Trojans get ready for second ‘preseason’ game

LOS ANGELES — If you ask Lane Kiffin, it’s preseason game number two.

The Trojans will hit the Coliseum field on Sunday afternoon for their second “preseason” contest of fall camp.

Breaking down fall camp into such increments is something Kiffin has done since he took over as USC’s head coach.

“It’s really kind of an NFL format to get them used to that –the buildup of the games and playing guys a little more as the games go, similar to the NFL,” Kiffin said. “I think it’s good for the guys and gives them a picture of where they’re going, where their progress is.”  

The Trojans head coach believes he’ll have a clearer picture of where certain players stand following Sunday’s scrimmage. There are plenty of position battles that are still being sorted out.

Some battles of note are at safety where Jawanza Starling and Demetrius Wright are locked in a battle. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams is beginning to push Antwaun Woods at defensive tackle.

On the offensive side of the ball, Kiffin says Cody Kessler and Max Wittek continue to be even for No. 2 quarterback job.

The last time the Trojans were in the Coliseum, ball handling was an issue. The Offense turned the ball over three times –two lost fumbles and an interception. Kiffin is hoping to clean those things up. The head coach says he’ll also be interested in the play of the defensive line, how well the defense tackles, and how well the young guys execute.

This week alone, the Trojans have had five members of their first team front seven miss practice time due to an injury, including both defensive ends (Not counting Devon Kennard who may miss the entire season). Kiffin says tackling has been a “major issue” for his team at the start of the season since taking over at USC. The reason being the Trojans have done very minimal hitting in fall camp. During the first two weeks, they’ve spent the majority of practice time in shoulder pads and shorts.

During Sunday’s second “preseason” game, they’ll once again be in full pads in a game like atmosphere that’s geared to help the players, especially the younger ones, focus more on their assignments.

“It’s a good way, especially for the young guys to get reps in a game like situation,” said quarterback Matt Barkley. “I think, more importantly, to try to just get rid of all the little things that are holding us back like lining up in the right place or all of the shifts and motions that we are doing.”

It is not known how much time Barkley will see in the scrimmage or new running back Silas Redd. Kiffin says the divvying up of the reps is still to be determined.

In the first scrimmage, Redd rushed the ball just twice, but did break off a 43 yard run. He says he’s a lot more comfortable heading into this scrimmage than he was in his first with the Trojans.

 “I feel much better about the offense. (Offensive coordinator/running backs) Coach (Kennedy Polamalu) and Curtis (McNeal) and Max Wittek and Matt (Barkley) have been doing a great job with getting me acclimated and helping me with the concepts,” Redd said. “Whatever I get thrown into, I’m ready for.”  

Sunday is the last scheduled practice at the Coliseum before the Sept. 1 season opener against Hawaii. The scrimmage will be closed to the public.