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Spring football is fine, but it's all about the fall for USC

Scrimmage isn't particularly exciting. However, there are no more major injuries and Lane Kiffin gets some answers.

April 14, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley completed 23 of 39 passes, including a short touchdown to receiver Marqise Lee against the second-team defense, during Saturday's end-of-spring scrimmage.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley completed 23 of 39 passes, including a short… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Fans rushed onto the Coliseum field after USC's end-of-spring scrimmage Saturday, lining up about 50 yards deep for quarterback Matt Barkley's signature during an autograph session.

Neither Barkley nor the Trojans had been particularly scintillating during the 91-play, no-tackling exhibition. But that didn't deter USC faithful from wanting to share a few moments with Barkley, Coach Lane Kiffin and the rest of the players.

USC's spring, marked more by injuries than revelations, is not expected to deter media outlets from ranking the Trojans among the contenders for a national title when training camp opens in August.

Not that Barkley is impressed by preseason punditry.

"All that stuff," he said, referring to polls, "is just such bogusness."

Barkley, who took limited snaps during spring to avoid injury, completed 23 of 39 passes Saturday, including a short touchdown to receiver Marqise Lee against the second-team defense. Barkley had one pass intercepted and two others nearly picked off.

But he came away encouraged about the Trojans.

"I thought it was good way to finish spring ball and send us off on a good note into summer," he said.

Kiffin was simply relieved that his team emerged without another season-ending injury.

Tailback Tre Madden suffered a torn knee ligament two weeks ago, a major blow for a team lacking depth at that position. The Trojans also are dealing with uncertainty surrounding All-American receiver Robert Woods' slower-than-expected recovery from ankle surgery, and a hamstring strain that slowed the development of receiver George Farmer.

The Trojans, however, finished their 15 spring workouts with a few answers.

Sophomore Aundrey Walker began practice at right tackle but was switched to the left side after a week and is the front-runner to protect Barkley's blind side in the fall.

"I want it to be my spot," Walker said, "and I'll put in the work."

With Woods sidelined and Farmer limited, fourth-year junior receiver De'Von Flournoy emerged as the surprise of spring, Kiffin said. Cornerback Isiah Wiley seemed to cement his status as a starting cornerback and Brian Baucham, academically ineligible last season, reestablished himself as a possible contributor in the cornerback rotation. He intercepted a Barkley pass, but also drew the ire of coaches when he hit Lee as the receiver was going out of bounds.

Tailback D.J. Morgan, who scored on a 47-yard run Saturday, showed an improved burst throughout the spring and also avoided fumbling.

Kiffin said no decision had been made regarding Barkley's backup, though he said redshirt freshman Max Wittek "has grown in our offense and is very different than he was a year ago." Wittek and redshirt freshman Cody Kessler each had their moments Saturday, but both also were erratic, especially during a windy first half. Third-year sophomore Jesse Scroggins, sidelined the entire spring because of a hip impingement, returned to play one second-half series.

The Trojans are still searching for a third defensive end to rotate with Wes Horton and Devon Kennard. And one defensive tackle spot appears to remain open.

"We're just trying to get the chemistry together so we'll be ready for the season," linebacker Dion Bailey said of the defense.

Quick hits

Kiffin is scheduled to release a depth chart Monday…. Kessler completed three of six passes, including a 44-yard touchdown to fullback Soma Vainuku, and had a pass intercepted by safety Drew McAllister. Wittek completed three of seven, Scroggins one of two…. Andre Heidari kicked field goals of 28 and 47 yards…. USC auditioned several public-address announcers during the scrimmage…. Lee said he would return to track practice Monday with a goal of long-jumping 25 feet and helping the Trojans defeat UCLA in the annual meet between the rivals.

gary.klein@latimes.com twitter.com/latimesklein

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