Dion Bailey makes big plays to highlight USC’s first scrimmage

A playmaker was revealed when USC scrimmaged for the first time Monday night at the Coliseum.

But, in a bit of a surprise, he did not come from the tailback or receiver corps.

Dion Bailey, a redshirt freshman who moved from safety to linebacker last spring, intercepted passes on two consecutive snaps and returned the second one for a touchdown to highlight the 122-play scrimmage.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Bailey dived to grab a tipped pass thrown by quarterback Matt Barkley.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, the former Lakewood High star picked off a pass thrown by freshman quarterback Cody Kessler and dashed 25 yards to the end zone.

For the most part, it was an encouraging night for a first-unit defense that appeared faster and tackled better than last season’s much-maligned unit.

But Coach Lane Kiffin said it was a “very up and down” performance overall.

“What you saw probably, in general, is what usually happens,” Kiffin said. “Unfortunately, you get a lot of hyped freshmen that come in here, they’re excited for their first time in here coming down the tunnel and they can’t line up.


“That’s why it’s so important to have these games like this because we need some of these guys to play for us.”

None of the tailbacks competing to start the Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota completely separated himself from the others, but Dillon Baxter made strides.

The sophomore caught a touchdown pass from Kessler, rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown in 12 carriers and ran with assertiveness.

Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan broke loose several times and finished with 160 yards in 24 carries.

Junior Curtis McNeal gained 42 yards in seven carries and freshman Amir Carlisle, who had shined during the first days of training camp, gained 82 yards and scored a touchdown in 10 carries.

Barkley completed 10 of 20 passes for 82 yards in the first half and led a touchdown drive against the first-unit defense, capping the march with an 18-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Brandon Carswell.

Other than the interception, Kessler looked sharp, handling pressure and calmly completing several tough throws. He finished 15 of 18 for 187 yards and three touchdowns, including one for 25 yards to freshman receiver Marqise Lee.

Jesse Scroggins did not play the first half, but came on to complete four of 14 passes for 41 yards, including a 30-yard strike to freshman receiver George Farmer.

Freshman Max Wittek completed four of six passes for 49 yards.

Quick hits

Safety Demetrius Wright was assisted off the field because of a hip pointer…. The starting offensive line was left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Jeremy Galten, center Khaled Holmes, right guard John Martinez and right tackle Kevin Graf…. Cornerbacks Torin Harris (concussion) and Brian Baucham (hamstring) were in uniform, but neither participated....The Trojans, who will wear black socks this season for home games, were sporting white pants with cardinal stripes during the scrimmage. A school spokesman said the pants would not supplant the Trojans’ gold pants with cardinal stripes.... Stanchions have been installed on the rim of the west end of the Coliseum for the video board that USC officials have said will be installed during the season.... The Trojans will have a single practice Tuesday and their first double day on Wednesday. USC’s only other scheduled double day is Aug. 17.