USC Spring Game: Top 5 Winners and Losers
This game was hard to define. With a no-tackle policy and only unofficial stats kept, numbers don't help that much.
But there were still a few things, and people, that stood out. Lane Kiffin might have to go back and look at the film before he makes any final analysis, but we don't. We have eyes, ears and a gut reaction what we just saw on the Coliseum turf today.
So here are a few winners, and some losers for good measure, after a couple hours of playing around in the California sunshine.
Note: No official stats were taken today. Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone will publish those shortly on USCTrojans.com, but it should be noted that the numbers will be skewed because of the no-tackle policy instituted today.
Winners: The Fans
About 20,000 people stretched from end zone to end zone today on the south side of the Coliseum.
Considering the marvelous weather, the giant fundraiser happening at USC's campus ("Swim with Mike") and the plethora of things to do in the area, any sort of turnout would have been a success. But this year people made an effort to come out and watch the boys play.
The media hype machine can be thanked for that. People were hoping to see a glimpse of the future national champions today. What they saw looked more like an average day in practice than a preview of January, but most people probably didn't care too much. This is the last time they will see college football in person until September.
Losers: The Quarterbacks
Cody Kessler and Matt Barkley were the only two to throw actual picks, but generally speaking there wasn't a single guy that blew the fans' minds. Part of the reason might have been the constant rotation (there is a reason you only have one starter in a game). No one found a rhythm.
Kessler and Max Wittek also seemed a little shaky. They knew the attention was on them today, and this spring game is much bigger than last year's exhibition.
Winners: The Secondary
The defense put on quite the show, and their stars were in the secondary. To give the quarterbacks a little credit, these guys were good.
Today had two stars. Isiah Wiley tore up the first half, breaking up several passes, including one 45-yard attempt from Barkley to Marqise Lee. Brian Baucham had a great day and was responsible for Barkley's only pick.
Their depth is phenomenal as well. Two years ago, their starters were barely good enough to be out there, and they didn't have anyone waiting to set up in case of injury.
There is multi-way fight for the corner spot opposite Nickell Robey. Both starting safties (Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald) have people pushing them from behind. Expect a spike in picks next season.
Losers: The Running Backs
They didn't have a bad day at all—in fact, D.J. Morgan scored the first touchdown of the day—but they didn't get used much. When you have three quarterbacks, and you are testing driving two of them, you don't want to spend too much time handing off the ball.
USC only has three scholarship running backs, which means no one has the luxury of getting a little banged up. Starting TB Curtis McNeal hardly received any reps. Most of the time, Morgan was in, which was probably a good decision. McNeal is proven and needs to preserved. Morgan, however, is just getting his former world-class speed back and needs to practice his ball security.
Buck Allen is still kind of an unknown entity and will stay that way for now. He left the game early with a hamstring injury. Kiffin didn't specify how bad it was, but he showed no concern either.
Winners: The Coaching Staff
Kiffin had to acclimate three new coaches (Scottie Hazelton, Tee Martin and Marvin Sanders) to the Coliseum in a game-time situation today. Though they probably will learn a lot about the team and some of the younger players from tape later on, the staff received an instant learning experience in how they work together while under a little bit of pressure.
Kiffin was pleased that they used so many different players today. It forced the coaches to practice switching personnel in a split second. This is probably one of the few times where a head coach might know his team better than some of his own staff members. After today, everyone should be up to speed.