A day after the Trojan offense had arguably their worst day of fall camp, they returned to the practice field to pull out one of their best performances yet.
"It was a really good practice," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "Especially coming off of a scrimmage. For whatever reason, [we] had great energy."
Sunday's scrimmage provided a wakeup call quarterback Matt Barkley said could not be ignored. "For guys that don't know how to line up, who are missing assignments and everything, it's kind of like ‘okay, you've got to grow up now, it's time to make plays, time to know your stuff real soon or you're going to hold us back.'
"The leaders emphasized that we need to pick it up," Barkley said. "Leaders in their (respective) position groups had talks with their position groups to step it up and it's time to kind of stop playing games and start knowing your stuff."
After enduring two weeks of fall camp including routine 6 a.m. wakeup calls, the start of week three brought not only a renewed sense of energy, but urgency too.
"I think that everybody feels that," Kiffin said. "You get through a weekend-type thing with the scrimmage, that was really the last big one. I do think that was part of today. I think they felt it."
"You see (Robert Woods) and (Marqise Lee) come out today and dominate the entire day," Kiffin said. "It was good to see. (They) stepped up today after they were very frustrated at the Coliseum yesterday. We've just got to keep pushing them against everybody in the country and not just against their own roster.
"Robert's doing really well," he added. "I think that he's really, in his mind, ready to go."
The Freshman Wall
It's almost inevitable every freshman runs into what is commonly referred to as the "freshmen wall" at some point during fall camp, however there seems to be an exception at this year.
"I don't think he has really," Kiffin said of offensive tackle Max Tuerk. "Especially early on playing both sides."
Kiffin said it before and repeated himself Monday, he rarely calls out Tuerk's name during practice, which he considers a good thing.
"He's going to be really, really good," Kiffin said. "I don't even know where he's going to end up playing. He has a unique body and a unique skill set that he could probably play all three spots."
"(Williams) did a little bit," he said. "You saw it yesterday. More missed assignments, and the game got pretty big yesterday for him. We go into this week, slow it back down, get back to practice and learn from it."
"(Williams) will be really, really good, but he's a long ways away. Now remember, yesterday, we basically have been here for 14 days and had 13 days left. So really we were about halfway. We have to remember that. If a guy can come this far, as a lot of these young guys have, he can come this far again."
Piecing Together the Defensive Line
If Sunday's scrimmage was scripted, Kiffin couldn't have written it any better. "If I could have had the scrimmage go one way yesterday," he said, "that's the way I would have wanted it to go, to make sure our defense had some confidence -- and make sure our offense knew they've got a lot of work to do regardless of where everybody ranks them or how many points they think they're going to score."
The confidence the scrimmage provided the Trojan defense in turn provided Kiffin with a sense of confidence in the defensive line he's been lacking since camp started.
"I did feel better yesterday after watching the film," he said. "I think that was probably 50 percent they played well. The defense played with really good effort yesterday, really good energy."
Despite only playing 30 downs Sunday, defensive tackle George Uko continued to show promise at the position.
"With defensive line it's always hard to go from a practice to a game," Kiffin explained. "It's so intense and so fast in a game. I think George definitely has made some steps. He's not there yet. I think George and Wes have the ability to be dominant players like Nick [Perry] was last year."
Sunday was the first break for a defensive line that has not been able to catch a break since before fall camp even opened – when senior defensive end Devon Kennard suffered an injury that could hold him out for the season.
The Trojans have also been practicing without defensive end DeVante Wilson who suffered a season ending ACL injury. Defensive end Greg Townsend is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, while senior Wes Horton participated in limited practice Monday for the first time since last Wednesday.
With key players out, the defensive line is depending on backups to step into first team roles, including junior Morgan Breslin.
"I do think Morgan Breslin played well after not a very good week of practice," Kiffin said. "I thought he played well and showed up, and he's really kind of done that since we've been here – showed up in the scrimmages. Sometimes he's been lucky on some blocking assignments and had some easy ones, but he's also made some plays. That was really good to see, especially with J.R. and Wes out."
Linebacker Lamar Dawson did not participate.
Cornerback Torin Harris did not participate.
Defensive end Wes Horton was limited.
Right tackle Kevin Graf was limited.
No update if freshman receiver Darreus Rogers has been cleared by the NCAA.
Pads and mats were brought out during the first half of practice Monday to work on tackling.
An emphasis was placed on taking care of the ball Monday after the five turnovers the offense gave up Sunday. "I thought that the offense did a much better job outside of Jalen [Cope-Fitzpatrick's] fumble towards the end.