It was a controlled scrimmage and the would-be tacklers were members of the scout team.
So USC coaches took the opportunity to get their first real look at freshmen Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith as kick returners Monday night at the Coliseum.
The results were promising.
Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown and Smith returned a kickoff to the end zone.
Neither faced a special teams unit with the intensity Fresno State will bring to the stadium Aug. 30. And the pressure of playing for the first time in front of a large Trojans crowd was missing.
That did not stop players and coaches from praising the freshmen.
"When you have guys as young as they are making plays like that it's really exciting to see," quarterback Cody Kessler said. "Especially when, hopefully, at the end both of them will play on offense."
Smith, 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, has played receiver throughout training camp.
The 5-11, 185-pound Jackson has mainly played on defense, but took reps as a receiver before suffering a foot injury that sidelined him for nearly a week.
He returned to drills Saturday and got extensive reps at cornerback Monday night. Jackson was flagged for two penalties.
"He's got some great tools and he's a real sharp, he's very smart," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "So he'll pick it up and he can do some things that can really help us."
The offense ran about 100 plays, Coach Steve Sarkisian said, and appeared to operate more cohesively than during last week's scrimmage.
"I thought we made huge strides," said Kessler, who connected with tight end Randall Telfer for a long gain and directed a few scoring drives.
The first-team defense also improved.
"There weren't the busts with the guy running free down the field," Wilcox said.
Sarkisian hopes the Trojans emerged unscathed.
Offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers, who has been working as the first-team right guard, suffered a knee injury.
"We are going to check on the knee and see where we are," Sarkisian said.
The Trojans have already lost two players to season-ending knee injuries. Defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow was injured during a players-only summer workout. Linebacker Jabari Ruffin was injured early in training camp.
Freshman Damien Mama worked in Rodgers' spot.
Getting in line
Defensive lineman Antwaun Woods, who has been sidelined because of an elbow injury, returned and played a limited number of snaps.
"The plan was just to go every three, just to see how I feel and be smart," he said. "I felt great."
Woods said he was 99% and would be 100% by the opener.
Leonard Williams was held out as a precaution so he would not aggravate shoulder issues.
Both are expected to be available for the opener.
Senior Aundrey Walker, who has started 18 games at tackle and guard, played right tackle for the first time during training camp. Walker has been slow to recover from ankle surgery but Sarkisian has praised his play the last few days. "We probably have more depth along the offensive line than we get credit for," Sarkisian said. ... The Trojans moved out of the campus dorm that housed them during training camp. There is no practice Tuesday.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times