Lane Kiffin in search of physical balance

Health, or lack thereof, was a major concern for USC during spring practice.

By the time they reached the spring game in April, the Trojans couldn’t do any hitting and barely had enough players to participate. Former offensive lineman Jeremy Galten was even brought back to play tight end.

During that game, 20 players, including 16 on scholarship, were out due to various injuries.

“It wasn’t like we were holding guys so they wouldn’t get hurt,” USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. “There were 20 guys that could not play.”

As tough as that was to handle, Kiffin is very optimistic about his team’s health heading into the fall.

Despite so many players being hurt during the spring, only one, wide receiver George Farmer who tore his ACL during spring drills, is expected to be sidelined for the 2013 season. He expects the team to be at or near full strength when fall camp opens in August. 

“There was a bunch of smaller surgeries that came out of spring,” Kiffin said. “Those guys will be back even before (the start of fall camp).

“I think we’re on schedule now to have everybody back in some participation level by then.”

The rash of injuries was due, in part, to Kiffin’s decision to make the spring a lot more physical than those of the past. The Trojans were reluctant to be physical in practices last season for fear of losing players to injury. This spring he saw firsthand what the effects of that could be.

Tight ends Randall Telfer (knee) and Xavier Grimble (chest) were both out with injuries during the spring, which prompted Galten’s appearance in the spring game.

Telfer along with running back Silas Redd and safety Su’a Cravens underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Kiffin has the unenviable task of trying to determine how physical his team can be during practice when they reconvene to prepare for the 2013 season. 

“I don’t know that we know that answer exactly right now,” Kiffin said. “We’ll kind of figure that out as it goes through. We obviously want to do more tackling than we did a year ago. Being a year ago really not doing any because of the scholarship limitations, but also being smart as well too, because eventually you lose enough guys like we did in the spring you wouldn’t be able to play a game.

“Obviously, once you start knocking those types of numbers off of a team already under NCAA sanctions, you’re going to have a lot of issues so we’re just going to have to really monitor it and find the right mesh.”

Kiffin can only help “the right mesh” leads to a healthy squad taking the field for the season opener at Hawaii on Aug. 29 and beyond.