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Defense dominates in USC's Saturday scrimmage

The offense's only touchdown came on the final play of the 73-play scrimmage. The Trojans conclude spring practice next Saturday in front of fans at the Coliseum.

April 16, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC linebacker Dallas Kelley works out during a spring football practice last month.
USC linebacker Dallas Kelley works out during a spring football practice… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

The good news for USC coming out of Saturday's scrimmage at the Coliseum:

The defense dominated.

The bad news?

The defense dominated.

Remember, this is an injury-depleted unit coming off a season that featured multiple breakdowns. It's a defense missing three projected starting linebackers and at least one projected starting lineman.

Still, after reaching the end zone a few times during short-yardage drills, the offense's only touchdown came on the final play of the 73-play scrimmage.

The defensive line was stout, linebackers Hayes Pullard and Dallas Kelley stepped up and safety T.J. McDonald intimidated receivers into several drops.

"This is the best defensive day we've had in awhile," McDonald said. "Everyone was hungry to make a play."

Coach Lane Kiffin was pleased with the defensive performance, less so with the offense. So he is not sure what to expect when USC concludes spring practice next Saturday in front of Trojans fans at the Coliseum.

"When you score a lot, it isn't necessarily good," he said of intrasquad scrimmages. "When you don't score, it isn't necessarily bad. It will be interesting to see."

The usually blunt Kiffin declined to name names, but said "a lot" of freshmen did not perform well in their second spring appearance at the Coliseum, especially on offense. The offense was called for seven penalties, several because of misalignments.

Tailback D.J. Morgan made some impressive runs but called himself out afterward, the redshirt freshman saying he was sluggish after taking a painkiller for knee soreness Saturday morning. Morgan's five-yard touchdown run ended the scrimmage.

"My body was just feeling weird," said Morgan, who rushed for 51 yards in 14 carries. "I had a lot of opportunities and didn't take advantage of them as I should."

Quarterback review

Quarterback Matt Barkley completed 17 of 28 passes for 154 yards.

"He got a little bit frustrated because we couldn't move the ball," Kiffin said. "I didn't think he forced the ball. We didn't help him very much."

Redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins started well, taking over near the goal line and completing several passes to move the offense toward midfield. But Kelley, a transfer from Chaffey College, intercepted a pass to end the drive. Scroggins was four of five for 48 yards.

Freshmen Cody Kessler (three of four for six yards) and Max Wittek (one of four for 33 yards) had limited opportunities.

Quick hits

Robert Woods caught eight passes for 71 yards…. Linebackers Marquis Simmons and Will Andrew each had six tackles…. Tight end Rhett Ellison was sidelined because of ankle soreness, Kiffin said…. Former USC and NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson addressed the team after the scrimmage…. Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Ryan Kalil, a former USC player who is the brother of left tackle Matt Kalil, also attended the scrimmage…. The Trojans will practice Tuesday and Thursday and then scrimmage at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum. Admission for the scrimmage is $10.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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