Thursday Practice: Defense Responds

The USC defense really turned up the intensity for the first Turnover Thursday of the year after allowing the offense to steal the show on Wednesday. Kevin Carden was there and brings you all the news and notes from the field.

Defense Responds

The USC defense really turned up the intensity for the first Turnover Thursday of the year after allowing the offense to steal the show on Wednesday.

"Today was our first competition day (Turnover Thursday). Coach Carroll preached to us about that before practice," said linebacker Jordan Campbell who was dishing out the big hits today. "Just to get to the ball and take it away."

The front seven put much more pressure on the quarterback today, limiting the passing game and helping to force some turnovers.

Josh Pinkard got the defense started by stepping in front of Jordan Cameron and making an interception of a Mitch Mustain pass, Omari Crittenden got into the action with another interception of Mitch Mustain, returning the pick for a touchdown and Will Harris ended the day with a nice interception.

"The defense did win today," Carroll said after practice.

Cameron Continues Good Play

USC wide receiver Jordan Cameron has really made a statement with his play the first two days of practice. The 6-5 receiver, who previously played basketball at BYU is a real smooth athlete that has caused matchup problems with his height and tremendous leaping ability.

"He's got something," Pete Carroll said after Thursday's practice. "He has wonderful hands, and a vertical leap of over 40 inches. That's an enormous leap for a 6-5 guy."

Cameron provides the quarterbacks a big target and has consistently elevated above the smaller defensive backs to make several acrobatic catches.

"He has a chance to get up big like our guys have in the past, like we like at the split end position" Carroll said of Cameron, who had a spectacular grab over Josh Pinkard on the sideline. "He has made a nice initial statement and he has a chance to compete for playing time right now."

Freshmen Front Four Impress

Several freshmen have looked comfortable playing with the upperclassmen in Fall Camp and one group that Pete Carroll singled out for praise after practice today was the freshmen on the defensive front.

"One thing that has caught my eye is the front four guys on defense," said Carroll, who didn't have any news on the status of Nicholas Perry. "Both ends, Malik Jackson and Wes Horton, have showed really good stuff right off the bat like they have the instinct for pass rush. Of course, they have great size and length.

"Armond Armstead looked very good for the first time out too and Jurrell Casey looked very comfortable at nose tackle. I think it's four guys that we haven't seen in one class look so well equipped so early. It's a really good first impression for those guys."

If the Trojans can add Nicholas Perry to the group then this could be a very special unit for the future.

Special Teams Update

Joe McKnight, Travon Patterson, Stafon Johnson and T.J. Bryant all got work returning punts today.

Cooper Stephenson was the primary longsnapper on the punt team and Chris Pousson continued to work as the longsnapper for field goals.

David Buehler connected on both of his field goal attempts today while Jordan Congdon made one of two and Joe Houston missed his only attempt.

Faces in the Crowd

Dodger owner Frank McCourt stopped by Howard Jones Field to watch the Trojans prepare for the 2008 season. McCourt has been to a few USC practices in the past but looked much more relaxed today. Having Manny Ramirez in the middle of your lineup has a way of relieving stress.

USC recruits Morrell Presley and Kevin Graf stopped by to watch their future teammates as they prepared for the upcoming season. Presley is the top-rated tight end in the nation by Scout.com. The 6-3.5, 215-pound tight end from Carson High School opens his high school season against fellow USC commit Matt Barkley and Mater Dei on September 3rd.

Kevin Graf is the top-rated offensive lineman on the West Coast by Scout.com.

Former Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker was also in attendance today.

Notes from the Field

Freshman offensive lineman Tyron Smith appeared to have tweaked his ankle and had to sit out the end of practice but was able to walk off the field. After practice, Coach Carroll said he wasn't sure of the severity of the injury or if it was an ankle or knee injury.

Jeff Byers participated in the first part of practice today before watching the second half, which is a very positive sign.

Freshman Uona Kaveinga continued to work as the second-team middle linebacker.

Joe McKnight got a lot of work in the passing game and really looked explosive with the ball in his hands. McKnight gained good yardage after the catch.

Mark Sanchez didn't make any big plays but continued to make smart decisions with the ball. Sanchez took the short underneath passes and showed good maturity.

Blake Ayles continues to look very good in the passing game as did D.J. Shoemate.

Mitch Mustain connected with Ronald Johnson for a nice touchdown pass during 7-on-7 drills.

Jordan Campbell really looked good today stopping Allen Bradford for a loss and making a handful of big hits.

Will Harris, Josh Pinkard and Omari Crittenden all had interceptions today.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden
at kevin@scplaybook.com


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