Notebook: Day fifteen of fall camp

The Trojans returned to Howard Jones Field Saturday following their second scrimmage of fall camp on Friday. USC head coach Lane Kiffin discussed what he saw on film, and Saturday's lineup changes showed some implemented changes.

No QB separation
15 days of fall camp, two scrimmages, not to mention 15 days of spring practices and still, there is no starting USC quarterback.

The Trojans open their season Aug. 29 at Hawaii, now under ten days to kickoff.

Cody Kessler or Max Wittek?

It's a decision USC head coach Lane Kiffin hasn't announced and doesn't appear to be ready to make.

"They're always going to be different in their own ways," Kiffin said after Saturday's practice of the two quarterbacks. "[The scrimmage] s just more information that we have on them."

Kessler finished the scrimmage 19 of 28 for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Wittek was just 2 of 7 for 15 yards.

"Obviously Cody got more chances because of the pass attempts and played really well in there," Kiffin explained. "Max was going against for the most part the number one defense which was really having a good day versus the number one offense which also had a number of special players out."

On Saturday, Wittek* was intercepted by Charles Burks before Burks himself fumbled the football, to be recovered by safety Rob Dooley. All 22 players on the field took a lap for the ‘double turnover'.

Both quarterbacks showed inconsistencies trying to hit deep targets Marqise Lee and De'Von Flournoy, overthrowing by a couple of steps.

At this point in camp, USC fans and players have to start wondering when they know who their starter will be in order to build chemistry and work on timing for the season opener.

If I had to name a guy based off observing spring, fall, and scrimmages… at this point, it would be Kessler.

Quinton Powell makes a move
Freshman linebacker Quinton Powell made five tackles, one for a loss in Friday's scrimmage. On Saturday, Kiffin commended the freshman for a job well done.

"We've really seen Quinton Powell make a move on defense," Kiffin said. "In the scrimmage and again today, making a lot of plays."

Powell was virtually invisible during the first ten days of camp, not appearing to be a real player in this year's linebacking competition. Most eyes were on fellow freshman Michael Hutchings.

Powell admitted after Saturday's practice, he was a bit lost to open camp.

"In the beginning it was very overwhelming," he said. "There were a lot of plays I had to go over. I've never played [weaksie linebacker] or [middle linebacker]… now that I've been over what [coaches] said and I've been running at full speed, I'm good now."

In high school Powell was indeed a linebacker in a 3-4 system, but always came off the edge.

As of Saturday, it appears Powell will compete through the remainder of camp for a starting spot next to Hayes Pullard.

Asked if he could be ready for the roll, Powell said "I honestly think so." The freshmen is currently slated to start on special teams, as well.

Defense earns praise
It's not secret Kiffin is an offensive minded coach, but since Thursday's practice its been the defense on top of his mind. First, commending George Uko and Devon Kennard for practicing like champions – and then again taking the opportunity Saturday to discuss how well the defense performed in Friday's scrimmage.

"Going back to the film yesterday, I thought the storyline was the first team defense," Kiffin explained. "Five three-and-outs, basically if the game ended at halftime the first team defense would have given up minus two yards at that point.

"A really good showing by the front seven especially and guys showed up and made plays. George made a bunch of plays, Hayes showed up, Su'a Cravens probably made more plays than anybody and he only played 28 snaps. They really showed up on film a lot."

Kiffin added that he feels much more comfortable with where his defense is at this point in fall camp than he did at the same time with his 2012 defense.

Rusty Lee?
Marqise Lee was back in team drills during Saturday's practice, wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. It could be a little Lee rust from sitting out a few days, it could be also be the alternating quarterback situation, but the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner was having a hard time catching up – and hanging on – to the football.

During the first round of 11on11 drills, Kessler fired deep down the middle to Lee, throwing the ball a few steps out of his reach.

Next series, Wittek threw deep to Lee only to see the ball bounce off his hands.

Later, in 7on7, Kessler once again looked to lee who watched the pass bounce off his hands on a routine route.

More likely than not, this isn't an issue to become concerned over but more likely just points to the fact that the sooner a starting quarterback is named – the better… and not just for the most talented receiver's sake.

Other observations
Freshman Su'a Cravens and Josh Shaw were taking the first team reps at safety on Saturday.

In his first day back to action, Justin Davis appeared to pickup where he left off making a handful of strong carries.

Hate to have to write this again, but teammates took to jabbing at fullback Soma Vainuku who…dropped a routine pass.

By now you've most likely seen the ‘big scare' that occurred at the Patriots training camp – you know, when an offensive lineman got pushed into quarterback Tom Brady? Similar event happened Saturday afternoon at USC, drawing a few gasps from the sideline. Sophomore defensive tackle Leonard Williams appeared to break through the offensive line to sack Kessler, and was unable to pull up in time, knocking the yellow-jersey wearing quarterback to the ground. Kessler popped up no problem, but never a welcome sight to see a quarterback on the ground…during fall camp.

Injury report
Receiver Victor Blackwell was on crutches with an undisclosed injury, apparently to his knee.

Safety Dion Bailey walked around practice sans crutches for the second day.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard was late to practice, warmed up jogging and then wore a yellow no-contact jersey.

Freshman Leon McQuay had to sit out for a portion of practice, limping off the field favoring his left leg.

Freshman receiver Darreus Rogers caught a pass before going down and staying there for awhile. He later returned to drills.

Nose tackle Antwaun Woods was spotted in the trainers tent midway through practice through the final horn.

Quick hits:
2014 Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure tight end Bryce Dixon was on the sideline. The USC recruit was chatted up by recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron before being taken over to tight ends coach John Baxter. Kiffin even spent time talking with Dixon… USC will practice twice on Sunday, morning session on Howard Jones Field, evening session in the Coliseum – which will be closed to the public.

*Editor's Note (Aug. 18 6:06 p.m.): Max Wittek was intercepted by Charles Burks, not Cody Kessler Get in the discussion with other USC fans in the Fight On! SC Insiders Forum

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