D.J. Morgan shows USC coaches he can handle heavy lifting

It might have been the quietest 160 yards ever amassed by a USC tailback.

And that suited D.J. Morgan just fine.

Morgan, a redshirt freshman, said Tuesday that he was happy to show coaches he could withstand carrying the ball 24 times during the Trojans’ first scrimmage the night before.

Sophomore Dillon Baxter garnered most of the attention afterward for his solid performance, but it was the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Morgan who started the scrimmage and will continue to push for a starting role in the Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota.

“I showed the coaches I can handle a lot of carries, and if I mess up I can get over it and just keep playing ball,” said Morgan, whose only miscue was a fumble that he recovered. “I showed myself that I can do this and I can handle the pounding.”

It was big step for the former Woodland Hills Taft High star.


Morgan played on the scout team last season while recovering from knee surgery. His performance on Monday was his heaviest work day since October, when coaches gave him an opportunity during a bye-week scrimmage.

“I ended up throwing up after 12 plays,” he recalled. "[On Monday] I probably played 50-plus plays and I was in pretty good shape.”

Poised freshman

A day after passing for three touchdowns, freshman Cody Kessler worked as the No. 2 quarterback.

Kessler also had a regrettable hand in a fourth touchdown during the scrimmage when linebacker Dion Bailey intercepted a pass and returned it to the end zone.

On Tuesday, Kessler said he had been coached to immediately put mistakes behind.

“No one likes to throw picks but at the same time you have to turn around and come right back and just be ready to play like you’re playing the best game of your life,” said Kessler, who was 15 for 18 in the scrimmage.

With redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins sidelined because of a thumb sprain, Kessler could continue to receive the majority of second-team snaps. Scroggins said he injured his throwing hand during the scrimmage but did not have symptoms until Tuesday. He said he was day to day.

On guard

Aundrey Walker, the 6-foot-6, 365-pound freshman from Ohio, moved from right tackle to right guard, where he will be given an opportunity to possibly start.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the coaching staff was not pleased with the play of starting guards Jeremy Galten and John Martinez in the scrimmage. Senior Martin Coleman worked with the first unit at left guard Tuesday.

Walker and Coleman (6-5, 335), combined with center Khaled Holmes (6-4, 310) and tackles Matt Kalil (6-7, 295) and Kevin Graf (6-6, 295) would give the Trojans a line that averages 6-5 1/2 and 320 pounds.

Quick hits

Safety Demetrius Wright was on crutches because of what Kiffin said was a hip pointer. … Middle linebacker Chris Galippo sat out the second half of practice after landing awkwardly on his right shoulder while breaking up a pass play.