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Things to look for in scrimmage #3

USC will hold its third scrimmage of this years training camp.

Here is what Lane Kiffin and company will be looking for...

USC's third scrimmage, scheduled for today at 11:30 a.m. at the Coliseum, will play a major role in determining several spots on the Week 1 depth chart. It's the last scrimmage featuring live tackling before the Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota.


•Backup quarterback. Freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek (Mater Dei) are headed for a photo finish. Kiffin is confident in both, saying either is worthy of the No. 2 job at this point.


•Starting guards. Both spots remain open heading into today. Fourth-year junior Abe Markowitz and third-year sophomore John Martinez took most of the first-team reps Saturday, but senior Martin Coleman (Edison High) got his fair share as well. Freshman Aundrey Walker is also in the mix on the right side.

The offensive line is obviously the biggest concern right now. Depth and experience are the biggest surprise there.

Matt Kalil is the anchor of the line so his leadership will be key...and he has a lot to think about.

In April, former USC right tackle Tyron Smith was taken before any other offensive lineman in the draft, going to the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 9 pick. Smith reportedly signed a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $12.5 million.

Meanwhile, Matt Kalil is the most experienced member of a Trojans offensive line that will feature three new starters.

"We're starting to mesh as a unit and starting to come together," he said.

Fourth-year junior Khaled Holmes has moved from guard to center and third-year sophomore Kevin Graf is on track to start at right tackle.

If he has a solid, injury free year I see him as good as gone.

The Guard spot is still the question mark.

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It looks like the running back situation is going to be less of an issue. Even with Tyler out for the time being USC definitely has some talent back there in Morgan, Baxter, McNeal and true freshman Amir Carlisle. Tyler will only add to the talent pool once he is off suspension.

Morgan is a bit on the mend with his sore knee so for now it looks like McNeal and Baxter are in the lead for the starting RB spot.

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Wide Receiver still has some questions though.

Robert Woods was finally back on the field as his sprained ankle was finally able to take the rigors of practice.

Woods said he still favors the ankle, which he initially injured playing in a pickup basketball game back in April, on some routes and making certain cuts, but it isn't causing him much pain or affecting his explosiveness anymore.

"I was supposed to do just a few drills, but today I felt good and they let me keep going," said Woods, who started all 13 of USC's games as a true freshman last season and is expected to be one of the Trojans top weapons on offense.

"I am pretty shocked at how long it's taken. At first I thought it was one of those injuries that you take a couple weeks off or run it off and hopefully it'll go away, but it is one that lingered. But I'm taking care of it and as of now it feels good."

Woods said he thought he was healthy enough to play in USC's scrimmage on Sunday morning, but the final decision will be up to Lane Kiffin, who is balancing the need to get Woods enough work before USC's season opener September 3 against Minnesota, with Woods' long-term importance to the team's offense.

I am not surprised that he still has issues with his ankle. The ankle is just one of those joints that is tough to determine the severity of the injury or how it will respond to therapy.

It has already been noted that Marquis Lee is making an impression but Kiffin isn't ready to hand him the #2 spot or the coveted #1 jersey yet...

USC coach Lane Kiffin was asked Friday if he considered awarding freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee the No. 1 jersey.

The number is significant to Kiffin because he coached former All-American Mike Williams and believes only a special receiver should wear that number.

Lee is a natural candidate because of his play in training camp and the praise he seems to receive almost daily from Kiffin.

"No (I haven't considered it)," Kiffin said. "I think he wanted No. 9."

Freshman George Farmer will sit out today's scrimmage with a concussion. Farmer hasn't quite lived up to the hype but it is early yet.

I have no doubt that Farmer will come on strong once he gets the playbook down.

I hope we see big things from Kyle Prater soon!

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Two things on defense stand out...

With Galippo still nursing his shoulder Lamar Dawson is making his presence known, notes Lane Kiffin.

"He has done a phenomenal job and made some athletic plays most guys can't make, especially his size (6-foot-2, 235 pounds),"

Galippo has a lot riding on this season so he needs to stay healthy.

The other great story is really a continuation of a story that we already know about...Nickell Robey.

Robey is becoming a real leader on defense...

Great seasons from true freshmen in the high-stakes world of college football are rare, especially at big-time programs like USC.

Even more rare: True freshmen following up surprise debut performances with superb sophomore seasons.

USC sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey is rare.

Robey, all 5-8 and 172 pounds of him, has spent the eight months since the end of his freshman season working on refining certain aspects of his game to silence critics and prove to Trojans coach Lane Kiffin and his staff that he can be not just a capable college corner but a certifiable star.

Through two weeks-plus of fall camp, both parties say he’s succeeded. Robey tackles differently now, with more focus on the task at hand and better angles to the ball. He was always a student of the game, but he’s an honor student now, one with an interest in all subjects. He’s not an incredible tackler just yet, but he’s improving – and he’ll keep improving, too.

If things stay as they are Robey is going to be one of USC's all-time greats. I know it sounds like a lot of hype but with all that the kid has been through and with what he has accomplished on the field, the sky is the limit for this kid...

He is just a great kid.

Lots to see at today's scrimmage.

We find out a lot more later today...