Other than the empty sidelines and three hour practices, one of the biggest changes under new head coach Lane Kiffin has been the emphasis on special teams.
Every coach preaches the importance of winning all three phases of the game, but when it comes down to it special teams is often overlooked on the recruiting trail and during practices. That hasn't been the case since the new coaching staff arrived at USC.
Kiffin's staff is filled with impressive assistant coaches that have had great success in their careers but the most unique one of the bunch is special teams coach John Baxter.
"I think we hired the best guy in the country by going out and getting John Baxter," Lane Kiffin said. "His resume proves that by what he's done."
The 47-year-old assistant is widely regarded as one of the top special teams in the country and has brought great enthusiasm and innovation to special teams, which we first witnessed this spring when he turned a kickoff coverage drill into a game of ‘Survivor Troy.'
As he later explained, getting the players to have fun during drills is a great way to keep them motivated and interested in his message.
"I can already tell the difference in the emphasis and with our players, their response," Kiffin said.
After spending minimal time on special teams work under Pete Carroll, the Trojans now routinely work 30-plus minutes on drills during practice.
With the reduction of scholarships as part of the recent NCAA sanctions, winning the special teams battle will be even more important in the years to come, according to Kiffin.
"I sure think we're going to be really good on special teams, and we're going to need to be as we look at this thing in the long run.
"If we're going to be limited scholarship-wise and we're going to go through these penalties, we're going to have to play great special teams because we're not going to be able to just be better than everybody else."
Havili Held Out of Practice
"Spoke with him this morning. Didn't let Stanley in any of the meetings or walkthroughs this morning, no practice today," Kiffin said. "I continue to be very disappointed in him."
Kiffin said his disappointment stemmed from the fact that Havili's behavior was so out of character.
"I'm so disappointed because it's so unexpected and uncharacteristic," Kiffin said. "Stanley has been a leader on our team."
Kiffin met with T.J. Bryant on Friday morning and said the injured cornerback tried to convince him to allow Havili to practice.
"(T.J.) begged me to let (Havili) come out here and (said) it was between them and there are no hard feelings," Kiffin said. "But we don't condone that behavior."
No word on how long Havili will be held out of practice.
- Matt Kalil (hamstring), DeVon Flournoy (shoulder), Kyle Prater (hip strain), Brandon Carswell (thigh) and T.J. Bryant (cheek surgery) were among the players that didn't take part in Friday's practice.
- Defensive end Armond Armstead returned to the field after missing the first two practices of fall due to dehydration.
- While the three freshmen tight ends (Xavier Grimbles, Christian Thomas and Randall Telfer) have been impressive during the practice, Kiffin said that they will also get a look on the defensive side of the ball during fall camp.
- A lot of hard work on the practice field paid off in a big way this week for USC walk-on center Abe Markowitz.
- Sophomore linebacker Simione Vehikite moved to the offensive side of the ball today and participated at fullback.
"We're kind of experimenting with a couple things today with some younger guys, and we'll continue to do that," Kiffin said.
Defensive end Armond Armstead returned to the practice field on Friday.
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