Notebook: Trojans return to practice

USC returned to the practice field on Saturday after receiving the week off to take finals. The Trojans are spending the next few practices focusing on themselves before turning their attention to Georgia Tech.

Martin sticking around
USC Coach Lane Kiffin may have landed his biggest recruit of the season when receivers coach Tee Martin decided to turn down an offer to join the coaching staff at Tennessee in favor of staying at USC.

Kiffin knows it's inevitable that assistant coaches will come and go, but insisted after practice on Saturday that Martin sticking around will have a major impact on the program.

"It would have been tough to replace him as a coach," Kiffin explained, "tough to replace him as a recruiter, and certainly we couldn't replace the relationships he's already developed with recruits and with players."

Martin, still in his first season with the Trojans, says he wanted to keep the word that he gave to Kiffin when he said he wanted to coach at USC and accomplish certain goals.

"I think it speaks volumes for who Tee Martin is," Kiffin said. "[Martin] had said some things during the hiring process, him and I together, and he honored them."

Quarterback battle underway
Quarterback Matt Barkley won't practice with the team until they travel to El Paso for the Sun Bowl, Kiffin announced after practice on Saturday.

In the meantime, that means a jump-start for the battle to replace Barkley, between redshirt freshmen Max Wittek and Cody Kessler.

The two have been splitting reps under center, both taking reps with the first and second team, "just like they will in the spring," Kiffin said.

Regardless of how Wittek and Kessler play throughout bowl practices, in the unlikely event that Barkley is unable to play, Kiffin says Wittek is still the backup.

"This is just part of the eventual competition of who is the next starter next year," he explained, "but we're not flipping them now, no."

Choppers above
It was a slightly unsettling scene outside the walls of Howard Jones practice field throughout practice as police taped off walkways and streets surrounding the John McKay Center and Heritage Hall as they searched for a narcotics suspect in the area

Asked if the LAPD chopper flying overhead throughout practice was distracting, Kiffin made light of the situation saying, "No, I just thought that was the bowl game TV…they wanted to get some extra TV film, so it wasn't distracting at all."

Quick Hits
Recruit Darrues Rogers was once again on the sidelines of practice…Kiffin said WR George Farmer and WR Victor Blackwell have both strung together a few good practices…WR Marqise Lee was back to practice after missing a few for awards ceremonies…A handful of recruits attended Saturday's practice including unofficial visitors Chris Hawkins, Steven Mitchell, and Toa Lobendahn. Kenny Bigelow, Leon McQuay, and Desmond Harrison were on official visits.

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