Are we having fun yet?
Week one under Lane Kiffin was all about toughness and discipline, but the players seem to have embraced the new approach with aplomb, enjoying the dramatic shift.
There is clearly far more coaching with the new staff, more pointing and explaining. Drills are being rerun several times until they are done right, a stark departure from last year's often lackadaisical approach. Mistakes are punished with running.
Kiffin is allowing his assistants to handle the bulk of work, jumping in when necessary, a formula that worked for Pete Carroll in his most successful stint with Ed Orgeron and Norm Chow at his side.
Game planning and playcalling won't be addressed for another few months, but so far Kiffin is proving to be a highly effective hire.
Above the Fold
Shane Horton might only again be a stopgap option and redshirt freshmen Marquis Simmons and Simione Vehikite have yet to look comfortable. Visions of Clay Matthews aside, walk-ons are usually walk-ons for a reason.
That puts it all on Chris Galippo, Michael Morgan, Malcolm Smith and Devon Kennard again. We've seen the first three try and handle the pressure of handling the entire workload and by midseason, they were totally worn down or injured.
Still learning the nuances, Kennard might be the lynchpin to the group, capable of providing starting-level contributions at all three spots assuming he doesn't win the middle linebacker job outright.
Below the Fold
In one week, the Trojans have probably put in as much and, more importantly, effort on special teams than they did all last season. By requiring almost everyone to contribute, new special teams coach John Baxter is assuring USC of improved production in every dimension.
Whereas the previous regime relied on a handful of players to handle most of the big picture – Reggie Bush, Damian Williams, David Buehler and Tom Malone – this broad-based approach should be most effective in eliminating those little mistakes like holds and blocks in the back that can accumulate over the course of a game and kill field position, e.g. the loss at Washington.
Quote of the Week
"Once we get to this fall, there's only one flag that matters and it's the one with SC on it."
-Associate head coach John Baxter
Player of the Week
There were plenty of standout performers on offense in the opening three practices, including tailbacks Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable and receiver Ronald Johnson, but some subtle improvements in Brice Butler's game worth noting.
Always known as a polished route runner, the redshirt sophomore is showing improved speed. Butler ran away from defenders on a slant for a touchdown and later caught a bomb for a score, a critical skill in what looks to be a more vertical offense. Even with strong showings from Travon Patterson and freshman Kyle Prater, Butler is well on his way to a starting job.
Question of the Week
How many offensive linemen will the Trojans have available one week from Tuesday, let alone healthy?
My starting lineup based on how available players have performed
Offense: Barkley, Havili, Bradford, Johnson, Butler, Ayles, Kalil, Graf, O'Dowd, Holmes, Smith
Defense: Armstead, Casey, Tupou, Perry, Morgan, Galippo, Smith, Wright, McDonald, Starling, Harris
USC wide receiver Brice Butler had an impressive first week of spring practice.
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