Saturday's scrimmage in the Coliseum will be a little tricky to run -- to say the least.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin announced twenty players who will be ubnavailable to play in the game. Kiffin says it will be offense versus defense, but as of Thursday evening nothing else was set.
"We don't know exactly what we are doing yet as far as play count," Kiffin said after practice. "Because of our numbers, we only have one tight end available at all and one fullback available."
According to Kiffin, all of the Trojans' formations involve a tight end. "We'll figure something out between now and then," he continued.
So what can you expect to see Saturday? "The stars," Kiffin said.
"We're just going to have to be creative, just because we are not going to be able to go at the same speed between series," Kiffin said, "and we're not going to have two teams."
Highlighting the depth concern on Thrusday, Kiffin himself actually started participating in a drill. With the defense playing against the scout team, the Trojans' head coach jumped in at fullback and even played QB at one point tossing the ball downfield.
Explosive plays overhead
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Henderson played opposite Anthony Brown at cornerback Tuesday with the ones. Thursday, it was sophomore Kevon Seymour's turn take reps with the first-team defense at corner.
The results were more of the same and ended in a huge exclamation point by the offense when Max Wittek found a leaping Marqise Lee in the end zone, grabbing the touchdown over Seymour.
So what's the solution?
Kiffin admitted over the week he thought about the impact of moving receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to the defense, "arguably they would be our best two corners," Kiffin said.
The experiment has been tried once already, for a day, and Kiffin said the results were great especially given that neither one of the two had been coached up in the position.
"I thought about it because you do it in high school all the time," Kiffin explained, "bu the speed of the game… I don't know I just don't know how those guys could take that amount of plays."
The Kiffin's top concern about the possible solution is the possibility, and probability, of a lack of production on offense, "Just the exhaustion of doing that," he said, "so we're getting play out of the corner but then we are losing arguably the best offensive player in the country."
Asked if freshman Su'a Cravens could possibly move into the corner role, Kiffin said he thinks the defensive back is too big at 225-pounds to play the position.
Seven early enrollees graduated high school early to get to USC in time for spring practices and it's been instrumental in their development.
"It's been great," Kiffin said. "I wish we had more spots available because it really has been such an impact for us to bring guys in right away."
After 14 spring practices, it appears Su'a Cravens locked down a starting role on the Trojans defense before going down himself with a spring-ending tear to his meniscus. "I think I came out and did what I had to do," he said. "I came out and proved myself and got myself into the starting rotation and that's really what I wanted to do for the spring." Cravens underwent surgery Friday and is already able to walk on his knee.
He won't be the only one competing for a starting spot in the fall. Justin Davis appears to have locked himself in somewhere near – if not at – the top of the depth chart at tailback.
"I can't image [the early enrollees] doing better," Kiffin said.
Besides the obvious benefit of getting to practice an extra 15 times with coaches before fall camp, Kiffin noted that the midyear freshmen are also ahead of the curve learning the college ropes , "Going through a semester in college and then summer, it's almost like they're sophomores by the time they get to next year," he said.
And they'll get some of the first-time Coliseum jitters out on Saturday.
"Anytime you are able be in the setting you're going to play in – being in the Coliseum and having some fans there," Kiffin said, "it will be really good."
Twenty players were unable to practice Thursday including cornerback Torin Harris, receiver George Farmer who is expected to undergo surgery to repair his torn ACL & MCL this week, safety Gerald Bowman, linebacker Dion Bailey, safety Su'a Cravens who is recovering from meniscus surgery, tailback D.J. Morgan, fullback Soma Vainuku, tailback John Akiba, defensive end Jabari Ruffin started practice but later left, linebacker Scott Starr, tailback Taylor Ross, offensive tackle Chad Wheeler, tailback Silas Redd, defensive end Jeff Miller, receiver De'Von Flournoy was wearing a sling on his right shoulder, tight end Randall Telfer who had surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus, receiver George Katrib, receiver Darreus Rogers, tight end Xavier Grimble, defensive end Greg Townsend, and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.
USC spent about the first hour of practice warming up and going through agility type drills with medicine balls and sleds…no pads and no tackling on Thursday…Cody Temple took reps with the ones at defensive tackle with Antwaun Woods out…the spring game is Saturday at 1pm in the Coliseum.