As Tuesday's practice at Howard Jones Field, cornerback Shareece Wright jammed Travon Patterson right at the line of scrimmage. Wright stayed with the speedy receiver all the way down the sideline, showcasing perfect form, perfect footwork and playing perfect coverage.
Amazingly less than a year ago, Wright sat in a doctor's office and couldn't believe the diagnosis.
"When they first told me, I didn't believe them. I thought they were trying to scare me or something. No one wants to believe they have a broken neck," he said. "It was scary, and I didn't know if I'd ever be back or not."
But as USC held its second spring practice, Wright was on the field, doing whatever he can to earn back a spot on the field.
"I don't feel rusty at all. I've done a good job working to get back into shape, as far as footwork and conditioning," Wright said. "I don't feel like I lost a lot of what I had."
Wright got his body ready for spring ball by working with the strength and conditioning staff and by participating in players only practices throughout the winter.
"It was a test. I got to see where I was at and how rusty I was after not doing anything since September," he said. "I wasn't too disappointed with where I was at. I felt like I was actually at a pretty good point."
Wright's mind has been plenty busy since breaking his neck. He was arrested and charged with a felony count of resisting an officer.
Wright said he attended a going-away party in Colton, Calif. for a friend about to be deployed for military duty in Iraq. Wright had permission to stay at the house where the party was being held, but when police officers arrived to break up the party, they asked Wright to leave.
Wright said he'd been drinking and wasn't able to drive, and he didn't understand why he was asked to leave.
The legal process was a drain on Wright, but last week, he finally got good news. The charges against him had been reduced to misdemeanor charges.
"It got reduced, and that's a blessing. It takes the possibility of jail time out of the picture. I don't have to miss school for court anymore, and my lawyer can fight the case for me now," Wright said. "It's a big weight off my shoulder right now with the felony. I didn't feel like I deserved it, and it wasn't something I wanted on my record at all.
"I learned a lot from this. My awareness when I'm out has totally changed. I'm more alert and more aware of things that could happen. I learned that any little thing could mess you up."
Wright's now looking forward to participating in full contact drills, something USC head coach Pete Carroll said wouldn't happen until the start of fall camp. Still, Wright's already made an impression two days into spring ball.
"He doesn't get to do a whole lot, but whatever he does, he does it very well. He's really good," Carroll said. "He came out the first day in a one-on-one with (Ronald Johnson) and knocked down an in route.
"He just was in perfect position."
He was back on the field, and that's the best position of all.
"It feels great," he said. "I'm so happy."
Mitch Mustain got the first-team reps at quarterback Tuesday and performed well until a late fumbled snap and interception.
"It was a little bit different. The team (drills) didn't feel too different but all the rest did. You get a chance to hop in sooner, to get your head into it. It was good," he said. "It went pretty well. We kind of fell off a little bit towards the end there. We did OK, and hopefully, we can come back Thursday a little bit better."
Mustain, Aaron Corp and Matt Barkley took all of the quarterback reps Tuesday, with Garrett Green the odd man out - at least for now, Carroll said.
"Until we get some turns and get it going, I want to keep it as a three-man rotation," he said.
- Incomplete to Damian Williams.
- Complete to Jordan Cameron on stop route.
- Incomplete to Brandon Carswell, Kevin Thomas deflection.
- Complete to D.J. Shoemate underneath.
- Complete to Anthony McCoy underneath.
- Complete to Joe McKnight, stopped by Luthur Brown immediately.
- Complete to Carswell short, stopped by Brown immediately.
- Complete to Marc Tyler on a check down.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson on medium slant; good throw.
- Complete to Carswell on short out.
- Complete to Patterson on quick slant; Patterson picks up big yards after the catch.
- Complete to Rhett Ellison underneath.
- Incomplete to Michael Reardon, drop.
- Complete to McCoy in traffic over the middle.
- Complete to Ellison deep over the middle.
- Complete to Ellison underneath.
- Incomplete, thrown away.
- Complete to David Ausberry on hitch.
- Complete to Brice Butler on deep route; great throw and catch.
- Incomplete swing pass to Tyler, dropped.
- Incomplete to Patterson on slant; ball thrown behind.
- Scramble for short gain.
- Complete to McCoy underneath against a blitz.
- Incomplete, heavy pressure.
