It was a split squad practice with the veterans going this morning along with selected newcomers (Sanchez, Turner, Moore, Kaluka and Cary Harris). John David Booty did not practice this morning as he will be the primary QB in the afternoon session. Turner went through early receiver drills but then sat out the majority of practice.
One of the first things the offense did was go through a walk-through with Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian which focused a lot on motions and shifting prior to the snap. Kiffin has talked about how this is an area the Trojans will look to exploit more in order to force mismatches and you can already seen the coaches emphasizing it.
Matt Leinart looked a little rusty early in the day, definitely understandable, but by the middle of practice he was showing his customary cool and was hitting all sorts of passes. His first big play, and the first big play of the day, was a deep touchdown thrown to Kirtman where Matt calmly went through his progressions before hitting an open Kirtman.
There were a couple passes that bounced off the hands of receivers and ended up as interceptions. Leinart threw one to Jarrett near the sideline but the ball popped up and Darnell Bing walked a tightrope along the sideline before bringing the ball in. Pinkard also had a pick, this time off a Sanchez pass to Jarrett that bounced off his hands. Don't worry about Jarrett though, he caught pretty much everything else thrown his way and showed very good body control by shielding defenders on slant patterns.
In a run drill on Brian Kennedy Field we saw the first big play from Reggie Bush as he sprinted down the right sideline for a TD. Sam Baker had a terrific block on the next play when he went against Kyle Moore and simply buried the freshman into the ground.
Leinart started the next drill by showing great touch on a sideline pass to Nick Vanderboom.
Sanchez had one nice pass where he turned Steve Smith around on a deep out pattern and the veteran receiver made the play. Like Leinart, Mark was a little off early in the day but he really hit a groove midway through and you could see his confidence grow. By the end of the practice he was really stepping into his throws and he had back to back completions that were impressive; the first pass was over the middle to Jarrett and then Mark came right back with a high pass to Vanderboom where Nick made the nice catch for a big gain. His best throw of the day came on another deep slant to Jarrett, Mark really zipped the ball in there.
A couple other observations:
* Reggie Bush had one carry where he came through what looked like a wide open hole until Keith Rivers closed amazingly quick and stoppped the play for no gain.
* Cary Harris has good speed and seemed to hold his own today. He got beat deep on one pass to Jarrett from Leinart but Cary was right in Dwayne's hip pocket the whole way.
* Kaluka looks a lot like Troy Polamalu while wearing #43 with his hair dangling out the back.
* Kirtman put an open field move on Terrell Thomas that left Terrell gasping for air.
* Oscar Lua made a couple nice reads of run plays where he put himself in the right position. Thomas Williams also filled the middle gap on a Reggie run, he held up instead of hitting Reggie and both Carroll and Seto came over to congratulate him for being in the correct spot.
* John Walker had a long return of a intercepted pass that went through the hands of Dale Thompson. Dale otherwise had a solid day but on this play he heard it from the coaches, not because the ball went through his hands but because he didn't try to chase down Walker with the ball. A couple plays later Dale caught a short pass and held on tight as Rivers tried to make the strip.
* Sed Ellis blew up one play where he got into the backfield quickly and stopped Kirtman for a loss.
* Fili Moala looked very active. Frostee and Lawrence Jackson were out there as the defensive ends with Ellis and Ramsey as the starters at tackle.
* Drew Radovich took the majority of snaps at LG with Deuce Lutui taking the other reps. Chilo Rachal and Tiny Malu will get some work this afternoon.
All in all it was a good start. It was particularly nice to see the offense respond after the defense had done a good job early in practice. Look forward to seeing the remaining newcomers (along with veterans like Whitney, Desmond, Chauncey, Powdrell and others) this afternoon.
The newcomers got their first taste of a USC practice today and it was good to see all the veterans from the morning session coming out to support their teammates. The afternoon practice wasn't strictly newcomers, there were selected veterans mixed in such as John David Booty, Kyle Williams, Whitney Lewis, Desmond Reed, Fred Davis, etc. For the most part, the veterans who did take part in the practice had a very good day although a few new guys (particularly the linebackers and kicker) performed well.
It was very good to see Chauncey Washington back on the field, he was returning punts early in the day and he was an active part of the RB rotation during the day.
One player who stood out in early drills was Whitney Lewis as he is in great shape and he was catching everything thrown his way. We've all seen Whitney demonstrate his good hands before and it was good to see them out on the opening day of practice.
Whitney wasn't the only one showing good hands. Fred Davis caught several passes, including a couple deep down the middle and one where he dragged across the field before Booty was able to find him. Jimmy Miller had a pair of catches where he was able to turn upfield for a nice gain although he was stripped on one of them and ended up turning the ball over to Ryan Ting. Jody Adewale also made some nice grabs out of the backfield.
Kyle Williams was having a field day going against the newcomers in the line drills. Kyle is an experienced player who has been in the program for four years and it showed as he took care of business today. Chilo Rachal is noticeably bigger in the upper body.
Desmond Reed broke a couple plays in a run drill on Brian Kennedy Field and later had a big play in the final team drill where he got outside for a long gain.
Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga both made their share of plays, including one by Cushing in the backfield where he plucked an errant Booty pass out of the air.
Troy Van Blarcom showed a strong leg when he hit consistently from 32 and 38 yards.
Other items of note:
* Jim Abbot received praise from the coaches after a nice pass break-up.
* Mozique McCurtis is big in the upper body and he seemed to move fairly well. Looking forward to seeing him in pads.
* Will Harris has very good size and he is quick. Once he picks up this defense he will be yet another talented safety for the Trojans.
* Travis Tofi batted down a pass at the line.
* Walk-on wide receiver John Zilka made a solid catch over the middle for a 25 yard gain.
* Former Trojan All-American Pat Howell was in attendance to watch the first USC practice of his son Nick.