With limited numbers on the offensive line, the USC spring game Saturday will feature an offense-versus-defense format out of sheer necessity.
"We don't have an option," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said. "We can't do ones versus twos.
"We have no twos on the offensive line."
In addition to a modified scoring system, the Trojans will also give extended rests to its front five.
"We'll have to take long quarter breaks and a long halftime break in order to get our seven or eight offensive linemen through the game," Kiffin said. "People say you only play five sometimes in a normal game, but they go and sit out when the defense goes on the field. That won't be the case."
It will also feature field goal and extra point kicking, but not against a live rush. That will be the extent of special teams work, as there will not be any punt or kicking returns.
With four linebackers challenging for three starting spots, Kiffin is interested to see how the backups perform in the Coliseum.
"We're going to play them a lot and see if anybody can step up outside the four guys we feel good about right now," he said.
And while some regard the spring game as nothing but a glorified exhibition, Kiffin said it really does matter.
"It's critical to see when you get them in a game environment," he said. "Do guys change? Some guys start to play better; some guys start to make more mental mistakes. We'll take all that into account."
With work at Howard Jones Field completed, coaches and players took stock of the first spring under the new regime.
Quarterback Matt Barkley has been nothing short of remarkable in scrimmage settings, taking to changes in the offense and benefiting from improved physical fitness.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with the playbook, knowing where to go with the ball and leadership-wise, I feel a lot more comfortable with being vocal and speaking up," he said. "Not just with the experience from last season but also just how I'm playing right now and competing."
Kiffin also singled out defensive end Armond Armstead and wide receiver Ronald Johnson as standout performers through 14 practices.
"(Those) would be the guys that jumped right out to us as guys that will be front-line guys, potential dominant players," he said.
Tight end Jordan Cameron was a major surprise, consistently making plays in the passing game.
"He's had a great spring. We were talking in our meeting today, maybe one of the two or three most improved guys," Kiffin said.
Available numbers proved to be an issue in the spring. While nine defensive linemen proved capable of contributing, other areas like linebacker, offensive line and receivers were paper-thin.
"I didn't know our defensive line was potentially this good. I didn't know we had this many depth issues at some other positions. We found out some good and some bad," Kiffin said.
While the line projects to be stronger with Butch Lewis (hamstring) and Zack Heberer (ankle) available and two incoming recruits in the mix, including highly regarded Seantrel Henderson, it might not be that simple.
"There's no free agency. We can't trade. I don't know what to do about it," Kiffin said.
-Wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, Johnson (elbow) practiced in full, taking advantage of the no-pads session Thursday. Johnson will not participate in the spring game.
-Defensive end Nick Perry returned to practice after injuring his left knee Tuesday.
-Running back Marc Tyler (toe) should be available Saturday.
-Kiffin had no new information regarding linebacker Jordan Campbell, who has not practiced this week.
"We're still looking into the incident," Kiffin said. "Everything we've been told is that he didn't do anything. But we want to be very cautious about that and make sure because of the zero tolerance policy that he's on."
-Kiffin will unveil his first depth chart Friday during his end of spring press conference.
Lane Kiffin singled out Armond Armstead as a standout performer this spring.
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