Sometimes progress can be determined simply by a lack of addition.
In the case of the Trojans that measurement comes as a lack of additional hurt players to a roster already replete with injured bodies.
Already hampered by an inordinate amount of unavailable players, USC actually welcomed back receiver Marqise Lee and safety Demetrius Wright to this, the last week of spring practice.
Unfortunately however, the returning players weren't the whole story though.
An updated look at the injury list now has Randall Telfer (knee), Jabari Ruffin, Antwaun Woods and De'Von Flournoy all now being held out of Saturday's spring game where they will form a cadre of 20 USC players not participating in the culmination of the first sessions practice schedule.
Still, for Lee, it was like he never left.
In Saturday's scrimmage Lee snagged 10 passes for 191 yards, as well as a touchdown, as he served notice as to why he is arguably the nation's best receiver.
Can you imagine the stat line once he gets completely healthy?
Of course the news wasn't all good on the injury front as offensive lineman Cyrus Hobbi, receiver Da'Von Flournoy and defensive lineman Antwaun Woods all left Tuesday's practice for undetermined reasons.
Meanwhile, true freshman running back Justin Davis continues to impress after his 117 yard performance at Saturday's 76-play scrimmage at the Coliseum.
It should also be noted that while Davis is toting the rock with authority this is also a reflection of improved play by the offensive line who seem to be thriving under line coaches Mike Summers and James Cregg.
On defense it is the same old story with the front seven shining and the back four—especially the cornerbacks—struggling.
Because of the issues at corner, a move back to that position by Josh Shaw seems inevitable for the fall camp, and this scenario has already been anticipated by the coaching staff.
But even with that anticipated move, expect improvement from this unit to dominate the coaching staff's waking moments during the run-up to the start of the season.
The spring practice sessions will culminate with the contest played at the Coliseum this Saturday. You can be sure that the passing game—on both sides of the ball—will be scrutinized by the coaching staff, who will also be keeping a close eye on the murky quarterback situation.
Of course, exactly how revealing the play of the signal callers will be is mitigated by the play of the corners, especially if that group continues it's weak showing.
In other words, if USC's passing game does well, is it a case of their excellence or of the secondary's ineptitude?
It's a tough call, but just another on a growing plate full of concerns for Kiffin and his staff.
USC's stock is up if for no other reason than Marqise Lee's return.
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