USC star receiver Marqise Lee returned to practice Wednesday morning and was dressed in full pads for Wednesday evening's session.
Lee fielded a few kick returns during special teams drills during warmups and then lined up for one play during 11on11 drills. Quarterback Max Wittek fired deep downfield for Lee who was covered by safety Demetrius Wright. The pass fell incomplete and that was all the action Lee saw the rest of the evening.
"Really he's still unable to do any contact," USC head coach Kiffin explained after practice. "We threw with him this morning, did some route stuff, but we really still can't put him in there. He snuck in for one play.
"I think any time he's out here, not just because he's a great player who makes dynamic plays, but he's an extremely energetic practice player. He practices like he plays, and so I think he brings the level of the competition up."
Sophomore Nelson Agholor returned drills Wednesday, though wearing the ever-popular yellow no-contact jersey. He and Victor Blackwell took reps with the first team. Blackwell had a consistent day of practice, showing an ability to reliably catch the football – an issue that has plagued him throughout fall camp and his career as a Trojan.
Bailey goes down
Redshirt junior safety Dion Bailey went down with an injury about midway through the Trojans Wednesday night practice. The injury appeared to happen during 7on7 drills. Bailey limped off the field toward the west sideline and the trainers, heavily favoring his left leg.
Trainers checked Bailey's left knee out. He did not return to action. "He came out of practice, they're checking him out," Kiffin said. "That's all I know."
In Bailey's absence, walkon Ryan Dillard played nickelback.
23 players limited in practice
Kiffin announced 23 players were unable to participate in full drills Wednesday. In fact, depth was so low during the Trojans goal line drills to end practice that the only two tailbacks available were Buck Allen and walkon John Akiba, "All 150-pounds of him," Kiffin quipped.
To clarify, 23 is the number of players who cannot participate in full contact drills. "Those numbers take their tolls on guys with more reps," Kiffin said.
Kiffin admitted Wednesday that once the season comes, he does not know how physical the Trojans will be able to practice. "You can't predict the future," he said. "There are variables out of our control, so we're just trying to manage oru roster where it's at, where our players are at, and where their fatigue is at. We're going to push as much as we can."
It's becoming ever more difficult to keep track of who is and is not available to practice for the Trojans. Some of the notables unable to go include Leonard Williams, Josh Shaw, Morgan Breslin, Silas Redd, D.J. Morgan, Ty Isaac, Justin Davis, Su'a Cravens, Darreus Rogers, Cody Temple and J.R. Tavai, amongst others.
Chad Wheeler, left tackle
As camp goes on it is looking more and more like redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler will be the starting left tackle. Since returning from a mild concussion, Aundrey Walker spent one day sharing reps with Wheeler at the position before being moved to right guard. He's since spent the last three days trading reps with John Martinez there. On Wednesday, it appeared Walker took the majority of first team reps at the position.
"We're always trying to create competition and we've had a lot of that this camp at different spots," Kiffin explained. "We have [Aundrey] at guard there. John and Aundrey are going to have a really good competition there."
Which all but means the competition at left tackle seems over, though Kiffin wouldn't go so far as to say so. "Chad is playing really well over there, very consistent for a guy who has never played college football," Kiffin said. "We're really pleased with his progress but he's got a long ways to go too."
Wheeler, a second year player, came to USC at 227-pounds. After practice Wednesday he said he was up to 290-pounds and believes he still has room to grow.
Asked if he expected to play any left tackle this fall camp, Wheeler responded, "I just do whatever the coaches tell me to do and that's pretty much it."
He says he feels comfortable at left tackle and just wants to continue to work on his technique and improve. Wheeler isn't focused on the fact that all indications point to him being the starter, "I'm not worried about that," he said. "I'm just worried about practicing and getting better."
Other thoughts from practice
Tailback Tre Madden, in a yellow no-contact jersey, continues to impress with his ability to catch short yardage passes. Fullback Soma Vainuku suffered an all-too-familiar drop during 11on11 drills, much to the chagrin of his teammates who let out a collective moan. Tight end Xavier Grimble continues to plow through defenses to make impressive catches downfield. Quarterback Cody Kessler threw an interception during 11on11 drills. Kessler, with the first team, attempted a pass that was tipped by a defensive lineman before being grabbed by linebacker Lamar Dawson. Kessler was nearly intercepted a second time during 11on11, throwing a pass intended for walkon Robby Kolanz, Anthony Brown stepped in front, the ball bouncing off his hands. Tailback Buck Allen had a few thunderous runs during goal line drills to break into the end zone.
Practice returned to Howard Jones Field Wednesday night…Pac-12 referees officiated practice…Wednesday night was a full-pad practice…The Trojans second scrimmage of the fall will be held Friday.