Day 3 Practice Notebook

While the Trojans weren't in full pads yet, the shoulder pads did come on, and the pads started popping as USC players were itching to start hitting. Players began separating themselves a bit as the practice became more physical.

The talk of practice the first two day had been Joe McKnight, and it's been well deserved, but this is a team full of All-Americans out there, and McKnight had a few "welcome to college football" moments at Wednesday's practice. The first of which got the day started during a pass rush drill when 6-4 and 240 pounds of Brian Cushing squared up McKnight and ran through him to the quarterback.

To his credit, McKnight popped right up and took his next rep blocking. 

Pass protection is usually what keeps young backs from getting on the field as quickly as they might like, so it was no surprise that McKnight, who was giving up 60 pounds to Cushing, lost his first battle. However, McKnight got his turn when they changed the drill from pass rush to pass coverage, and he left his linebacker standing still as he put a move on him to get open on an angle route.

McKnight also was leveled when redshirt sophomore safety Will Harris flattened him coming off the edge on a blitz.

McKnight may have been the talk of practice the first two days, and deservedly so, but it was another running back that was the star of Wednesday's practice. Sophomore Stafon Johnson put on a show when he had the ball in his hands. Johnson carried for tough yardage between the tackles and proved tough to bring down in traffic and in the open field.

The theme of the day was hitting, and here are some observations from Wednesdays practice.

*Freshmen Marc Tyler, Broderick Green, and Brandon Carswell were all cleared for practice today. They didn't participate in contact drills, but got to work out in the other aspects of the day's action.

*Right Tackle Drew Radovich is still being held out of practice, and sophomore Charles Brown has looked great in his place.

*USC opened working on kickoff coverage. Junior David Buehler consistently showed the best hang time and distance on his kicks. C.J. Gable, Joe McKnight, and Ronald Johnson all got chances fielding punts.

*If there's been any point of concern for the Trojans, it might be the center/quarterback exchange. There were several fumbled snaps during the offense/defense rush drills.

*Speaking of rush drills, linebackers live for the opportunity to ignore pass assignments, pin their ears back and attack the ball carrier. It was another freshman, Chris Gallipo that seemed to thrive the most. It makes sense that a freshman might enjoy having the assignment part of the game reduced, and the attacking part of the game emphasized. Gallipo attacked.

*The big hits weren't reserved for just the defense. Arguably the nation's best blocking receiver, Vidal Hazelton lit up a would be defender on a crack back block as Patrick Turner took a short pass from the slot to the outside while Hazelton was cutting back inside.

*Redshirt Freshman Zack Heberer is listed at third string offensive guard. He had a very good day in pass protection, and looked to have the feet of a tackle should there ever be a need. At 6-5 and 300 pounds with outstanding feet, Heberer might not be logging heavy minutes this year, but he has the talent to be a big contributor one day in the near future.

*Junior Linebacker Clay Matthews continues to impress. He is always in the right place, and he is always making the right play.

*Tight ends Anthony McCoy and Fred Davis both had nice catches and solid days overall. McCoy had a nice catch and run after he cut back across the middle and ended the play in a violent collision with senior linebacker Thomas Williams. Davis went to his shoe tops for a finger tip catch over the middle.

*There isn't any question, but if there had been a question at the starting quarterback position, John David Booty would have solidified his No. 1 spot. Booty had a solid day in all aspects of his game. Backup Mark Sanchez didn't look his best. He made two ill-advised throws. One that was intercepted by Will Harris (there's that name again); the second was a check down to Patrick Turner that Sanchez through late to the backside that was read well by Josh Pinkard. Turner turned defensive back on the play and broke up a would-be pick six.

*Emmanuel Moody finished off the scrimmage with a terrific run that included breaking down a defender in the middle of the field and putting an ankle breaking move on him before taking it the distance for a touchdown.

*Recruit Watch... quarterback Matt Barkley of Mater Dei was at practice on Wednesday. He spent some time with the coaches after practice.

*Collision of the day... safety Josh Pinkard and fullback Stanley Havili meeting about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage on a swing pass.

*Player of the Day... Stafon Johnson. Top Stories