USC scrimmage is another showcase for freshmen
USC is not expected to make freshmen available to the media until next week, but several newcomers who were not on campus for spring practice have already spoken pretty loudly in training camp.
Receivers Robert Woods and Markeith Ambles and defensive back Nickell Robey continued their strong showings Saturday during the Trojans’ second scrimmage.
Woods caught two passes for 23 yards and also had long kickoff and punt returns. Perhaps most impressively, he does not seem to be suffering from the information overload that has often set back young receivers.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Woods is wearing No. 13, but Coach Lane Kiffin said the former Gardena Serra High star would inherit No. 2, the number worn by former USC All-American receiver Steve Smith, after running back C.J. Gable completes his eligibility this season.
Ambles had a scrimmage-best five receptions for 83 yards and scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Mustain. At 6 feet 2, the Georgia native is wearing No. 8, which was worn by former All-American Dwayne Jarrett.
“He’s kind of a shorter version of Dwayne as far as making those plays,” Kiffin said.
Robey is challenging to start at cornerback and showed Saturday he could also return punts.
Kiffin said it was “too hard to tell” who was ahead in the competition to start at cornerback opposite Shareece Wright, but redshirt freshman Torin Harris delivered one of the biggest hits of the day when he tackled freshman running back Dillon Baxter.
The rushing attack improved from the week before, senior tailback Allen Bradford gaining 62 yards in nine carries and junior Marc Tyler going for 76 yards and a touchdown in 11 carries.
Last week, Bradford netted minus-five yards in six carries. “I was being more patient today and not always looking for big plays,” he said. “I was following my blocks.”
Mustain had another strong performance, completing 12 of 19 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the reserves.
“He feels very comfortable in the system and we feel very comfortable with him,” Kiffin said.
Mustain has worked only against reserves during scrimmages.
“If it comes, I’ll be excited about it,” Mustain said of getting a chance to go against the starters.
Starter Matt Barkley was nine for 13 for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Devon Kennard played middle linebacker for the first-unit defense and made four tackles.
“I felt like I recognized formations better than I did a month ago or in the spring,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing for me.
Kennard is challenging junior Chris Galippo for the starting spot. Galippo had three tackles.
Kiffin said sophomore Matt Kalil is the starting left tackle. The 6-7, 295-pound Kalil, brother of former Trojans center Ryan Kalil, played Saturday after sitting out the first scrimmage because of a hamstring strain.
“I think he’s going to play football a long time,” Kiffin said.
Senior Joe Houston appears on his way to winning the placekicker job. After struggling in last week’s scrimmage, Houston kicked field goals of 32 and 43 yards and made all three extra-point attempts. . . . Baxter, suspended for the Sept. 2 opener against Hawaii, rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown in seven carries. He also caught three passes, including an 11-yard touchdown from Barkley. Gable gained 31 yards in seven carries. . . . Senior receiver David Ausberry caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Mustain, giving Ausberry three touchdowns in two scrimmages. . . . Walk-on cornerback Spencer Spiegel suffered a concussion. . . . Kiffin said 14 scholarship players did not play because of injuries.