August 22, 2007

Wednesday scrimmage: players to watch

Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are securely in place as USC's starting linebackers. Quarterback John David Booty has as much chance of losing his job as the Trojans have of losing to Idaho on Sept. 1.

Most other positions provide at least some sense of intrigue. With the season 10 days away, USC will attempt to simulate gameday during tonight's scrimmage at the Coliseum. Here are some of the players that could do a lot for their Trojan stock, if they perform well tonight:

1. Stafon Johnson, so., RB - The over-hyped 10-tailback competition never materialized. Freshman Marc Tyler and senior Hershel Dennis barely have seen the field because of injuries, and sophomore Emmanuel Moody has transferred. What is left appears to be a two-horse race behind senior Chauncey Washington.

Washington is the starter, and the team surely will find ways to get Joe McKnight involved - possibly more as a receiving back - once the true freshman's sprained right knee heals. But someone else will share a bulk of the carries with Washington, and the candidates - based on practice reps - apparently have been narrowed to Johnson and fellow sophomore C.J. Gable.

Johnson carried the ball three times in 2006, while Gable was the Trojans' third-leading rusher, starting five games. But, during an impressive fall camp physically, Johnson also seems to have won over coach Pete Carroll with an improved attitude.

After Moody's transfer, Johnson has worked mainly with the first-team offense. The only other backs to do so are Washington and Gable. Gable will not play in tonight, because of a sore groin. That gives Johnson a chance to make a lasting impression without getting overshadowed.

2. Kyle Moore, jr., DE - True freshman defensive end Everson Griffen has demonstrated two undeniable qualities during fall camp: he can move, and he can get to the quarterback. Moore is the starter, but if he wants to play in passing situations, he needs to get into the backfield more. Either that, or pray that coaches love watching Lawrence Jackson line up at defensive tackle on third down.

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