Matt Barkley had a few words for his receivers after several dropped passes… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Matt Barkley displayed an even temperament through two seasons as USC's starting quarterback and for more than a year as the face of a program dealing with NCAA sanctions.
So it was unusual to see a more excitable Barkley on Tuesday.
After a series of dropped passes by several receivers during practice, the junior sprinted at least 10 yards to meet redshirt freshman Kyle Prater — and appeared to give him an earful.
Asked if his comments were born of frustration, Barkley chose other adjectives.
"I wouldn't say frustrated," he said. "I would say motivating or spurring on. I mean these guys are here for a reason — to run routes, to catch balls and to block. And if they're not doing one of those things it's my job to make them do that and to help them do that."
With Robert Woods sidelined because of an ankle injury, and Brandon Carswell (quadriceps) and Brice Butler (ankle) also not practicing, USC's younger receivers and tight ends have struggled of late.
Barkley and freshmen quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler each were hurt by multiple drops in Sunday's scrimmage at the Coliseum.
On Tuesday, Prater's miscue came only a few plays after one by tight end Randall Telfer. A few snaps later, a sure touchdown pass skipped off De'Von Flournoy's hands.
"I really feel helpless, just watching it all happen," said Woods, who hopes to return this week.
Coach Lane Kiffin described the dropped passes as "disappointing." But, somewhat surprisingly given his background as a sharp-tongued receivers coach in his first stint at USC, he refrained from criticism.
"Hopefully, we're getting it out of our system now," he said.
Barkley is there to help.
"Just to calm them down [and] get them in the mind-set of, 'You're out here to catch everything,'" he said.
Tailback Curtis McNeal practices
Junior tailback Curtis McNeal practiced but did not participate in contact drills after suffering a right knee bruise Sunday.
McNeal cited the recent outstanding play of sophomore tailback Dillon Baxter and freshman Amir Carlisle as reasons for not sitting out.
"I'm trying to earn the starting position and you can't earn that if you're sitting on the sideline," he said. "I don't want to miss a day."
McNeal was atop the depth chart entering the weekend. He was hurt on his third carry.
"My leg locked up and I had no [sensation] in it," he said. "I thought it was serious but once I got to the sideline I felt fine."
Safety Demetrius Wright, a starter before he suffered a hip injury in the Trojans' first scrimmage, returned to practice. . . . Receiver Markeith Ambles is academically ineligible, Kiffin said. No determination has been made concerning whether he will redshirt or, perhaps, leave the program. . . . Junior Pomee, a freshman tight end from Moreno Valley Rancho Verde High, practiced for the first time. . . . An MRI exam on tailback D.J. Morgan's surgically repaired knee was negative, but he did not practice. . . . Sophomore tight end Christian Thomas had an MRI test on his hip and was awaiting results. . . . The Trojans are scheduled to practice twice Wednesday.