September 29, 2008

Practice Insider: New faces, new places

It stands within reason that things would be a little different on Howard Jones Field Monday for the USC football team's practice.

Coming off a 27-21 loss at Oregon State in their conference opener last Thursday, Monday was a time to get a look at where the coaching staff will be making adjustments.

The most notable move will occur on the defensive line, where it looks like defensive end Everson Griffen has been demoted.

Clay Matthews is the most likely candidate to get the start opposite Kyle Moore.

"Clay's had three terrific games. He deserves to get more playing time," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We're going to figure out ways to get him out there more.

"He's going to start this week, but I don't know where."

More changes could happen along the defensive line.

Monday, tackles Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey took reps with the first team - a spot Averell Spicer has held since the start of fall camp.

After watching game film, it was clear changes were necessary, Moore said.

"The defense was as bad as I remembered it. We just didn't play well up front," Moore said. "There's going to be more energy, more speed and fewer mistakes."

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said there's time to be won in the backfield and at receiver this week.

Also, the No. 2 quarterback spot is back up for grabs.

"We're going to assess it this week. We've opened up a few spots where guys can get a chance to work and compete for more playing time," Sarkisian said. "Hopefully we'll see some guys compete, push each other and get better."

Not all of the changes, though, are performance related.

Injuries have forced Carroll and his staff to shuffle some things around on the offensive line.

Zack Heberer will miss time with what Carroll called a "seriously sprained toe."

"He looks like he's going to be awhile," Carroll said.

Alex Parsons will get first-team reps and likely start at right guard with Heberer out.

Also, a couple of newcomers to the offensive line will continue to get a serious look, Sarkisian said.

"We're going to keep pushing Derek Simmons and Tyron Smith," he said. "We've got some good young guys, and we just need to keep moving them along."

USC also could be without middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, though things aren't looking too bleak.

Maualuga's got full range of motion and hasn't been setback by any swelling. Monday, he ran around without a limp.

Carroll said Maualuga underwent a MRI Monday, and the team's still waiting on the results. If Maualuga couldn't play, either [/db]Brian Cushing or [db]Chris Galippo would play middle linebacker.

Whether its because of injuries or experience, Carroll said now is a good time to see some different looks from his team.

"It feels like, at this point, we have enough information to do a couple of things," Carroll said. "We're checking some things out…

"You try to fix stuff, and you can try too hard. We have a way to do this stuff. We've been through it before."

The stable is stable

Running backs coach Todd McNair said there are not any chemistry or personality problems in the Trojan backfield.

And his guys are saying the right things.

Running back Stafon Johnson played well at Oregon State after a slow start and led the team in rushing on just seven carries.

"I got enough carries to get us going," Johnson said. "That's my role, to get us going when we get down.

"Whenever they need me, that's my role this week."

Allen Bradford is the only back seemingly in the rotation that didn't get a carry last week at Oregon State.

Sarkisian said that wasn't the plan.

"We're trying. It's a challenge. We tried to get Allen in on a few things," Sarkisian said. "We had a run called for him on the second play of the game, and we had to audible out of it. It's not from a lack of wanting him to carry the ball."

Extra Points

• Sarkisian said the loss at Oregon State could lead to a great week of practice if the Trojan players and staff use the lessons and disappointment properly.

"These guys don't like to lose; no one in our program likes to lose," he said. "The taste of a loss can hopefully fuel some things to get guys going in the right direction. It can keep our practice field competitive. We can all get better."

• The offensive coaches are evaluating the direct snaps to Joe McKnight. Sarkisian said the staff isn't afraid to shelve the play for a while if it is deemed ineffective.

• Carroll said the USC defense missed a normal amount of tackles against Oregon State, but the tackling wasn't crisp. Carroll said the lesson will be to make sure players are ready to make a tackle.

• Carroll said he needs to do a better job leading his team.

David Buehler worked on onside kicks at the start of practice.

• Freshman walk-on quarterback John Manoogian practiced with the team Monday. Manoogian prepped at Los Angeles' Windward School. He's wearing jersey No. 9.

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