The handwriting has been on the wall for the last week as freshman Max Browne's reps have been on the decline -- he didn't even take a snap in the first half of Thursday's scrimmage -- but it wasn't official until Sunday afternoon when USC head coach Lane Kiffin announced the quarterback battle is down to two.
"Max Browne has played really well, performed really well, and for guys coming in is probably as advanced as any guy we've had coming in," Kiffin explained, "but still there is a difference between those two and him and being able to speed up the game right now so yesterday we really went from a three man race to a two man."
Kiffin said Browne handled the news "professionally" and that this doesn't mean the 2013 five-star recruit will redshirt. "This doesn't necessarily mean that he's number three by the time we get to the season," Kiffin said. "It's just where we are going right now. "And regardless of what happens this season, whoever plays, however well they play, we'll go back to spring and reopen it again."
Browne did not get any reps during Sunday's 11on11 drills with the ones and twos.
Lee remains out
For the second day in a row, star receiver Marqise Lee watched practice from the sidelines. Lee, dressed in full workout gear minus his shoulder pads, assisted in drills and provided tips for his teammates throughout Sunday afternoon's practice.
Kiffin hopes Lee will be available Monday and reassured the media that he is not trying to pull a fast one, trying to settle any rumblings that the head coach is downplaying -- or overplaying -- Lee's injury. "I'm not trying to trick you guys," Kiffin said. "It really is a serious deal, he is day to day. I feel like the boy who cries wolf on that one."
For the second straight day, the USC head coach emphasized the need for Lee to recover in time to get back on the practice field. Kiffin says by no means will Lee be immune from practice, the head coach has no desire to ‘protect' Lee from potential harm that could happen during drills.
"Marqise has a lot of stuff to work on," Kiffin explained. "He's a young player, he's played two years, played a lot on ability and as we broke down stuff in the offseason there were some inconsistencies in his game and he knows that and we've got to get him back to work."
Lee missed spring practices for the second year due to track and field.
Offensive line shuffle
Junior Aundrey Walker practiced for the second consecutive day Sunday, but you may be surprised to read -- the left tackle took more reps at right guard.
Walker and redshirt senior John Martinez alternated reps at the position.
Redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler continued with first team reps at left tackle. Nathan Guertler took second team reps at the position. "This is the time of year you look at different things," Kiffin said. "We're just trying to find the best mixture of guys who will help us win the most games."
Kiffin said the staff is able to test different combinations on the line in part because of the progress of Wheeler at left tackle. "I don't think you start looking at things if he was not performing well over there," he said. "It does not mean that Aundrey won't go back over there, but we are very pleased with Chad's progress as a young player, really that left side, yesterday performed extremely well."
Moving Walker from left tackle to right guard, Kiffin said, is not a permanent move "right now", noting that Walker did play right guard his first year at USC.
Pinner draws cheers
Sophomore fullback Jahleel Pinner drew the biggest cheers of the afternoon at Sunday's practice. During the final 11on11 drills, Pinner broke for the end zone, turned, and caught a Kessler pass in the corner over freshman linebacker Quinton Powell.
It had to be Pinner's most outstanding play of fall camp, but not the first that has turned heads.
In the absence of redshirt sophomore Soma Vainuku, who has been sidelined due to injury, Pinner has showed an ability to catch short yardage passes as well as break off a few runs. Sunday's catch was probably his deepest reception of camp.
"[He] made a bunch of plays today," Kiffin said. "He's done great, really responded… he's coming along, much improved."
Freshman Darreus Rogers caught a corner-route pass from Max Wittek for a touchdown over the top of cornerback Anthony Brown, Rogers sneaking his feet into the corner of the end zone...Tre Madden broke off a long carry, nearly breaking for a touchdown...Soma Vainuku caught a tough short yardage pass in traffic...During 7on7 Rogers caught a touchdown from Wittek, covered by Josh Shaw and Dion Bailey...DeVon Flournoy was an inch away from making a spectacular one-handed grab on a Wittek pass deep in the field...Kessler found a deep Xavier Grimble who caught the ball over Demetrius Wright...Rogers again, from Wittek, smoked Ryan Henderson on a jump ball and broke for the touchdown...Wright laid out walkon receiver Robby Kolanz with a big hit.
Aundrey Walker said he suffered a mild concussion which held him out of practice…Leonard Williams did not practice...DeVon Flournoy is back to full drills…Su'a Cravens is back to full drills…The Trojans will practice on Dedeaux Field Mon., Weds., and Thurs…