The effectiveness of the USC rushing attack was up for debate. What couldn't be denied was the prowess of Matt Barkley, who threw for five touchdowns Saturday in the team's second scrimmage.
With top receiver Ronald Johnson sidelined by a minor elbow injury, the sophomore quarterback instead spread the ball around with one of his most efficient practice showings, completing 21 of 30 attempts for 291 yards.
Brice Butler caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, tight end Jordan Cameron had five receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown, but it was Kyle Prater that stood out.
Prater caught two balls for 53 yards, both for touchdowns, including a one-handed snag over a defender. He then rumbled down the sideline for the 40-yard score.
USC Coach Lane Kiffin praised the play, but said Prater must be more effective as an all-around player.
"We've had some pretty good one-handed catches here before and Kyle is showing that. He just needs to be more consistent," he said.
That highlight came not long after linebacker Chris Galippo leveled the unsuspecting Prater as he came across the middle, sending his helmet flying through the air and leaving the freshman on the ground for several moments.
"That was the hardest one," Prater said, comparing the hit to one delivered by corner Torin Harris earlier in the spring. "He caught me. I didn't see him at all."
With Johnson out and Prater briefly sidelined, the receiving corps' limited numbers were stretched even thinner.
"We need to develop more depth. On offense, with Ronald getting hurt early, we needed more guys to step up outside," Kiffin said.
Travon Patterson added four receptions for 54 yards, while Brandon Carswell had 18 yards on one catch, his first major action since suffering a hamstring injury.
Those circumstances made Barkley's effort all the more impressive, especially with his use of rollouts and bootlegs.
"It's something that we're trying to enhance in his game. The movement, he struggled with it last year, it was not his strength. It's good to see him doing better with that," Kiffin said.
Kiffin was decidedly less enthusiastic about the running game, which averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Only by sheer volume did the Trojans amass yards, finishing with 110 on 49 rushes.
"We just have to learn to block better and run better," he said. "We're stopping our feet to much and looking for big plays."
From his vantage point on the sideline, running backs coach Todd McNair disagreed.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "They all ran hard. They all attacked. I was pleased with the body language I saw. They were fighting, running with the temperament I like."
Allen Bradford was the spark, rushing for 45 yards on seven carries in extremely limited action to give other players reps.
-Defensive end Nick Perry had three sacks and a tackle for loss. Perry did not start, giving way to Wes Horton, and Kiffin liked how the redshirt sophomore bounced back.
"He just hadn't been playing as consistent and we wanted to see him play better. He responded."
-Freshman running back Dillon Baxter rushed for just 15 yards on 11 carries, including a 13-yard loss recovering a bad snap that flew over Mitch Mustain's head.
-Corner T.J. Bryant had the day's only takeaway, intercepting Mustain.
Nick Perry led a strong effort by the defensive line on Saturday.
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