The Morning After...USC Scrimmage Notes from 8/8

Scrimmages hardly ever tell the whole story.

The question is what defensive unit did the offense face and vice versa. It doesn't really give you the whole picture. But this year things are a little bit different the first team units on offense and defense went head to head and by all accounts the one thing that is for sure is that the first team defense looks like it will be the star of the show.

Even with a battered and depleted O line everyone knew going into camp that the D-line is special...there are even some rumors out there of calling them the Wild Bunch II which is in reference to the Mike Patterson/Shaun Cody years.

The starting offense generated only one touchdown in the scrimmage and starting tailback Allen Bradford lost five yards in six carries.

"We were kind of embarrassed last year as a whole front," linebacker Malcolm Smith said. "We have a good idea of what they are doing."

The defense is almost always ahead of the offense during training camp, especially at the outset. But Kiffin admitted he was surprised by the results.

How this translates to a real game is a whole other story but the defense is going to have a lot expected out of it this season...especially if the offense is going to struggle with respect to the O-Line.

The star on offense appears to be Mitch Mustain, but again I wouldn't read a lot into it...

In a scrimmage that was mostly dominated by the Trojans' first-unit defensive line, Mustain completed 23 of 35 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown playing almost exclusively with and against second-unit players.

Mustain also starred in the Trojans' final spring scrimmage, passing for nearly 300 yards and five touchdowns at the Coliseum.

"I feel good with where I'm at," said Mustain, later adding, "I feel like I could execute whatever we have in week to week."

Lane Kiffin said that Barkley remains the starter but that Mustain's command of the offense provides the coaching staff with the unusual luxury of using a single play-call sheet for games rather than tailoring individual ones for the starter and backup.

"A lot of times with your backup quarterback you have another sheet because he can't do everything," Kiffin said. "I'm excited about Mitch's performance again."

Mustain mostly faced the 2nd team defense.

But his performance yesterday will put some pressure on Matt Barkley...and that is a good thing.

"Matt's the starter. I wouldn't say he's far, far ahead, which is a good thing," Coach Lane Kiffin said. "We don't want him to be far, far ahead. We want our backup to be able to go in.

"I feel right now ... I wouldn't have two game-plan sheets, which is unusual. A lot of times with your backup quarterback you have another sheet because you can't do everything."

Mustain viewed the latter as a positive sign.

"It means we're both capable of doing our offense," he said. "I feel like I could execute whatever we have."

Mustain's solid performance streamlines things for the coordinators and it is clear that in his final season he has pretty much got the offense down so if something happens to Barkley he can step right in.

More disconcerting is how the running game performed...

Tailback Curtis McNeal scored on a 30-yard touchdown run and finished with 57 yards in six carries.

Allen Bradford had minus-five yards in six carries, C.J Gable 25 yards in seven carries.

"I didn't think C.J. and Allen looked real good, but at the same time we have to go watch the film," Kiffin said. "I don't know enough to know how much was there and what was going on with their reads. It's hard to tell sometimes until you go to the film."

Again, it really is hard to know the whole story but I would have liked to have read about some better production.

Maybe it is the O-line or maybe it is the experimentation with a few plays early on while the defense got a head of steam going. Its a disappointment but not the end of the world after one week of practice and just one scrimmage.

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Here are some other notes and stats from RipsIt...

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One bright spot yesterday was Jordan Cameron who had a very productive day...

Tight end Jordan Cameron was just about the unquestioned star of the scrimmage, with eight receptions for 96 yards -- including a 39-yard gainer. Sunday was probably Cameron's best scrimmage to date, including the spring, and it marked a striking rise to importance for Cameron.

[...]

Cameron has made a lot of changes over the past four months.

In April, I asked him what he did well as a tight end. "I don't know what I do good," he said at the time. "I'm just learning the position right now. I would say I'm a pretty good route runner, being a converted receiver, so I think I can run the routes they need me to run." And blocking-wise, how could he improve? "Just working on the technique during the summertime -- obviously gaining weight and getting physical -- but technique and footwork and hand placement are all key to blocking."

(make sure you watch the video in this piece from Pedro Moura)

'SC has a lot TE's on the roster so it is great to see that the stars on the team will get pressure to perform form some of the other guys on the team.

We certainly aren't short on talent, except on the O-line, so its just going to take some time for things to come together.

It is still way to early to make a definitive call on the team. There is still a ways to go in getting people comfortable...especially on offense. Expectations are high, but are they realistic?

We'll have more later today...

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