- Incomplete pass thrown into coverage.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Complete to Curtis McNeal on check down.
- Complete to Ellison off of rollout.
- Handoff to Tyler, nice gain.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Incomplete; overthrows Cameron down the field.
- Fumbled exchange with Tyler.
- Incomplete on rollout.
- Complete to McCoy in middle of field.
- Handoff to C.J. Gable. Gable fumbles.
- Completes quick throw to Williams.
- Complete to Cooper Stephenson on rollout.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Complete to Shoemate in the flat.
- Incomplete to McCoy, almost intercepted.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson.
- Incomplete, pressured.
- Intercepted by Drew McAllister.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Complete screen to McNeal.
- Complete to Ausberry on sideline.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson underneath.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Fumbled snap recovered by Uona Kaveinga.
- Interception returned for score by Will Harris.
Back at practice
McCoy and defensive end Everson Griffen returned to practice after disciplinary reasons forced them out of the first practice of spring ball.
"We have a rule about negative points where you reach a certain amount, and I went past the limit. Coach Brennan Carroll and I had a deal where if I passed a certain amount, I'd have to sit out practice," McCoy said. "We had a punishment we had to do last Wednesday morning at 6 a.m., and I over slept. It was the same with Everson, and that's why we sat out."
McCoy said he regretted the incident.
"I felt bad because my whole team was out here, and I should've been out here with them," he said. "I didn't get to share the first day with them. I learned my lesson, and I won't let it happen again."
Carroll said he saw a lot of fire in Griffen and McCoy Tuesday.
"Both of them were really fighting today," Carroll said. "They tried to make up for lost time. They knew it, and they both responded very well, I thought."
McCoy said he had to adjust a little to being back in the full swing of practice, but by the end of Tuesday's work, things were clicking.
"I felt really good today. Once we really got going, that's when it started hitting me again, being out of football shape," he said. "I'm getting back into it. I'm getting a feel for the game again, and I feel really good out there."
• Barkley said he still doesn't have everything down at this point, and he's starting to notices some adjustments he needs to make.
"I need to get better at checking down. That was something I didn't really ever do in high school," he said. "I'm getting used to throwing to the backs and letting them make plays as opposed to trying to force the ball into a small window."
Still, Carroll said he's seen more restraint in Barkley than he did with Mark Sanchez.
"He hasn't displayed in the short time we've been out here, the same kind of things we were concerned with Mark. We thought he was always going to try and throw the ball way down the field so we had to coach him back," Carroll said. "Already, (Barkley's) shown that he's very comfortable taking the check down. He's forced some balls, but he doesn't seem like he's got that nature where he's going to try and make big plays and force it."
• Carroll said reviewing film of the quarterbacks from Saturday gave him a much better idea of how each performed.
"It was really fun to watch those guys. We put it together where we can watch each guy on his own tape through the sequence of practice. You could even see some changes during the course of the practice," he said. "We'll continue to really zero in on each guy and watch every move he makes. It's exciting. It's fun for us to see how this is going to take shape."
After initially thinking Corp had a rocky first day, Carroll's opinion changed after watching the film.
"The first day, I thought Aaron was a little deliberate releasing the football on the first few throws," Carroll said. "I didn't think he had that good of a day, but when I watched the film, I thought he had a really good day after the first couple of passes."
• McAllister continued to show why he's viewed as a bit of a sleeper this offseason, making a great interception on a Barkley pass in 11-on-11 drills.
"I thought it was there, and then he closed on it," Barkley said. "It was a good play by him."
Carroll said he continues to be impressed by McAllister's nose for the ball.
"He does nothing but great things for us. He really displays a knack for the football," Carroll said. "He's just one of those guys who is a ball hawk. That's a tremendous characteristic for a free safety."
McAllister nearly had a diving interception Saturday, but the ball squirted loose.
• Running back Stafon Johnson suffered a minor knee injury and didn't get any reps late in practice.
• Carroll said the running back rotation would feature lots of opportunities for Tyler and McNeal.
"We're going to wear those guys out," he said.
• Mustain continued to show off a pencil-thin, Morris Day-esque mustache on Tuesday.
The shoddy lip decoration is a joke he's sharing with a few of his teammates.
"It's Mustache March. I may keep it for Cinco de Mayo," he said. "We'll see what happens. A bunch of us are just playing around with it a little."
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