Day three of spring practice, day one of full pads and full contact, and two lost players for the Trojans.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin announced after practice both receiver Marqise Lee and quarterback Max Wittek suffered knee injuries that sidelined them during the two and half hour session. Both will have their knees further examined.
Lee went down during 7on7 drills. Quarterback Cody Kessler found him in the back corner of the end zone, where Lee made an athletic leap to make the catch. Lee looked like he landed awkwardly, falling to the ground. He laid there for a few minutes before getting up and walking off on his own.
Wittek was injured when holding for a field goal drill.
Both walked off the field at the end of practice without assistance.
Cornerback Devian Shelton injured his ankle at the beginning of practice and was sidelined for the remainder of the session.
It looked tough for quarterback Cody Kessler to find a continuous rhythm during Saturday's practice. Kessler was taking snaps from freshman Max Tuerk. Tuerk, a sophomore, played left tackle and practiced some at left guard over the last year. The 6-foot-5 Tuerk had a tough time getting the ball to Kessler, who fumbled several of the snaps during 11on11.
"It's a long ways til we play a real game," Kiffin said. "Obviously we don't like it but it's not a major concern."
Tuerk and Kessler were on their way to continue practicing, well after the final practice horn. Kessler said the pair had another 100 snaps ahead of them Saturday afternoon. "It's just Tuerk's first time ever doing it," Kessler said, "and he's been working his butt of."
I think he's just so used to playing tackle that when he gets under there he starts dropping his butt," Kessler explained. "But he's never played center in his life and it's amazing that he's improved as much as he has in the last three days."
Tuerk said the adjustment at center has been "good" but said there is a lot more to take in at the position versus playing on the left side of the line. He found out he was moving to center, after seeing significant time last season at left tackle, just a week before spring practices started.
"You have to think a lot more [at center]," Tuerk explained. "You've got to snap the ball every play, call the calls, there's a lot more mentally and you just have to keep working hard."
Another strong day for Kessler
Despite the snap issues, quarterback Cody Kessler had another strong day at practice. "I thought he did what Cody does," Kiffin explained, "he shows up in these formats, makes plays, flips the ball, under hands it… he's always been a gamer."
Kessler said it was a "great first week" and that it's been very competitive. "I don't know if it's just the energy of spring ball or just the new mindset we have for this team," he explained, "but the competition level has just been amazing."
Kessler was 12-of-15 for 192 yards in Saturday's modified scrimmage.
The installation of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 scheme is off to a great start, if Saturday's 11on11 play is any indication.
"Our players were able to come out in a short period of time and were able to execute the system as well as they did," Kiffin said after practice. "I thought they had a very physical mindset throughout the day even before the scrimmage format."
The front-seven looked particularly strong.
"I thought [Lamar Dawson] played really well," Kiffin said. "He's really taken to the new scheme and is playing aggressive in the run."
I'm really pleased with our defensive coaching staff and our players taking to it."
The defensive finished with five sacks during the scrimmage.
Redshirt senior defensive end Devon Kennard made his return to the field this week for the Trojans. Kennard had to redshirt the 2012 season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle just before the open of fall camp. So far, he's a fan of the Trojans' new defense. "It's been great," he said. "I think this defense really maximizes the talent we have on the field."
It is a learning process for everybody," Kennard continued. "We have to get better everyday."
Browne goes live
Freshman Max Browne got his first taste of playing in live action in the Coliseum on Saturday.
"I thought he did well," Kiffin said, then pointing to a scenario he handled better than most typical freshman -- "He was flushed to his right and instead of getting sacked he threw it away instead of taking a sack."
For a kid that's really supposed to still be in high school – kids that age it's hard to call a play and get out of the huddle let alone execute."
Browne finished 2-of-7 for 48 yards in Saturday's modified scrimmage, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.
Kiffin says there is currently no leader in the quarterback battle…Linebacker Lamar Dawson was named Kiffin's defensive MVP of the day…Kiffin said freshman tailback Justin Davis "has been awesome"…USC verbal commit Jordan Poland was on the sidelines, with numerous other recruits…2013 signee Steven Mitchell was on the sidelines,
Statistics from the 52-play scrimmage
D.J. Morgan, 4 carries for 16 yards
Justin Davis, 4 carries for 11 yards
Kessler, 12-of-15 for 192 yards
Browne, 2-of-7 for 48 yards, touchdown
Farmer, 3 receptions for 74 yards
Agholor, 3 receptions for 60 yards, including 43-yard touchdown
Dawson, 6 -- 2 for a loss
Breslin, 4 -- 4 for a loss
Pullard 3, 2 for a loss