USC Coach Lane Kiffin watches over a team practice session in August. The… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
USC is free and clear of its two-year bowl ban, but Trojans practices on campus will remain in NCAA-mandated lockdown throughout two remaining years of probation.
Players' immediate family members, invited guests of USC senior administrators, recruits and media representatives are the only outsiders allowed inside the gates of Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field, keeping what was once a bustling, fan-friendly facility under former coach Pete Carroll a ghost town by comparison.
On Saturday, when the Trojans practice at the Coliseum, USC will open the gates to fans.
"The NCAA allows us to have certain open practices, so we're just trying to take advantage of that," J.K. McKay, a senior associate athletic director, said Thursday. "We clear each one with the NCAA."
McKay said practices at the Coliseum are easy for USC's compliance staff to monitor because fans and visitors are in the stands, not on the sideline.
The opportunity to work out in front of unlimited family and friends gives the Trojans "the chance to be able to be normal," Coach Lane Kiffin said after practice.
"These players have a lot of people that want to come see them — and never get to see them…. It allows all the people these guys are connected to to come."
There might not be a lot to see, given the Trojans' injury woes after eight practices.
Last Saturday, USC was scheduled to scrimmage at the Coliseum. Those plans were scrapped because three tight ends were injured and another absent, two wide receivers were injured and another was competing in a track meet, and fullback Soma Vainuku injured his back during warmups.
Tight end Junior Pomee returned this week after missing three practices because of what Kiffin described as a family situation, but the redshirt freshman on Thursday appeared to reinjure the surgically repaired right foot that caused him to sit out last season.
Vainuku remains sidelined, receiver George Farmer is still nursing a hamstring strain and receiver Marqise Lee leaves today for Austin, Texas, to compete in the long jump in the Texas Relays on Saturday.
Asked whether the Trojans would scrimmage Saturday, Kiffin said, "I don't know."
Regardless, McKay said he would be on high alert after being run over by an official on the sideline last Saturday.
McKay, 59, had his back turned when the official backpedaled into him and sent him sprawling on the turf. "This is why we don't let old guys on the sideline," Athletic Director Pat Haden tweeted. USC also posted the video clip on its website.
"I didn't see the guy coming — he just decked me," McKay said, laughing. "I'm still sore."
Asked if he would be on the sideline Saturday, he said, "Yes, but I'll have my head on a swivel."
Saturday's practice begins at 11 a.m. and admission is free. Parking is $10…. Max Browne, a quarterback from Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., attended practice…. Freshman Scott Starr, a January enrollee from Norco High, is working as the backup middle linebacker behind sophomore Lamar Dawson…. Receiver Victor Blackwell, a redshirt freshman, is getting plenty of first-team opportunities because of Robert Woods' and Farmer's injuries. "It's preparing me for the season," Blackwell said. "The more plays I get, the better I'll be in games."