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August 29, 2009Matt Barkley had a small smile on his face when he was being asked about USC's final scrimmage of the fall. He led the No. 1 offense to four touchdowns - throwing for one and running in another.
But when he heard that USC would be without wide receiver Ronald Johnson for the near future because of a cracked clavicle, that smile evaporated.
"Really?" Barkley said. "Oh. He broke it? That sucks."
Johnson suffered the injury while making a catch between two members of the USC service team. He took a big hit on both sides, but he hung onto the football.
The injury robs USC of its best downfield threat for six-to-eight weeks, USC head coach Pete Carroll said.
"The hit of the weekend is Ronald Johnson getting hurt. He's got a cracked clavicle, and that's a six-to-eight week deal," Carroll said. "That's just a crusher for RoJo and for us as well."
Johnson caught 33 passes for 570 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008. He also returned kicks for the Trojans.
"We have depth at the position, which is good," Barkley said. "But his speed can't be matched by a lot of guys on the team. That sucks.
"Guys will step up. There's no doubt about that. I don't think we'll change what we're doing because of that. It just opens up a window."
Carroll said David Ausberry would now start opposite of Damian Williams, with Williams moving back to the Z receiver spot.
"It's what I played last year. It's just back to what I did. It's nothing different. I can play all the positions; I just have to switch modes " Williams said. "We'll be OK. We still got great guys like David Ausberry and Brice Butler. We've got a lot of guys who can fill in. We'll keep pushing. We'll definitely miss him, though. We'll need him out there."
Butler has been surging late in fall camp, and he could become USC's No. 3 receiver with Johnson out.
"I add crisp routes. I've got good speed, deceptive speed, because my legs are long and sure hands. I'm going to catch everything that comes. I feel like the route game is especially the biggest," Butler said. "I feel like my fall camp has been really consistent especially because my spring was horrible. I feel like I've done really well this fall."
After Johnson's injury on Saturday, Carroll made sure the USC quarterbacks began to look for Butler and true freshman De'Von Flournoy often in an effort to get more information on the two.
"Brice has had a great camp. He can really catch the football and he runs terrific routes. He's done a really good job all camp long. He's made good statements all the way a long about what he can add," Carroll said. "Flournoy has been special at times. You can see when he gets the ball in his hands. He's got really good quickness and explosiveness."
USC could also look to fill Johnson's spot with veteran receivers Brandon Carswell or Travon Patterson.