It was a shorts and helmets practice this morning after the scrimmage
yesterday afternoon with several players sitting out due to various bumps and
Matt Leinart continues to impress and one noted onlooker, former NFL executive Pat Kirwan, said the performance by Leinart was the first thing to jump out at him during the practice. Matt is looking more and more comfortable in his role and the fact that he put together a solid scrimmage yesterday was a big boost in his continued efforts to be the starter on August 30th. John David Booty did not practice.
With Rogers, Vandermade and Matua all sitting out the morning session we saw a lot of Steinbacher, Radovich, Baker and Drake. Eric Torres was getting a lot of conditioning work on the sidelines with the training staff as he looks to work his way back into playing shape. He didn't seem to be having too many problems with the drills so hopefully we can see Eric back on the field sometime soon.
Mike Williams caught a couple nice mid-range passes from Leinart in one drill as the training camp roommates work on their timing. Steve Smith also continues to impress as he went up high to grab one ball before going low to catch a ball at his shoestrings a few plays later. There is little doubt at this point that Smith can step in right away and be a contributing member of the receiving rotation. One thing that catches your eye when watching the receivers in simple route drills is how hard they are working. They are giving a full effort on each cut and that work ethic tone is definitely set by senior leader Keary Colbert.
We saw a lot of the freshman running backs early in the day, particularly Reggie Bush (he looks very good), but Hershel Dennis gave a reminder of who the top guy on the depth chart is when he came in and provided a spark with a couple nice runs, including one screen pass from Cassel that he turned into a decent gain. Whitney Lewis sat out the practice with a brace on his right knee and he is expected to miss a few days.
Special teams got a lot of attention early in the day with KO return and KO coverage. Among the players we saw returning kicks today were D Hale, Darnell Bing, Hershel Dennis, Jason Mitchell, Marcell Allmond and Justin Wyatt.
Among the guests at practice this morning were former USC RB Lynn Cain and OL recruit Ryan Wendall from Diamond Bar HS.
It was a spirited practice this afternoon with continued impressive
performances from Matt Leinart and a solid showing on the defensive side from
Leinart caught the eye of Jim Hardy and Hal Bedsole, two former Trojan stars who know offensive football, as both commented on his improved arm strength and presence since they saw him during the spring. Matt was on fire during a 7 on 7 passing drill and he was very accurate while also throwing the ball out of bounds if the play wasn't there. John David Booty practiced this afternoon and he was off target on his first couple throws in a 7 on 7 drill, to be expected after missing a few days of practice, but then he settled in and threw with his customary accuracy.
There was a run drill held on Brian Kennedy Field which was dominated by the defense. The offensive line was missing several starters (Rogers, Vandermade and Norm Katnik were out) and it showed with Frostee Rucker making a big hit on Reggie Bush early and then Lawrence Jackson making a couple of stops as well. The first long run for the offense came when Hershel Dennis popped one along the right side for a touchdown.
A passing drill was highlighted by the performance of Leinart but Allmond did his share for the defense. Marcell reached in and batted a ball away from Mike Williams along the sideline on a pass from Booty and he made a few other plays as well. He also blocked a field goal attempt from Ryan Kileen.
A highlight of the day was the showing by Sandy Fletcher who put in the most impressive practice of his Trojan career. Sandy went up high to grab a deep pass over the middle from Booty and then a few plays later he caught a short pass and proceeded to turn it into a big gain with some nifty moves. He later caught a sideline pass from Leinart where Matt threw the ball low so only the receiver could get it.
Steve Smith ended practice the right way. On the 2nd to last play of the day a ball was thrown his way on a pass over the middle and Ryan Ting was there for a quick pop as the ball arrived to force the incompletion. Steve came right back with a deep catch in traffic over the middle against Ting and Allmond to draw cheers from teammates and coaches as practice came to an end.
Other highlights included a long touchdown by Brandon Hancock after a short pass from Matt Cassel. Brandon showed tremendous speed as he separated from the defenders trying to chase him down the sideline.....Hershel had a nice pass block when Frostee Rucker came in on a rush and Hershel stepped up to provide Leinart with more time....Reggie Bush not only has speed but he attacks the hole at close to full speed and that is rare to find in a runner....With the shortage of available players on the offensive line we saw Fili Moala at left tackle today while wearing #68. This is a move that has been rumored as a possibility and when Fili entered the practice field in a white jersey (offense) he was immediately welcomed by Jacob Rogers who was then giving him pointers throughout the day....Recruits spotted at practice included Jimmy Miller (TE, Westlake HS) and Eugene Germany (DE, Pomona HS).