September 18, 2008

Practice Insider: A matter of time

The Trojans finished up with practice Thursday and find themselves in a similar position. Another Saturday is on the horizon, and the USC football team won't be on the field.

With a pair of off weeks early in the schedule, USC head coach Pete Carroll said the plan's been to make the most of the extra time by getting healthy and getting some younger players ready.

"These have been three really good days," Carroll said. "We continue to find a really good level of intensity at practice. That's really important for us.

"There is no downside. We've done exactly what we've set out to do."

The No. 1 Trojans haven't had to get into the rhythm of game week consistently, but they have settled into a different mode. Carroll said things will change when the team's schedule starts to fill up, but for now, everything's go just fine.

"When the schedule shifts, we're going to have to make good adjustments then," he said. "We're in this mode, and we've been it since the middle of camp, and it's worked out great.

"The last thing anybody should do in this situation is complain about it. It is what it is."

The Trojans began to sprinkle in aspects of their game plan for their trip to Oregon State next Thursday night, and the extra prep time has the players feeling confident.

"I'm cool with it," sophomore wide receiver Ronald Johnson said. "There's more time to prepare. I feel like I know everything."

For some of the veteran Trojans, the off time is a chance to recharge their engines. But the players newest to the system could benefit most.

"It's good for me, but even better for the younger guys," Fili Moala said. "They'll really help us in the end. It's perfect for them."

Stanley Havili, Patrick Turner, Shareece Wright, Damian Williams and Kyle Moore all had time off during the week, with Havili, Wright and Williams not practicing at all.

"If we had to play Saturday," Carroll said, "those guys would be questionable."

Healthy and prepared are a dangerous combination for a team like USC - a team that has maintained a high level of intensity without the shadow of fast approaching game in its sights.

"Giving us all this time off, I don't see anyone beating us," Johnson said. "Executing like we do, I don't see it."

Perry and Moody: Day Three

Freshman running back Curtis McNeal (a.k.a. Moody) had the biggest day of his young collegiate career, breaking off some big gains in team drills and with the service team.

Helping to simulate diminutive Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers, McNeal's impressed Carroll.

"He fit right into the preparation for the game plan, looking like Rogers out here," Carroll said. "He's a really exciting kid. He's got natural feel. He looks like he's been out here."

Running back coach Todd McNair's first impressions of McNeal are simple.

"He's short," McNair said with a laugh.

But McNeal's small size makes him harder to keep track of.

"He can hide. With little short running backs, it always works out that way," McNair said. "You think he's one place, and then all of a sudden, he's spread out."

Nick Perry also took reps with the first team Thursday, primarily as a pass rusher. His size, speed and ability to find the ball have linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. looking down the road.

"He's a big man who's extremely strong," Norton said. "Knowing that he's shown up, I feel the future of USC is in good hands."

Carroll said curiosity had everyone's attention whenever the two newest Trojans got on the field.

"It was a fun attraction to have those two guys out here this week," Carroll said. "Everyone was watching them."

Extra Points

• Carroll said no decision has been made regarding Wright's status due to an off-field issue. Carroll said acting prior to getting a feel for the entire situation wouldn't be prudent.

"We'll let the process take care of itself," Carroll said.

Carroll said he did use Wright's situation as a cautionary tale heading into the weekend, reminding his players how quickly a situation could become a problem.

"Without question, this is a tremendous teachable moment for us," Carroll said. "It was a really good opportunity for our players to understand what's going on. We had to talk about it.

"Sometimes when something happens like this, it helps a lot of people deal with the reality of all of this."

Chris Galippo returned to practice at a larger capacity, intercepting a pass in seven-on-seven drills.

• Freshman D.J. Shoemate has begun to attend meetings with the running backs.

• With Turner and Williams out, Vidal Hazelton and Johnson got a lot of work with the No. 1 offense.

Allen Bradford ran through a member of the defense - nothing uncommon. This time, Taylor Mays was the victim.

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