Spring Practice Report

Hundreds of excited fans stopped by Howard Jones Field on Saturday to get a first look at the 2009 USC Trojans. The players responded by kicking off spring ball with a high-energy practice on a picture perfect day. Look inside for all the news notes and quotes.

QB's Respond to Simpler Approach

Besides the occasional first practice stumble or bad snap, the Trojans had a very fast-paced, high-energy opening of spring ball. The quarterbacks all shined at times, but no one player truly stood out in the group.

After practice, a lot of the quarterback talk centered around the positive changes that Jeremy Bates has made by simplifying the terminology in the playbook.

"He has done a lot of good stuff and made a lot of really good changes for us over the past couple of months and we finally got to implement them," Mitch Mustain said.

Mustain said the terminology that was used in the past was often confusing and slowed things down, while the new approach simplified things for the entire offense.

"We cut out a lot of the old verbiage that we had," Mustain said. "We just chopped that and made everything a little more direct than it was.

"It was more confusing than it was helpful, so we cut out a lot of that and really simplified a lot of things.

"It ended up helping out everybody a ton."

Coach Carroll said he had planned to change the verbiage for years and the recent staff shakeup presented him with that opportunity.

"I thought this was the best time with Jeremy (Bates) and Johnny (Morton) taking over," Carroll said. "They did a great job of tailoring the stuff.

"We are doing the same stuff; we just cleaned up the numbering systems and stuff.

"I think that's what the quarterbacks have enjoyed. It has grouped things a little bit more clearly for them. It was just part of an old system that we needed to tailor."

Griffen, McCoy Disciplined

Two players that figure to play major roles for the Trojans this season, Everson Griffen and Anthony McCoy, were held out of Saturday's practice for disciplinary reasons.

Griffen, who has talked this offseason about stepping up and assuming a leadership role on the young defensive line, didn't participate because he missed a 6 a.m."Breakfast Club" meeting, which was a previous punishment for missing too many tutoring sessions.

"I just missed breakfast club so they disciplined me by missing this practice," Griffen said. "Nothing too serious I will be back out here on Tuesday."

Pete Carroll said both players would return to action on Tuesday.

News and Notes

- Thomas Herring, Blake Ayles, Kristofer O'Dowd, Allen Bradford, Everson Griffen and Anthony McCoy were among the players that didn't participate in Saturday's practice.

- Tailback Joe McKnight is still recovering from the four dislocated toes that he suffered in the Rose Bowl, but was able to participate in individual drills and could return to action very soon.

"They are just making sure that he is OK," Carroll said. "He can run full speed and do all the stuff. They just don't want him to push it yet, so that we can get a good spring out of him."

- The first-team offensive line consisted of: (LT) Charles Brown, (LG) Zack Heberer, (C) Jeff Byers, (RG) Alex Parsons, (RT) Butch Lewis

- Cornerback Shareece Wright was back in action on Saturday after redshirting last year due to a hairline fracture in his vertebrae. Wright will practice during spring but won't do any contact drills with pads.

- Taylor Mays played some free safety at practice today and Pete Carroll said the All-American would play both free and strong safety this season to give the Trojans more versatility in the defensive backfield.

- Josh Pinkard also played safety but Carroll said he could be an option at cornerback because of his impressive cover skills.

"He's an extraordinarily good cover guy," Carroll said. "He had a great season last year. He was quietly more effective because he didn't get as many balls his way but gosh he did a lot of great stuff."

- USC's utility man, Garrett Green, will once again be wearing several hats this season. Green worked with the quarterbacks today but will also play some wide receiver as well as contribute on special teams.

"He's a great athlete," Coach Bates said. "I think he can help us also at receiver so we're going to give him the opportunity to play both."

- With Joe McKnight limited and Allen Bradford sidelined, Curtis McNeal received the most carries of any tailback today. The small, shifty back looked slippery as ever with the ball in his hands. McNeal also looks comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield.

- Tailback C.J. Gable showed great quickness and burst, making a couple a nice runs up the middle during 11-on-11.

- Stafon Johnson had the run of the day, making several defenders miss as he raced up the middle and past the defense, the third-string defense. No matter who it was against, it was still a nice run that showed Johnson's great vision.

- Middle linebacker Chris Galippo nearly intercepted a pass on the first play of 7-on-7 and later recorded quarterback sack. Safety Drew McAllister also nearly had a pick.

- Cornerback Kevin Thomas blocked a field goal try by Joe Houston during special teams drills.

- After practice, the Trojans held tryouts for potential walk-ons.

"Maybe there will be another young Ben Malcolmson somewhere," Carroll joked.

- The Trojans will return to the practice field on Tuesday, March.31st at 4 p.m.

Faces in the Crowd

The Trojans opened up spring practice with one of the large crowd filled with many familiar faces. Among the faces in the crowd were John Robinson, Eric Mangini, Matt Leinart, Chris Claiborne, Rey Maualuga, Deuce Lutui, Kevin Ellison, Patrick Turner, Hebron Fangupo, James Boyd, Keary Colbert, Gerald Washington, Marquis Simmons and Yogi Roth.

Matt Barkley fires a pass during Saturday's practice. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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

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