August 17, 2008

Scrimmage Insider: Clock's ticking

All things considered, Saturday night's scrimmage at the Coliseum marked some major improvements.

Both Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain led the offense to scores, and Garrett Green threw another touchdown pass.

Still, though, USC head coach Pete Carroll and his team is working against the clock.

With less than two weeks until the Trojans take the field for their first game, Carroll knows things need to improve under center.

"We still have a ways to go. We have two more weeks, and we need them."

Mustain finished the scrimmage 6-of-12 for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Corp went 12-of-16 for 64 yards with a pick, and Green completed 6-of-10 for 63 yards, a score and an interception.

Things got off to a rocky start for Mustain. On the first play of the scrimmage, Mustain dropped back and threw to the sideline - and Shareece Wright stepped right in. Wright took the ball back to the end zone for a very easy score.

"I was a coverage I knew from before," Mustain said. "It was just a bad play on my part. I never should've thrown it there."

Mustain's day got better though, particularly during a two-minute drill. Mustain led the offense down the field for a very efficient, quick touchdown, capped with a perfect 26-yard touchdown strike to Travon Patterson.

While Mustain looked good with the game sped up, he still is lacking in some other areas under center.

"He's still burdened with the communications," Carroll said, "and it's slowing him down a little bit."

Corp's interception came on a tipped pass at the line, when Clay Matthews elevated, slowing down the ball. Rey Maualuga pounced and grabbed the ball before it could hit the grass.

Thanks in large part to Stafon Johnson's running, Corp led the offense to a touchdown, getting the ball down the field without interruption.

"We had a much better day moving the ball," Corp said. "We still had way too many turnovers."

Green's touchdown came later in the scrimmage, when he found Brice Butler open for a seven-yard touchdown.

After watching all three quarterbacks, Carroll said one clearly has the most command of the offense.

"You can tell Garrett Green is ahead of the other two in terms of the verbage," Carroll said. "He's smoother with the signals and stuff."

Still, with the clock ticking, Carroll felt good about where his team was on Saturday.

"We got a lot of good things accomplished," he said.

Extra Points

• Quarterback Mark Sanchez watched the scrimmage from the sidelines. After the workout, Sanchez said his rehab is progressing rapidly. He threw again on Saturday and looked very comfortable.

"The hardest part was having to watch," Sanchez said. "I want to be on the field."

• After looking just awful in the Trojans' first scrimmage, the ground game made some big strides. Johnson led the team with 58 yards on five carries, including a three-yard touchdown. Allen Bradford ran for 37 yards on four carries.

• Bradford's powerful running forced cornerback Cary Harris to the sidelines. Bradford and Harris collided on a run, with Harris suffering what the medical staff is calling a shoulder sprain. He should miss a few days.

Joe McKnight's hand continued to bother him rushing with the ball, but it didn't stop him from creating fireworks on special teams. McKnight returned a kick 63 yards and returned a punt 56 yards.

• A pair of reserve tight ends had big days Saturday. With Blake Ayles held out of the scrimmage, Rhett Ellison and Jimmy Miller combined for nine catches and 134 yards.

• In addition to Ayles, Carroll said he expects Trojans like Jeff Byers, Alex Parsons and Tyron Smith to return to the practice field in the next day or so.

• The team scrimmaged with just one scholarship center. When walk-ok Abe Markowitz was in the game, the quarterbacks didn't take snaps, starting each play with the ball.

Jordan Campbell had another big scrimmage, recording seven tackles.

• Carroll said he was impressed with the play of DaJohn Harris, Armond Armstead and Wes Horton.

• The Trojans will practice twice Sunday.

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