warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC Football Spring Notebook - Practice 8

Scott Enyeart |
April 7, 2011 | 12:32 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Receiver Kyle Prater is itching to get on the field and back into pads. (Shotgun Spratling)
Receiver Kyle Prater is itching to get on the field and back into pads. (Shotgun Spratling)
The USC football team conducted it's eighth practice of the spring under cloudy skies Thursday morning at Howard Jones Field.

TYLER RETURNS, AMBLES SITS: Running back Marc Tyler returned to practice fully Thursday. Tyler was expected to only compete in 7-on-7 drills but felt well enough to also take reps during the team portion of practice.

The injury bug still plagues the Trojans, though. Offensive lineman Jeremy Galten suffered a knee injury during practice and will undergo x-rays. Also, wide receiver Markeith Ambles was held out of practice as a result of being late to a weight lifting session earlier in the week.


PRATER READY TO PROVE HIMSELF: One of the biggest names in the 2010 recruiting class was receiver Kyle Prater. Last spring Prater showed great potential but was forced to redshirt in the fall due to injury. Prater is also out this spring with a foot injury, but is chomping at the bit to get back out on the field.

"I want to make a name for myself. I want to do my part," Prater said. "I'm hungry. I'm anxious, man. I haven't played a game since high school. I am wiser, stronger and faster. Now it's all about putting it together out here."

Quarterback Matt Barkley is equally excited to get Prater on the field.

"I expect a lot out of Kyle. I can't wait to get him out here so I can have that big target like Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams that we haven't really had recently," Barkley said.


NUMBERS GAME: USC's lack of depth is no secret. The team has 19 players out this spring with injury and is awaiting the arrival of 24 more in the fall. That's a 43 player increase that the Trojan's desperately need.

"In the championship years you had two full units going after each other. Right now, we're not there," coach Ed Orgeron said. "We feel the recruitment of the class coming in is going to help us build some depth along the line of scrimmage and create some competition we just don't have right now. But it's gonna change."

Robert Woods spent time at cornerback due to depth issues. (Scott Enyeart)
Robert Woods spent time at cornerback due to depth issues. (Scott Enyeart)
NEW LOOK SECONDARY: The defensive backfield ha a new look Thursday. Starting cornerback Tony Burnett was absent from practice due to travel for the USC track & field team. Burnett is competing in the prestigious Texas Relays in Austin.

Taking some reps in his place at corner was wide receiver Robert Woods. Head coach Lane Kiffin noted earlier in spring that he had no intention of using Woods at corner, so it's likely Woods' contribution at the position was merely due to a shortage of depth. Speaking of depth, Kiffin said Demetrius Wright is making a strong push for the safety spot opposite T.J. McDonald.

MONARCHS MAKING MOVES: With Woods playing some defense, Ambles held out for disciplinary reasons and Prater still out with injury, receiver Robbie Boyer was given an increased workload Thursday, and he made the most of it. Boyer, who is Barkley's cousin and former high school teammate at Mater Dei, had a number of receptions (including several catches in traffic) and showed an ability to contribute when called upon.

Another former Monarch, offensive lineman Khaled Holmes, has been working after practice to get snaps in for a potential move from guard to center. Barkley and Holmes spend about 10-15 minutes after practice each day working on snaps.

BLASTS FROM THE PAST: Former quarterback Mark Sanchez, tight end Alex Holmes, receiver Keary Colbert and defensive end Lawrence Jackson were all in attendance at Thursday's practice. Sanchez also attended team meetings and spoke to the squad about the importance of being a student and making the most of their time on campus.

"We all want to play in the NFL," Sanchez said recounting his message to the team. "Just enjoy where you're at. It's a great place."

Athletic Director Pat Haden and University President Max Nikias also visited practice. 

Walk-on Craig McMahon kicks a field goal in practice. (Scott Enyeart)
Walk-on Craig McMahon kicks a field goal in practice. (Scott Enyeart)
A SPECIAL BOND: It's not often a college football team has two kickers on its roster who played high school football in the same city. USC does, though. Kickers Andre Heidari and Craig McMahon both hail from Bakersfield, Calif. and are thriving under the tutelage of special teams coach John Baxter.

"He's definitely lived up to his reputation," Heidari said of Baxter who's widely regarded as the top special teams coach in the game.

"He's an awesome guy to be around, extremely exciting. He makes learning the game fun," McMahon said.

Both players are noticing an improvement in their skills as a result of Baxter's coaching. "We're getting a ton of reps, and we're getting better every day" McMahon said.  

Baxter's enthusiasm clearly rubs off on his players. Heidari, an early enrollee, is eagerly anticipating his first season as a Trojan.

"I can't wait," he said. "When I get in a game it's gonna be a blast."

LOCKOUT WORKOUT: With the NFL currently locked out, Sanchez, Colbert and a handful of other former Trojans, including Tennessee Titans wide receiver Damian Williams, worked out together on Howard Jones Field about an hour after the practice field was vacated. Teams aren't allowed to hold any offseason workouts during the work stoppage, but nothing is stopping the players from keeping their bodies in shape with a little route-running with a couple former college teammates.

WHAT'S AHEAD: USC will resume practice Saturday morning. The Spring Game is scheduled for April 23 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 1:00 p.m. and is open to the public.

Be sure to check out all of Neon Tommy's coverage of 2011 Spring Practice.


Reach Scott Enyeart by email or follow him on Twitter @scottenyeart.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.