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March 27, 2008With two more practices scheduled over the next three days, Thursday's session was shorted slightly but still proved to be an energetic workout for the Trojans.
Below: USC head coach Pete Carroll is pleased with the productive nature of his practices so far and shares his thoughts on several of his more competitive position groups.
Day two from Howard Jones Field had a summer feel to it, with bright sunshine, clear skies and warm temperatures. No pads were added to the equation yet, but that didn't stop the players from flying around the field, competing and utilizing the opportunity to impress the coaches.
"Everything from start to finish was just hyped up," Carroll said after practice. "We adjusted a little bit because we are coming back-to-back days here so we were a bit shorter today. The temp was beautiful and the intensity and fun out here was there. I can't wait to go up and see the film right now."
After a crazy first practice, the media scrutiny of the quarterbacks settled down a bit on Thursday and Carroll felt his signal callers were coming along fine.
"These first three days can be difficult for them, there is a lot of installation going on and then it really slows down," Carroll said about the quarterbacks. "They have to make it through the first week and come out by Thursday next week feeling pretty good about what is going on. We have to get a lot of stuff in there so we can be prepared for all the situations we go through over the next couple of weeks and they are handling it."
One of the more popular players on the team is tailback Allen Bradford. He almost always looks great in practice, either running the ball, catching passes out of the backfield, or as a gunner on the punt team.
"He really does look good," Carroll said. "He looks very fast, he is catching the ball well, he had a great off-season and he is really determined to make a statement here in this spring camp. He has been talking about it since the end of the season and he is backing it up with the way he is working."
Another tailback that has garnered attention is C.J. Gable. Returning from a groin injury, Gable is the most versatile back on the team and should be a factor despite the deep depth chart.
"He looks great, he looks full speed.," Carroll said about Gable. "He had a great off-season, he is fully back. Physically he is and mentally he is right about it too. He has always been a really well-rounded player and he is probably the guy that is best equipped for everything we are doing right now. "
With Averell Spicer out of action, much more attention has fallen on true sophomore Christian Tupou at the nose guard position.
"He has done well, he has done really well," Carroll commented about Tupou. "We love the way the guy plays. He is just the most complete effort guy that you could hope for, he chases the ball and gives you everything he's got."
Tupou still has a lot to learn about the position, but the countless reps he will acquire this spring will be a tremendous help for the guy his teammates like to call the "Wild Man."
Another budding young star that will see plenty of opportunities this spring is linebacker Malcolm Smith. Smith had a tremendous interception and return during Thursday's practice and also tipped a pass that was intercepted.
"Coming off of last season our expectations are really high for him," Carroll said about Smith. "He is really an instinctive kid and we know he is a great all-around athlete. He has to grow into the position being one of the smaller kids we have, but he really has some special aspects to the way he plays.
"I thought last year he was the most instinctive guy we had as a freshman. "
Competing with Smith for playing time at the weakside linebacker spot this spring is big Luthur Brown.
"We didn't realize it until the end of the season that Luthur accumulated a lot of really good plays," Carroll shared. "After making our off-season evaluations, he really deserved a shot at one of those starting spots.
"He is very physical and a really fun guy to play with because he has such a great energy about him. He is learning the Will spot while Kaluka (Maiava) is down and he and Malcolm and Jordan (Campbell) are battling it out for that spot."
The cornerbacks are thin, but thus far this group has been giving the receivers all they can handle in practice. Carroll says that competition is wide open and will only improve when the incoming freshmen arrive this summer.
"We thought a lot of Kevin Thomas before and he has come back, looking good and looking healthy. This is going to be a really good spot but we will need some help from the freshmen.
"We are hoping T.J. Bryant will come in and do something for us and we are going to give him a great shot to see where he fits in. He will be a little bit ahead of Brian Baucham, a guy who played mostly on offense while T.J. has been a corner all his life."
This group will get another boost when Josh Pinkard is able to compete.
"Right now Josh Pinkard isn't out here doing stuff, but when Josh gets into the mix he has played tremendously for us at corner."
Pinkard will slowly work his way into practice, participating in some 7-on-7 exercises in the next couple of weeks, but mostly steering clear of full speed competitive drills for now.
Sights and sounds from practice:
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You can reach Ryan Abraham at firstname.lastname@example.org