made, what he says, was the best catch of his career this week at practice.
It was a deep one handed grab made between two defenders.
"He had a couple of those today, in one on one's earlier too," Kiffin said when asked about Woods' outstanding play. "Marqise [Lee] and Robert had some unbelievable catches, highlight reel type catches, so it was good to have them both out here at the same time."
Two weeks into camp, there is still no clarity who the Trojans' No. 3 receiver will be.
De'Von Flournoy continues to standout. The first week of camp, Kiffin said if had to name a No. 3 at the moment, Flournoy would win the job.
Week two, however, saw the return of George Farmer who was out nursing a sore hamstring.
"He flashes," Kiffin said of Farmer. "We are getting him back and so he does some things early and we're going to make sure that we're not, we're not regressing."
By Friday, Farmer put in his best day football since spring.
"George did make two really good plays he's starting to look better," Kiffin said. "He's just got to keep pushing himself."
Freshman Nelson Agholor had a quiet week of camp, what Kiffin explains as "hitting a wall, like most freshman do." However, it is still evident the Trojans found a special player in the Florida native.
"I think Nelson is in those lines of [Robert Woods and Marqise Lee] as far as preparation," Kiffin said. "I'm not saying he's the player those two are over the last two years, Robert and Marqise, but the preparation. He's unbelievable. You walk by, a bunch of other players, you let them go, and you walk by and he's just in there by himself, at the lunch hour, in the meeting, watching more film and we knew that in recruiting. He's a special kid and um hopefully the on the field stuff matches it."
There are plenty of them. Curtis McNeal, Silas Redd, D.J. Morgan, and Buck Allen.
Allen, who was quiet in week one, seemed to come to life in week two.
"Buck did have a really good day," Kiffin said on Friday. "He's continued to improve and he's flashed in the team drills, which is great. Competition is helping everyone at that spot."
Penn State transfer Silas Redd continues to show improvement in his knowledge of the playbook.
Redd will also prove to be a threat to catch and run. His reception ability was on display all week. Asked if Redd was a better pass receiver than originally thought, Kiffin said, "He just didn't have many opportunities if you break down the film from last year. Just wasn't in their system so. You know we're obviously happy with that to see him doing that and he's done some really good things."
During his second scrimmage in the Coliseum, Redd fumbled a handoff from Barkley.
"Not a good day for me," Redd said following the scrimmage. "On the carry, I put the ball on the ground and that's unacceptable." Redd said he lost feeling in the arm that was protecting the ball when he was hit, after suffering a stinger earlier in the week, but made certain to note that it proved as no excuse for dropping the ball.
FB Soma Vainuku continues to be a quiet workhorse and serious weapon for the Trojans offense.
Vainuku capped a strong week of practice with a touchdown during Sunday's scrimmage on a 25-yard pass from Barkley.
It's a group that doesn't get much attention, though they have been playing well throughout fall camp.
If you're keeping score, Friday's practice was won by the offense. Following their strong performance, Kiffin said, "I thought, especially the skilled guys, the quarterbacks played really well. They made some plays with Robert and Marquis out here together, and both the tight ends [Xavier Grimble and Randal Telfer] and the backs."
The biggest news of the week (perhaps literally) was the return of left tackle Aundrey Walker.
Walker was sidelined shortly into practice on day two of fall camp, with what we have now learned was a subluxed right shoulder, which is a temporary partial dislocation of the joint, and sprained AC joint. He had been seen favoring the shoulder since the injury, but was also wearing a protective guard on his right wrist, which he says was due to a hyperextended thumb.
His time off the field was spent rehabbing and conditioning. He isn't too concerned about his time away from the field since getting reps in at left tackle of the spring.
Walker, who contradicted Kiffin's remarks about him having a few false start issues prior to his injury, recorded a false start during the Trojans' final scrimmage.
"I think that we saw Andre have a false start there," Kiffin said following Sunday's scrimmage, "and we saw some inconsistency in general up front."
The sophomore tackle's return means freshman Max Tuerk is back to taking reps with the second team offensive line. Tuerk, who changed jersey numbers to wear No. 75 over the week (perhaps a good omen), came into his own during Walker's time out.
"I think Max is doing really well," Kiffin said over the week. You don't call his name a lot which is a good thing with lineman and you know it's very unusual, usually those guys struggle and so to play left tackle for us and really go against a good quality right end, he's doing a good job. "
Just as Walker returned to the line, right tackle Kevin Graf left.
Graf left practice early on day 12, looking as though he was favoring his right leg. Graf is yet to return to practice.
During his absence Nathan Guertler has stepped in to play right tackle.
All eyes were on the defensive line during Sunday's scrimmage to see how the already depleted group would hold up in game-like situation.
If this was a pass-fail test, they passed.
