LOS ANGELES – Greg Burns is facing a unique situation in his first season back at USC.
Burns, the defensive backs coach for the 2003 and 2004 national championship teams under Pete Carroll, has an extremely young group of cornerbacks to work with. So young, in fact, there is only one upperclassmen in the group: Senior Dominic Davis, a converted running back.
Everyone else is either a sophomore, redshirt freshman or straight out of high school.
“My assessment is I have whole lot of new players,” Burns said with a chuckle, extending the word ‘whole’ for emphasis. “Right now, they’re doing well, they’re improving every day, that’s a plus. But they’re still in a situation where the consistency is not there.”
Burns is very hands-on in practice, with feedback for each corner during individual drills and 11-on-11 scrimmages. He tries to praise each player after a big moment but doesn’t want to be too critical after miscues, because such growing pains are expected.
For instance, freshman Chris Steele has drawn more than his share of pass interference flags this camp. Burns joked he might bring boxing gloves for the Florida transfer one of these days, then followed it up with a calm, “It’s just a mindset.”
One thing Burns has found interesting about the group is that with no experienced players at the position, everyone is taking on a leadership role. They can each pick their moments to be vocal, or to fall back and let someone else.
One guy Burns has seen lead by example is sophomore Olaijah Griffin, though he took on a more vocal role Tuesday. When safety C.J. Pollard ripped the ball out of a receiver’s hands, Griffin was bounding up the sideline to congratulate the junior.
That preceded another strong on-field moment for Griffin, who caught a tipped JT Daniels pass during seven-on-seven drills.
“I soon as I seen the ball in the air, I don’t know, it’s just a reaction,” Griffin said. “I react to things really quick, and when I seen the ball up in the air I knew I had to attack.”
Tailback Stephen Carr and offensive lineman Austin Jackson returned to practice after missing on Monday. Tailback Vavae Malepeai sat out practice again with a knee injury, and defensive lineman Brandon Pili watched practice with a sleeve on his knee.
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