Notebook: USC opens spring practice

Lane Kiffin / USA Today Sports

The Trojans opened spring practice Tuesday afternoon on Howard-Jones Field as fans looked on from Dedeaux Field. The quarterback battle is officially underway, as is the installation of the Trojans new defense.

New faces in new places
The newest USC coaches were put to the test at Tuesday's first spring practice and head coach Lane Kiffin said the earned passing grades. "I thought our coaches for day one did a really good job," Kiffin said. "We've only had a week of these guys being here to prepare for today."

Among the new faces in the crowd was defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, running-game coordinator and offensive line coach Mike Summers, running backs coach Tommie Robinson, and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler.

"I thought the players really responded well to them," Kiffin said.

Playcalling duties
After the debacle that was the 2012 season, Kiffin said everything would be reviewed and changes would be made. Clearly that was the case, as demonstrated by the new additions to the coaching staff.

One aspect of the Trojans game that might not change though? The playcaller.

Kiffin would not say after Tuesday's practice if quarterbacks coach Clay Helton -- recently promoted to offensive coordinator -- would take over play calling duties from Kiffin.

"We're focused on what is going to make us better right now," Kiffin said. "We're not worrying about next fall."

Quarterback battle begins
The battle to earn the starting quarterback spot officially began Tuesday between redshirt sophomore Max Wittek and Cody Kessler and freshman Max Browne.

Kiffin said after practice that Kessler was "on his way to be MVP of the day", until a "great play" by defensive end Jabari Ruffin resulted in an interception. "Unfortunately I couldn't make him the MVP when he threw the interception, but it was really a great play by Jabari… I thought Cody really shined."

Kiffin commended his young quarterbacks on commanding the huddle well, especially true-freshman Browne. "He is very unique in being able to handle the huddle and know all the stuff." Kiffin explained.

No timeline has been set to name a starting quarterback. "We've got to find the right guy," Kiffin said. "When it shows itself, we'll decide."

Figuring out the defense
With the departure of former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the addition of Clancy Pendergast, the Trojans are now working to implement a new defensive scheme -- a process that is bound to take time and patience from both players and the staff.

"Just to see everyone in their new spots, it's a very different defense," Kiffin said. "Guys are going to have very different roles and just to see them standing up on edge -- it is very new."

"We're at the very basic stages in terms of our installation," said new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "We really just wanted to listen to the guys communicate out there and get a feel for playing with each other."

And then there is the secondary. With exception of Josh Shaw, who saw time at cornerback, Tuesday's practice showed an entirely new lineup. Shaw and Demetrius Wright played safety with the first team while Kevon Seymour and Anthony Brown got the nod at cornerback. "At those spots there will be four new people," Kiffin said.

Big step for the freshmen
Six freshmen early enrollees partipated in their first official practice as a Trojan. Both quarterback Max Browne and defensive tackle Leonard Williams had similar things to say after their first taste of spring ball.

"It was a little rough getting used to everything," Browne said. "Every rep is like a whole ‘nother mission out there."

The speed of the game, you get out here and it's a whole other element," he continued. "I just need to speed everything up."

"The competition is a big step from what I'm used to," Bigelow said. "I just have to go out and do what I'm used to doing, grinding, and take my talents to their level."

Bigelow found himself on the losing end of battle against Jordan Simmons, who successfully put Bigelow flat on his back. "He's another guy who is going to push me and bring the best out of me," Bigelow said.

Bailey and his fears
Dion Bailey doesn't have many fears, but on Tuesday FOX Sports NEXT discovered one -- needles. Bailey, who is not participating in spring practices with the Trojans, admitted he has been putting off surgery to repair a torn labrum since his freshman season.

Bailey tore ligaments in his shoulder the second game of his redshirt freshman season when the Trojans were taking on Syracuse. "I was sacking the quarterback and reached out to grab him and he kind of stepped through my shoulder," Bailey explained.

Surgery was planned for him after the 2011 season, but after learning there was a chance the injury could heal on it's own, Bailey decided to wait it out. "They said there was like a 20% chance that it would heal on its own," he said. "I'm like deadly afraid of needles so I was like I'll take the 20% chance."

I put off the surgery but then it got worse and worse so I got it after this season," he said.

Though neither head coach Lane Kiffin or defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast would confirm it, Bailey told FOX Sports NEXT during offseason workouts that he will be moving back to safety after for the 2013 season after playing linebacker in 2011 and 2012.

Injury news
Out for the entire spring -- John Akiba, Dion Bailey, Gerald Bowman, Jeff Miller, Scott Starr, Taylor Ross… Out but expected to return -- J.R. Tavai, Cody Temple, Greg Townsend JR…

Departed from the program
Christian Heyward and DeVante Wilson left the program before the semester started -- Kiffin cited the players wanting to go in a "different direction". Christian Thomas is going through the process of receiving a medical redshirt due to his numerous surgeries. Junior Pomee is not currently a part of the program and his return is pending on his criminal trial.

On the sidelines
A few notables were on the sidelines of the Trojans Tuesday practice including university president Max Nikias, 2013 signees Steven Mitchell and Nico Falah, former USC players and current Minnesota Vikings Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison, former Trojan Khaled Holmes, and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Suh was coached at Nebraska by current USC linebackers coach Mike Ekeler. He is in town to shoot promos for a new reality series he is taking part in. Suh spoke with the USC players during the huddle after practice, where he talked about his decision to stay for his senior season and how much fun it was to stick around.

Quick hits
No pads for the first spring practice…Kiffin spent time with the different position groups during the two-plus hour session…Max Tuerk spent significant time playing center.

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