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USC Football: Quick hits from Day One of spring practice

March 22, 2011 |  2:00 pm

Kiffin_640
USC
kicked off Day One of spring football practice Tuesday at 7:25 a.m. It's the first of 15 days of spring practice, which will be held for nearly two hours each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday up until April 23. Because of two days of heavy rain, Tuesday's practice was held on Cromwell Field at Katherine B. Loker Stadium rather than at Howard Jones Field, where the team normally practices.

The team didn't practice in pads and can't, by rule, until the third practice: Here are some tidbits:  

-- Coach Lane Kiffin said 19 players weren't able to practice because of injuries. 

"The scary thing is, we’re 19 short and we just started," he said. "Usually you’re short at the end of spring. Hopefully we don’t add to that list, and possibly get some guys back. But it’s going to have to be something where there’s breaks throughout the scrimmages."

One of those players who is senior linebacker Chris Galippo, who sat out with back spasms, and another is senior running back Marc Tyler, who pulled his hamstring.

Galippo said his spasms weren't serious. "I’m more concerned playing on Saturdays and in the fall than being a spring practice All-American," he said.

It's unclear how long Tyler will be out.  

-- Senior defensive tackle Armond Armstead said he is still waiting on test results from doctors, which he said should arrive April 1, before he's able to determine the nature of the unspecified medical condition that recently caused him to be checked in the hospital. Armstead did say he's feeling well. 

-- Quarterbacks Jesse Scroggins, Matt Barkley and Cody Kessler each threw an interception during drills, but Max Wittek did not. Scroggins, Kessler and Wittek are freshmen competing for the backup spot behind Barkley, a junior. It was hard to distinguish between the three freshmen, but Kessler stood out for the right-hander's lengthy release. Kiffin explained what he's looking for in a backup QB:

"Your backup quarterback is going to be mostly about decision-making and managing the offense," Kiffin said. "You’re not looking for the guy necessarily to have the 400-yard passing game. He’s not going to get a lot of reps during the week in preparation. So you’re going to need a guy who takes the game very seriously, a guy who can go in there anytime and run your whole offense."

Barkley said he has told the others that they need to study the playbook. 

"Throwing the ball and getting used to the speed of the game will come, but if you set your mind to knowing the offense backwards and forwards, it will help them the most," Barkley said. 

-- Redshirt freshman running back D.J. Morgan, who sat out last season after suffering a major knee injury his senior year at Woodland Hills Taft High, looked sharp in drills, cutting well and showing toughness in his running. Morgan will be competing for playing time behind Tyler, the projected starter, with sophomore running back Dillon Baxter.  

Morgan said his right knee is not yet 100% but that it will be there by the start of the season. He also said he's still tentative on it.

"It’s a mental thing," Morgan said. "I’m trying to get used to it, being able to plant on it and make sure it’s secure, but, you know, I’m worried a little bit. But as the season and the spring ball goes on, I think I’ll get more comfortable and be able to plant on it more." 

 -- Freshman kicker Andre Heidari went three-for-three on field goals, including easily nailing one from about 50 yards. 

-- Lastly, the team looked a bit off to start, obviously because it was the first practice but also because of the early practice. Many players arrived in the training room to stretch and be taped at 5:30 a.m. There were meetings at 6 as well.

"It’s something that for the last couple years I wanted to do," Kiffin said, adding that he couldn't do it when he coached at Tennessee because he wasn't there long enough. "Because of class schedules, you basically have to do it a year in advance because of registration, blocking these hours.

"I just wanted to look at it in the spring as a possible move for the fall. Obviously getting your players up early, it starts their day earlier and gets them going. There’s a lot of good things to it."

Said Barkley: "Meetings were a little slow. Guys were a little tired. But they fed us down there, bagels and orange juice. I’m happy how guys responded out here. We’re just getting used to it. Maybe we’ll have more of a feel on Howard Jones and it should be a better tempo in the days to come."

ALSO:

USC addressing key issues as spring practice begins

Rick Neuheisel could learn some things from Ben Howland at UCLA

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Lane Kiffin in 2010. Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

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