"They looked good," Kiffin said. "Especially to not have so many guys, so maybe a bunch of names in there that you don't know, especially with the twos, so I think they played well."
Defensive end J.R. Tavai remained out for the scrimmage after being sidelined most of the week with an undisclosed injury.
This week of practice also saw defensive end Greg Townsend remain on the sideline in a boot with an undisclosed injury.
The senior leader of the line, defensive end Wes Horton, has been sidelined since Wednesday. Purely speculation here, but Horton has no visible signs of an injury. Perhaps it could be a concussion. However, that is purely speculation.
No injury report is available.
The option of moving Charles Burks back to defensive end was brought to Kiffin's attention, in light of all of the injuries. However, Kiffin said it really is not a viable option because it would be unfair to move Burks once again.
Needless to say, it was an interesting week for the linebackers.
"It is what it is," Kiffin said of having his entire first team unable to practice. "Look at the bright side, those other guys get reps, all three of those guys have started games before, two of them playing a ton of snaps, so you know, a lot of times those things happen and they end up being the best thing in the long run, you know as long as they are not long term things."
It doesn't appear to be long term, at least for Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey.
Pullard participated in Sunday's scrimmage. Bailey returned to practice late in the week wearing a yellow no-contact jersey.
The status of middle linebacker Lamar Dawson remains a question mark. Dawson is yet to return to any field activity.
On Sunday, Starr pulled in two interceptions.
"One of the big things we talked about with our guys," Kiffin said when asked if Starr was coming along, "we say you're going to be evaluated on assignment, you're going to be evaluated on alignment, you're going to be evaluated on effort, and you're going to be evaluated on making plays. So it was good to see."
Starr's performance Sunday came on the heels of a strong week at practice.
"I think Scott has really had a better couple of days here," Kiffin said during the week. "Even though he'd been here in the spring, a lot of stuff being thrown at him and hopefully, whether you were here in the spring or not, this is where you kind of see some freshmen you know, turn the corner."
The revolving door opposite of Nickell Robey at cornerback continues to revolve.
"Anthony's very competitive," Kiffin said. "Anthony's a really good tackler. Really gets into it, physical at the line of scrimmage. Before he got hurt, he was playing really well too."
Cornerbacks Torin Harris and Brian Bauchum remain sidelined with undisclosed injuries.
On Thursday, Kiffin said the next scrimmage would be very critical for Gerald Bowman.
"We know so little about him on the field," he said. "Gerald has done a really good job mentally. Now we've got to see, how's he going to tackle in our live periods."
Fast forward to Bowman on Sunday, he seemed to pass the test.
"I thought our safeties played really well today," Kiffin said following Sunday's scrimmage. "I thought Gerald Bowman showed up, made a couple of plays in there, obviously TJ did as well, so we'll go back and look at it." in our live periods?
Special teams spent time in the spotlight this week.
Friday, kicker Andre Heidari had the chance to move the Trojans' 6 a.m. wakeup call back an hour, all he had to do was hit a 45 yard field goal (simple enough, right?).
The sophomore hit it, the kick had distance to spare.
That's when senior Curtis McNeal decided to call for double or nothing.
If Heidari hit from 50 yards out, the Trojans' would keep their precious extra hour of sleep AND evening meetings would be canceled.
Heidari missed, wide left and a little short.
According to Kiffin, the team didn't want McNeal to be in charge in this situation, but McNeal took it upon himself. Perhaps Kiffin got the last laugh, saying "I told Curtis ‘that's why you have no money.'"
Walk-on cornerback Ryan Dillard is slowly making a name for himself at practice. Dillard blocked two field goals this past week on special teams.
"That's part of hopefully the plan here," Kiffin explained, "to find a couple of guys every year who are willing to come here, even if they have scholarships to other places, you know that helps us overcome our number issues."
Dillard also turned heads on Sunday, during the Trojans final scrimmage of fall camp, when he picked up a penalty for pass interference when he grabbed receiver Marqise Lee. Lee in turn picked up a personal foul for shoving Dillard after the whistle.
This was the second appearance at fall camp for both Hawkins and Mitchell.
2013 Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) safety Tahaan Goodman caught a practice this week.
Scout.com's Amy Campbell is reporting five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas will take an official visit to USC. The Trojans are in the Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington player's ever changing top five, that has included Florida State, Alabama, Miami, Georgia, Florida, and Louisville.
Contributed by Josh Gershon.
It's been a relatively uneventful week with basketball recruiting. With three of their six 2013 scholarships accounted for, the Trojans' target list has shrunk and the USC staff can be more selective. Landing some big men is most important, and the staff is spending a lot of time working on posts like Tommy Hamilton, Gavin Schilling, Fallou Ndoye and Soma Edo.