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Smith Makes Early Strides

August 09, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Several members of USC's heralded recruiting class have made their presence felt through the first three days of training camp, though none has performed as smoothly as wide receiver Steve Smith.

Smith, from Woodland Hills Taft High, is competing to fill the void left by Kareem Kelly, USC's all-time receiving leader.

Lane Kiffin, USC's receivers coach, said Smith "has slid right in" and is far ahead of where record-setting receiver Mike Williams was at the same point last year.

"Mike was more physical and bigger, but as far as being a pure receiver it's not even close," Kiffin said before Friday's afternoon practice. "Mike Williams' first two days, he dropped half the balls because so many things were new for him. Steve Smith hasn't dropped a ball in a team situation yet."

Smith, who sat out part of Friday's workout because of a slight hamstring strain, credits senior flanker Keary Colbert for easing his transition.

"Keary's like my mentor," Smith said. "I stayed with him over summer and we worked out all the time. He's incredible with his routes and everything, so I'm just trying to learn from him."


Redshirt sophomore Billy Hart appears to be the odd man out in the competition to become the starting quarterback.

Matt Leinart -- who received intravenous fluids Thursday night for stomach flu -- and Matt Cassel took almost all of the repetitions during the morning workout. Brandon Hance and John David Booty split repetitions in the afternoon.

"To be honest, I knew going in it might turn out like this," said Hart, who had few opportunities during the first three days. "It's still frustrating when it happens."

Hart, also a member of USC's baseball team, said he is not entertaining thoughts of a position change or transferring.

"I'm not really a defensive-minded guy, I'm too slow to play receiver and too small to play anything else," he said. "I'm a quarterback."


Freshman walk-on Mario Danelo put on one of the most impressive displays of the day when he converted a series of progressively longer field-goal attempts before finally missing a 48-yard try into the wind.

Junior Ryan Killeen, the returning kicker, performed well in the morning workout.

"I'm just trying to give him some competition and get a spot on the team," said Danelo, the son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo. *

Offensive linemen Jacob Rogers (left foot), Travis Watkins (back) and Eric Torres (foot) did not practice.... Among the observers at Trojan workouts has been professional surfer/snowboarder/model Veronica Kay, who appeared on the television show "Boarding House: North Shore." Kay is Leinart's girlfriend.

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