USC football fans can get a sneak preview of their 2012 Trojans at this Saturday’s scrimmage. Unlike most practices in the post-Pete Carroll era, the scrimmage, at 11 a.m. at the Coliseum, will be open to the public. Admission is free and parking is $10.
While fans will get to see some of the Trojans’ up-and-coming impact players live for the first time, the team’s biggest stars probably won’t be making headlines.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley has played sparingly this spring, giving backups Cody Kessler and Max Wittek more chances to battle for the number two spot, a competition that’s still too close to call. Kessler has yet to throw an interception in spring camp (jinx, so watch for one on Saturday), while Wittek opened last Saturday’s scrimmage, and Tuesday’s practice, with picks.
The backup QBs won’t have the luxury of throwing to the Trojans’ top receivers again this week. Junior Robert Woods is out for spring as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery, and sophomore standout Marqise Lee will be spending his Saturday with the Trojans’ track and field team for the second weekend in a row.
Last weekend, Lee missed the scrimmage to compete in the Trojan Invitational and came away with a win in the long jump. He’ll be in Texas this weekend to compete with the track team in the Texas Relays.
With the top two receivers out of the lineup, the spotlight will be on the competition for the number 3 receiver spot. Sophomore George Farmer is still hampered by a hamstring injury, putting the focus on redshirt junior De’Von Flournoy and sophomore Victor Blackwell. Flournoy had strong practices over the past week and says he feels better conditioned and more comfortable in the offense this year; he could make a convincing argument for the job this weekend.
One of the most exciting positions to watch this weekend is running back, because it remains such an unknown entity. Senior Curtis McNeal and redshirt junior D.J. Morgan are the only two backs on the roster with significant experience (though McNeal’s certainly outpaces Morgan’s).
Sophomore Tre Madden has been the talk of camp since switching from linebacker to tailback. He’s big and fast, and has stepped into the role smoothly thus far. After last week’s scrimmage, Madden admitted that it was different being on the offensive side of the ball, but that knowing the defensive schemes as well as he does has helped him transition. He’s fumbled a few times since making the switch, something he’ll need to fix soon to avoid Kiffin’s doghouse (just ask D.J. Morgan), and he acknowledges that he’s still learning the mechanics of protecting the quarterback on passing plays.
Madden’s not the only one adjusting to a new position on offense. At the beginning of last week, Aundrey Walker and Kevin Graf swapped spots, with Walker moving from right tackle to left tackle, and Graf moving from left to right. Either the experiment’s working, or the coaches haven’t seen enough to tell, because Walker remains at left tackle and Graf is at right for the second straight week.
Another carry-over from last week is the lack of depth at the tight end position. Redshirt sophomore Christian Thomas was scheduled to be out all spring following offseason surgery, and sophomore Xavier Grimble is still struggling with turf toe. USC briefly got Junior Pomee back after he missed time due to a death in the family, but he left Thursday’s practice with a foot injury. Randall Telfer, who’d been the lone scholarship tight end for most of spring, also went out with a hamstring injury earlier this week.
Others who may miss Saturday’s scrimmage due to injury include fullback Soma Vainuku (back), tailback Buck Allen (hamstring), center Khaled Holmes, and cornerback Ryan Henderson.