According to media reports from the practice, two of the Trojans’ biggest issues in recent years – tailback and defensive back – are on track to be USC’s strongest units in 2012. The Trojans are also experimenting with replacements for injured end Devon Kennard on the defensive line.
Everybody’s Shuffling – on the defensive line
With Kennard expected to miss most of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn pectoral, speculation about who’d fill in on defensive line was rampant – and the lineup in the first practice was much different than predicted.
Sophomore J.R. Tavai moved from nose tackle to Kennard’s spot at left end, to capitalize on his quickness since he doesn’t have true tackle size. Redshirt freshman Antwaun Woods took first-team reps at nose tackle.
Redshirt freshman Greg Townsend, Jr., one of the possibilities to replace Kennard, backed up Tavai, while JUCO transfer Morgan Breslin came in at right end after senior Wes Horton left with cramps and dehydration. True freshman Leonard Williams, who was thought to be in the mix for playing time at end, was moved to tackle.
Silas Redd looking forward to the Sept. 1 opener at
Former Penn State running back Silas Redd was with the team for practice. Speaking to the media afterwards, he said transferring to USC was a “business decision” and that he’s happy to be a Trojan. He also slipped and said he was excited to start the season against Ohio, PSU’s opening day opponent.
With Redd and returning senior Curtis McNeal, USC has two 1,000 yard rushers on the roster. Back in the spring, it was uncertain who, other than McNeal, the Trojans would be able to count on in 2012; the addition of Redd adds depth and takes the pressure off young, untested backs.
McNeal and Redd are expected to share carries, but the order of reps from the first practice was McNeal, redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan, and Redd. Morgan started the 2011 season but played sparingly as the year went on. Giving him additional carries early in camp gives him more of an opportunity to prove he deserves playing time while easing Redd into a new offense.
Strong Secondary Returns
In the secondary, USC returns All-Conference players in senior safety T.J. McDonald and junior cornerback Nickell Robey. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Brown, who missed much of 2011 with an ankle injury, started the first practice at corner opposite Robey. He and senior safety Jawanza Starling both intercepted Matt Barkley.
Stellar WR Corps Gets Another Star
Also returning from an ankle injury is unanimous first-team All Pac-12 receiver Robert Woods. He reportedly looked very, very sharp; the Orange County Register said the brace on his right ankle was the only hint he’d been injured. Woods, who says he won’t wear the brace during games, told reporters he felt like he was 100%, but coaches wisely held him out of everything but individual drills and punt returns as a precaution, since he hadn’t played since last season.
Highly touted freshman receiver Nelson Agholor, who might have played running back had Redd not transferred to ‘SC, will be at receiver “permanently,” head coach Lane Kiffin announced after practice. The speedy young wideout reportedly looked right at home with Woods and Marqise Lee, and he was the last player to leave the field, more than 25 minutes after practice ended.
On the other end of the spectrum, sophomore receiver George Farmer left practice early with an injury. Farmer was one of the Trojans’ top recruit in 2011 but was overshadowed by Lee, his high school teammate. His short career has been hampered by injuries and lack of playing time, and so far, 2012 hasn’t gotten off to a better start.
The Trojans’ second practice is also at 7:30 p.m. (PDT). On Wednesday and Thursday, practice time will move to 3:15.