Junior receiver Jordan Cameron is one of the most talked about reserves on this Trojan team. The 6-foot-5 former basketball player has a knack for snagging fade routes for touchdowns in practice, but his game opportunities have been severely limited.
The bye week has given some of the younger and less experienced players more reps and Cameron has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
"He's had a good week, we have really gone to him a lot and we're trying to instill confidence in him," Pete Carroll said.
The extra looks have been a welcome change of pace for Cameron.
"They are getting the guys in there that don't normally get the reps and resting the guys that play a lot," Cameron said. "It is fun to get out here and make some plays and just get some run."
With several injuries to the receivers, Cameron has a real shot at getting on the field after impressing the coaches this week.
"He has made a good impression, he really has," Carroll said. "It is really mostly about him being consistent and doing things right. Alignments and splits and take offs and all of the things he has to do, sometimes the details get lost and he still plays like a young player.
"We are trying to get him through that and make him available to us."
While his inexperience has been a factor, Cameron knows he needs to keep his head straight if he wants to be a regular contributor.
"I need to focus more," he said. "I need to be more into it for every rep in practice and be more into each play. I need to know what I am doing and get the details and the technique down and I think I will get out there."
Carroll knows Cameron could be a potential weapon in this offense; it is just a matter of getting him up to speed.
"He's a really talented kid," he said. "It has just been a big transition with the little football in his background. It has just taken him much longer than it would take a normal guy to transition. That's why (he is getting) the added work and the focus. We have thrown him a ton of balls this week in particular to try and catch him up."
Front-seven focal point
After the USC defensive front was gashed against Stanford, Carroll has put an extra emphasis on that group this week.
"We are working really hard at it," he said. "We took extra turns against the offensive line on Tuesday and Wednesday, just to make sure that we are capturing really good tempo in real rapid fire situations.
"We got an extra 40 plays or so in this week that we normally don't get. When you have issues you have to go to it and emphasize it, so that is what we are doing and we are hoping that our execution will be better."
Kennard to start
True freshman Devon Kennard's made his first career start on Saturday at strong side linebacker.
Although Michael Morgan should be able to play with his injured shoulder and broken wrist, it looks like Kennard has a good chance of starting against the Bruins.
"I like him at the spot," Carroll said. "It is so similar to playing defensive end. Cush played our LEO spot and then went to SAM backer and back and forth, and Clay's done both of that too."
The two positions are very similar, but the SAM backer has more coverage responsibilities than the LEO. Kennard showed off some of his coverage skills against Stanford, giving Carroll even more reason to stick with the move.
"He's transitioned beautifully," Carroll said. "The thing I like best about him is he's really physical, he's 255-pounds playing outside backer and he's a hitter.
"All of that has brought a good presence that we need."
News and notes
Players out Thursday included Damian Williams (ankle), Allen Bradford (foot), Everson Griffen (toe) and Blake Ayles (knee).
Things opened up a bit on Thursday for the offense. Several balls were thrown downfield with some deep ones completed to Joe McKnight and C.J. Gable.
"(There were)trick plays and everything, it was a lot of fun," Cameron said. "It is a bye week so it is time to rest the bodies and have a little fun out there."
Armond Armstead was back playing defensive end with the first team this week.
Center Kristofer O'Dowd got some reps Thursday with the first team offensive line.
"He's had a good week and this is the best he's been," Carroll said. "It is the healthiest he has been all year and it shows. He's quicker and more explosive.
"He got worn down from the two injuries, not being able to get his shoulder just right and his knee holding him back. He's really ready to play good football again and we will see what happens with that."
The starting safeties and corners got a minimal amount of work to keep them fresh and sharp. The young guys got a ton of work, including a very impressive Jawanza Starling.
Malcolm Smith is back to full speed after and should start.
Carroll was extremely pleased with the way his bye week practices have turned out.
"This was a very good bye week so far," Carroll said. "Obviously the attention and the focus of the football team has been very good. We finish up tomorrow morning with a big kind of administrative practice, and get all of our substitutions and stuff done like we would do in a normal game. We feel like we put together a real successful week and we'll get rested over the weekend too.
"We will come back on Monday and get after it again."