April 2, 2009

Practice Insider: Lots of talking, tons of hits

After Thursday's practice, the USC football team's third of the spring, safety Will Harris sprawled out on the Howard Jones grass with sweat rolling down his cheeks.

Underneath the dripping, Harris was all smiles.

The Trojans wore pads meaning the Trojans could hit, and that's what Harris is all about.

"Being in pads is my things. I love it dude," he said. "I swear on days like today, I think God put me on Earth to play football. My favorite thing to do is hit. I love it."

Harris and the rest of the team took turns unloading on one another throughout the practice, sending the crowd into frenzy and giving the players plenty to talk about.

"We've been waiting all the way back since January. The first day of pads, there's always a build up," Luthur Brown said. "It's been building since we started to run with the coaches. On the first day of pads, you get to back up everything you've been saying.

"If you were talking noise and you wanted to back it up, today was the day."

And Harris has been talking. Nearly everyone has, but Harris has maybe barked the loudest leading up to Wednesday.

"Everyone can hear Will talk," Brown said. "I think they hear him talking all the way at UCLA."

The mounds of built up aggression first surfaced in one-on-one blocking drills, where running backs tired to stick the USC linebackers. But it wasn't until the nine-on-seven running period where things really got hyped.

With players barking at one another from the start, Malcolm Smith made the first big hit of the spring, popping C.J. Gable at the line of scrimmage, causing the defense to start howling.

"It was intense, huh. The running backs have been yapping a little bit. C.J. tried to surprise me, but I think I ended up surprising him. There was a lot of talking in the locker room before practice. That got me riled up."

USC head coach Pete Carroll said he didn't have to remind players he wanted to see them let some aggression go on the field. Thursday, he just stayed out of the way.

"It was fun. I can't wait to see the film. I didn't have to do anything; I didn't have to say anything. They just went for it. I just kind of sat back and had fun watching," Carroll said. "This is an energetic group. They've got a lot of spunk, and they're fired up about playing football. It's week one, day three of spring and we're lighting it up and having a blast out here."

Harris, though, was quiet during the drill - going hitless.

"I wanted a piece of that so bad," he said. "It hurt me so bad not to get one then."

But before the day would end, Harris unloaded on tight end Rhett Ellison, sending the big man to the turf with a thud.

"That first hit felt good. I wanted to get one in nine-on-seven where everyone was trash talking. It felt like everybody got one then. It had to be fair game I guess," Harris said. "I waited. When I first got mine, it reminded me of the season.

"It felt like I was back."

Corp's ahead

Carroll admitted that Aaron Corp entered camp as the slight leader in the quarterback race, and through three practices, nothing has changed.

"He's sending off the message that he's very comfortable right now. He's doing a nice job," Carroll said.

Corp hasn't really looked to get the ball downfield, but Thursday, he did make some very big plays with his feet.

"You guys have been around. You know how much I covet that aspect of an offense. It makes it hard on you. Today was a really good example," Carroll said. "Two or three times he took off at the right time in the right situations and made first downs.

"Our guys have never really taken off. They've always been very pocket-orientated."

Still, don't look for Corp to be doing zone reads or anything too wild. Carroll would prefer to let him be an instinctive runner.

"I don't want to make it be where Aaron's going to be this big runner, but he's really quick and he's really resourceful. He just looks very comfortable."

Thursday's throws

Seven-on-seven drills

Matt Barkley
- Complete to Joe McKnight, checkdown.
- Incomplete to Brice Butler, thrown into triple coverage.
- Intercepted by Malcolm Smith, intended for Anthony McCoy.
- Incomplete to Michael Reardon, dropped.
- Complete to Damian Williams on deep out.

- Complete to Ellison for medium gain.
- Incomplete to Williams, dropped.
- Incomplete to Reardon.
- Complete to Marc Tyler on checkdown.
- Complete to Curtis McNeal on checkdown.

Mitch Mustain
- Complete to Gable underneath.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson, slipped.
- Complete to Travon Patterson on sideline.
- Incomplete to D.J. Shoemate, dropped.
- Complete to David Ausberry over the middle.

11-on-11 drills

- Complete to Ausberry for medium gain.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson on slant.
- Complete to Ellison short.

- Complete to Shoemate in the flat.
- Complete to Gable on checkdown.
- Scramble for good yardage.

- Complete to Butler for nice gain.
- Complete to Cooper Stephenson on sideline.
- Complete to Butler over the middle.

- Complete to Brandon Carswell, medium gain.
- Sacked by Averell Spicer.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson deep in one-on-one coverage.
- Handoff to Gable.

- Complete to Tyler on check down.
- Handoff to Gable.
- Incomplete, deflected at line by Wes Horton.

- Complete to Williams deep.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson on rollout.
- Incomplete deep, poor throw, nearly intercepted.
- Handoff to Gable.

- Complete to Shoemate in the flat.
- Complete to Adam Goodman in the flat.
- Handoff to Gable.
- Complete to Ausberry for first down.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson.
- Sacked by Armond Armstead.
- Handoff to Gable for first down.
- Complete to Travon Patterson.
- Complete to Stephenson on rollout, first down.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Incomplete, deflected by Brown.
- Incomplete, deflected by T.J. Bryant.

- Sacked by Wes Horton.
- Complete to Jordan Cameron on the sideline.
- Scrambles for first down.
- Sacked by Daniel Harper.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Scrambles for first down.
- Fumbled snap, defense recovers.

Extra Points

• The learning process for Barkley continues to be an up-and-down ride. Two days after saying he needs to concentrate on making the easy play, Barkley forced a pair of balls in seven-on-seven drills with one resulting in an interception.

"(Barkley) had a rough time in seven-on-sevens and threw a couple of balls he shouldn't have. That was great. He realizes that today is the big turnover emphasis day, and he threw the pick," Carroll said. "That'll make a big point to him. He tried to force a couple ball down the field today, and it cost him."

• Carroll praised Mustain's day under center, saying the quarterback made plenty of nice decisions.

"I got some solid reps and made some good throws," Mustain said. "I limited mistakes which was what I was striving for."

• Brown said he's feeling 100 percent healthy, something a little foreign to the versatile linebacker.

"I just want to stay healthy the whole spring. I feel great right now. My back's not bothering me at all."

• Bryant had a big day, making a great play in the red zone to save a touchdown and dishing out a number of big hits on the edge.

Stafon Johnson is waiting for MRI results on his right knee. Carroll said Johnson feels fine and is optimistic. Marshall Jones also didn't dress with a hamstring injury. McCoy and Stephenson also tweaked their hamstrings during the workout.

• Carroll said he was happy to hear men's basketball coach Tim Floyd would be staying at USC, turning down a job offer from Arizona.

"I think it's awesome that he's not going. It's a great statement about his commitment to the university and to the kids he's working with," Carroll said. " He's obviously on his way."

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