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March 23, 2005

Wet and wild first spring practice

The USC Trojans returned to a soaked Howard Jones Field Tuesday afternoon for the first spring practice of 2005. During every second of practice, all the way up until the three horns sounded ending the session, a steady and cold rain fell on everyone. We have a report and some photos from this soggy first practice.

The weather really dominated practice and the cold rain made this one miserable session to watch. Most everyone on the sidelines hid under umbrellas, but the rain and swirling wind still made sure everyone was soaked at least from the waist down.

At one point early during the practice it began to thunder and lightning. The players thought they might get off easy and be able to return indoors. Unfortunately for them there was only that one lightning strike followed by an even heavier downpour. Practice would go on as scheduled.

There were a few new and familiar faces who returned to the team including Whitney Lewis, Brandon Hancock, Thomas Herring, Chauncey Washington, Kevin Ellison and Michael Coleman.

Players not taking part were Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Dominique Byrd, Manuel Wright, Desmond Reed, John Walker, Darnell Bing and Justin Wyatt.

Leinart was there with the quarterbacks, but did not take part in any of the drills. Bing and Wyatt were also there on the sidelines in sweats but also did not take part.

Recruits Mark Sanchez and Luthur Brown were in attendance and Lofa Tatupu came back to watch his former teammates play in the rain.

Tatupu also made a few comments about the team. He felt that Brown looked like an NFL player. Brown was there in just shorts and a t-shirt and didn't appear to be bothered by the rain.

Lofa also said that Oscar Lua would have an excellent shot at winning the starting job and being as productive in the middle as he was. His last comment was about Chauncey Washington, saying that he was someone to watch out for. Lofa once saw Washington run down Reggie Bush during his freshman year.

It was a little strange to see Lane Kiffin out there controlling the practice for the offense. Early on he was running guys through different formations and sets and telling some of the new guys where they should be for each play. He still performed some of his other duties like throwing balls to the receivers in the position drills, but it was also apparent that he will have a major say on what the offense is doing at all times.

Although nothing was set yet, it did appear that the first string offensive line consisted of Sam Baker, Jeff Byers, Ryan Kalil, Fred Matua and Winston Justice. Taitusi Lutui also got some work there with the first string at right tackle.

At running back most of the reps were split between Coleman and Washington. Bush was working on some of the returns but didn't do much out of the tailback position. During the scrimmage both Coleman and Washington had long runs for touchdowns and Washington also caught a screen pass for a touchdown. As Lofa said, Washington is someone to watch for.

The quarterback spot looked to be John Booty and then everyone else. Booty looked very comfortable throwing the ball in the rain, while the other quarterbacks really struggled with the slick balls.

The elements also made things difficult on the receivers. Plenty of balls were dropped or went through the players hands. The catch of the day though was from Greig Carlson on a pass from Rocky Hinds. It was a corkscrew type of pass that was spinning out of control. Carlson was in traffic and falling down, but somehow got his hands on the ball and pulled it in. Even Leinart came over to congratulate Carlson after that great catch.

At linebacker Lua was getting work in the middle with the first string. Thomas Williams started off with the second unit outside, but later on got some work in the middle as well.

On special teams Lewis and Bush both had an impressive kickoff return. Lewis showed some of those great moves fans witnessed last season during the spring game. To add depth, Matua was getting some work in with the other long snappers. Finally during field goal drills the team split up into three different units that all practiced at the same time. This is a much different setup than they have used in years past.

A few number changes were Booty wearing #10, Chauncey wearing #26, Coleman wearing #27, Herring wearing #77 and Ellison wearing #4.

Click here for Chris Huston's notes on practice

Click here for USCFootball.com's Spring Ball Central



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