Highlights at USC scrimmage not on the field
Hundreds of fans and more than a dozen recruits at the Coliseum on Saturday saw USC players making spectacular touchdown catches, game-breaking runs and momentum-turning defensive plays.
It was quite a show.
Unfortunately, the highlights were from last season and seasons past, and they appeared on the stadium's giant video board accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack.
Meantime, down on the field, the short-handed Trojans completed their third week of spring practice by going through a workout that featured a mostly pedestrian scrimmage period.
With no scholarship tight ends or fullbacks available, quarterback Matt Barkley sitting out to avoid injury and only one healthy scholarship receiver by the end of the scrimmage, the offense mostly struggled. Coach Lane Kiffin, anticipating the outcome, turned play-calling duties over to assistants Clay Helton and Kennedy Polamalu. Barkley also called a series.
"I had a feeling what the stats would be like," Kiffin quipped, "so I didn't want those on my resume."
The Trojans ran nine series and produced two touchdowns. A short run by starting tailback Curtis McNeal completed an abbreviated drive against the first-team defense and a short run by tailback Tre Madden capped a short drive against the second team.
Quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler alternated series, Wittek working mainly with the first-team offense against the starting defense. Kessler played mostly with the second-team offense against the second-team defense.
Kiffin, however, said the redshirt freshmen remain even in their competition to win the backup role. Third-year sophomore Jesse Scroggins remains sidelined because of a hip injury.
"I'd be very comfortable with both of them," Kiffin said of Wittek and Kessler. "I think they're doing a great job. Neither of them has gone beyond the other one to know who the No. 2 is yet."
With six workouts remaining, Kiffin said he was seeking continued individual development.
"I just want to stay consistent, keep making good decisions and just keep putting the ball where my receivers can make a play," Wittek said.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Sophomore Aundrey Walker completed his second week at left tackle and Kiffin gave no indication that Walker would switch back to the right side. Junior Kevin Graf has been playing on the right side after starting spring practice on the left.
"Aundrey struggles at times," Kiffin said. "He's not been a left-side player so it's going to take a little bit of time."
Receiver Marqise Lee finished 10th in the long jump at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, with a leap of 24 feet 1 inch. ... Receiver Victor Blackwell was sidelined after suffering hand and knee injuries, but Kiffin said neither was serious. ... Wes Horton and Devon Kennard are the starting defensive ends, but no player has emerged as a frontrunner to play as the third end in a rotation, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said. ... Fullback Soma Vainuku could return Tuesday when the Trojans resume practice, Kiffin said.