September 9, 2008

Practice Insider: Tuesdays with physicality

Conventional wisdom might have the No. 1 team in the country taking it a little easy heading into a nationally televised game with No. 5 Ohio State.

Conventional wisdom, however, has no part in USC's Tuesday practices.

With the intensity and ferocity of a game, Trojan coaches yell things like "full speed" as players unleash powerful hits on one another.

USC head coach Pete Carroll said the defense took the victory, but a pair of punishing blocks by members of the Trojan offense made the most noise.

First, Allen Bradford leveled a defender, and on the next play, tight end Anthony McCoy flattened Malik Jackson with a crushing block.

"It's Competition Tuesday," McCoy said. "We come out here and go 100 percent, full speed. We're out here and competing.

"If you have to bang on somebody, you bang on somebody."

The physical Tuesday practices have been a staple of Carroll's game week preparation, and with Ohio State heading to town, things aren't changing.

"It was a good, spirited workout today," Carroll said. "We really got some good work in. A lot of good things happened at practice today."

Healing hands

Carroll and the Trojans weren't at full strength during Tuesday's practice.

Linebacker Brian Cushing didn't workout after suffering a hip injury during a walkthrough. Carroll said Cushing took a knee to his hip and experienced soreness.

"We thought it'd be best to rest him and make sure what happened," Carroll said. "It was in the hip-pointer area."

Senior defensive end Kyle Moore also missed some of Tuesday's practice with back spasms. Moore returned to practice later in the day.

Carroll said neither injury looks serious enough to affect the Trojans on Saturday.

Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton worked in some individual drills, but he wasn't in pads.

"He did pretty well today," Carroll said. "We need to make sure he's at full speed to do the things we need him to do. Still, it was a nice turnaround from yesterday."

Block party

Linebacker Michael Morgan missed a lot of camp with a dislocated shoulder, but since returning last week, he's been making an impact.

Sometimes, it's been subtle. Tuesday, it wasn't.

Morgan busted through the line of scrimmage on back-to-back field goal tries, blocking each kick.

"He's really been a core guy for us," Carroll said. "He's been instrumental for us on three or four different special teams units. It's a good boost for us."

Still, the two blocked kicks meant the protection wasn't holding up like it should.

"We had some new guys in on the line," Carroll said. "It didn't look good at all"

Extra Points

• During Monday's practice, the USC offense didn't look its sharpest. Tuesday, things got better.

"Whenever you come off a bye week, guys on that first day might be a little rusty. Then after a day or so, they get back into it" offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "Yesterday, we were a little off. Today, we were much sharper - much sharper throwing the football."

Sarkisian said the extra week gave the Trojan staff valuable extra time to formulate a game plan for a talented Buckeye defense.

"The extra time makes everyone more comfortable with the game plan," he said.

Mark Sanchez had a nice practice Tuesday, looking sharp in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills. He connected on timing routes crisply, and made an acrobatic running toss down the field to Damian Williams.

• During the team run period, Joe McKnight looked slipperier than usual, juking his way to numerous big gains.

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