For the first time this season the Trojans put on full pads Wednesday, day five of fall camp. In a different twist, they hit Howard-Jones practice field to run through routine drills, in the past USC head coach Lane Kiffin said they would've held their first scrimmage. "We really wanted to make sure that we're still working on our basics," Kiffin said after practice. "Working on our fundamentals, tackling on our first day that we're allowed to do that."
It was obviously a physical day five, with obvious strengths and weaknesses of the Trojans tackling ability exposed.
"It's good to have this day and set it up this way so we're having our players so that we can really have a good test tomorrow when we go the full live scrimmage," Kiffin said.
Déjà vu 2012?
Something around USC practice seems all too familiar to the start of 2012.
It's the absence of left tackle Aundrey Walker. As you may recall, Walker missed most of fall camp last year due to injury, first to his hand and then to his shoulder.
No indication what Walker's ailment is through five days of camp so far, but he's now missed two days of practice. "Hopefully he'll be able to go tomorrow," Kiffin said.
In the meantime redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler has switched from second-team right tackle to left tackle. "Chad looks really good over there," Kiffin said, noting the strength of the outside linebackers the redshirt freshman is having to compete against. "Those guys really make your offense better and make them have to work," he said. "So he's really getting test out there against some really good players."
Kiffin says it's too soon to tell if Wheeler, 6-foot-7 275-pounds, will challenge Walker for the spot when Walker returns. However, after Thursday's scrimmage the staff should have a better idea if that is a possibility in the near future. "He's definitely showing us that whether it's this year or in the future that he can play over there for sure," Kiffin said.
Kiffin told the media the staff thought over a few different situations before deciding on Wheeler to fill in for Walker. They ultimately decided to flip the redshirt freshman over to limit the number of players they'd have to replace on the line, namely Max Tuerk and Kevin Graf.
Offensive catch up?
It's become a reoccurring theme through five days, that the defense is dominating practice. Asked Wednesday if Kiffin thinks the offense will catch up to the defense's fast start he said, "I don't know if they ever will."
Kiffin, an offensive minded coach, followed that statement by saying it might be a good thing -- if offense doesn't catch up. "It might mean we are really good on defense," he said.
"We do have a number of veteran players in that front seven that have played a lot that have shown up and I think kind of the storyline so far is that the secondary is playing better than they did in the spring, not giving up that many big plays and playing better on the outside, the corners are playing better than they were in the spring."
QB race droned on
Wednesday was a less than impressive day for both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Not only did both quarterbacks struggle to complete deep throws downfield, but Kessler fell victim to three interceptions, Wittek threw one.
Kessler's first interception came during 11on11 drills when he was picked by linebacker Lamar Dawson. Kessler and his offense started their lap, before they could finish, Wittek fired an INT straight to freshman safety Leon McQuay.
Kessler's next interception was thrown later in practice, again during 11on11 drills. This one, however, can hardly be counted in his column – he threw a pass intended for walkon Robby Kolanz who had the ball nearly secured before he took a hit by safety Dion Bailey, effectively knocking the ball loose – as nickelback Ryan Dillard grabbed the ball in the air for the INT. Kessler's third interception was a pass during 11on11 intended for freshman Darreus Rogers – grabbed by linebacker Hayes Pullard.
Needless to say, turnovers were a problem Wednesday.
"We'll go back and watch the film," Kiffin said. "Seemed like we had a couple of shots at the deep ball that we didn't hit. Part of that too is because a lot of our stuff is team situations and our front seven is playing really good on defense. That's a problem."
Quarterbacks were unavailable to the media Wednesday.
Redshirt senior receiver De'Von Flournoy did not practice…Walkon receiver George Katrib did not practice…left tackle Aundrey Walker did not practice…Senior tailback Silas Redd returned to drills, mostly in a yellow no-contact jersey. Kiffin said he doesn't think Redd will be available for Thursday's scrimmage…D.J. Morgan left practice early with the rehab group, ice on his knee…Ty Isaac left practice early…Leonard Williams stood on the sidelines before the end of practice, with his left shoulder iced…