As the second of USC's practices began Friday afternoon, an old rival sat nearly alone in the stands watching.
"I recruited almost all those guys," said Rick Neuheisel.
The former UCLA football coach who was fired in November after a four-year run with a 21-28 record is now working as a co-host on Sirius/XM radio's college sports talk station, capping a cross-country tour of camps to advance his coming weekday talk show with Jack Arute.
Neuheisel has previously reviewed the Trojans at a practice and said he's "very impressed," particularly with the offense directed by Trojans quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley.
"Their biggest issue other than staying healthy because of their depleted numbers is for Matt to stay patient," Neuheisel said. "When I've watched him, he was going deep a lot.
"Who wouldn't want to with the weapons he has? … But it can be like the kid in the candy store. He's seeing Jell-O, pudding and ice cream, but you can't forget about the meat and potatoes.
"It'll be hard not to be tempted to make the big, SportsCenter plays. What got him here, though, is playing in the scheme and letting his receivers run to make the big plays for him.
"I have plenty of personal evidence of the effectiveness of that."
Barkley threw for six touchdowns in USC's 50-0 rout of UCLA two days before Neuheisel was ousted.
Told of Neuheisel's comment, Barkley rejected the idea he's seeking the sensational, high-risk play over being efficient.
"It's not a goal, but that'll happen," Barkley said. "Knowing our playmakers, that will happen."
The one that got away
Who in cardinal and gold did Neuheisel most regret losing in the Southland's recruiting war?
Wide receiver Marqise Lee, the sophomore from Gardena Serra High who caught 73 balls for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
"He would've been such a dynamic figure for us with his die-to-win attitude," Neuheisel said. "I thought we were gaining traction on him. Maybe we weren't."
In his second day of practice since returning from an injury, starting left tackle Aundrey Walker said he has recovered from a separated right shoulder/sprained AC joint and hyperextended thumb.
Walker said he maintained a cardio regimen during the layoff — "I'm in great shape," he said — and seeks to gain 10 pounds before the season starts Sept. 1 against Hawaii.
Walker said he also anticipates the deeper test of Sunday's scrimmage compared with Friday morning's push-ups and the afternoon's practice in pads "to see how my shoulder feels."
USC Coach Lane Kiffin said Walker is "still not full speed," and has "got to have a great two weeks here."
Tailback Curtis McNeal got burned trying to make a double-or-nothing bet after extending the Trojans' wake-up call a few minutes on a 45-yard post-practice field goal by kicker Andre Heidari. "Curtis tried to get night meetings off," Kiffin said, but Heidari was barely wide left on the subsequent 50-yard kick.
Safety T.J. McDonald intercepted a pass from Barkley in the morning practice without pads, but Kiffin said he "didn't think the defense played that well in the afternoon session. We're excited to get to the most attacking day we'll have," Sunday at the Coliseum.
Starting middle linebacker Lamar Dawson (right foot) could return to practice as early as Saturday's 9 a.m. session, a Trojans teammate said.
Cornerback Anthony Brown returned to practice after suffering an undisclosed injury earlier in the week.