All the talk these days is about the football team losing scholarships.
Yet, with the team at about 20 players below the scholarship minimum and with the scholarship sanctions not coming into effect until the 2011 season, coach Lane Kiffin decided to reward some players for their years of hard work.
Senior kicker Joe Houston, junior linebacker Ross Cumming and sophomore center Abe Markowitz received scholarships to play for the Trojans this season.
“It’s a dream come true,” Houston said. “This has been my goal besides winning the starting job. It’s a nice feeling knowing all my hard work has paid off.”
Houston’s teammate, sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, said he couldn’t have been happier for the trio.
“I’m proud of those guys. They’ve worked really hard and it’s really cool to get a chance to see them play for free,” Barkley said.
On a darker note, Kiffin confirmed that freshman running back Dillon Baxter will not travel with the team to Hawaii next week.
Kiffin suspended Baxter for the first game of the season for violating team rules and hopes this will be a learning opportunity.
“He’s had a good start to the semester and because it’s a Thursday game, he’d basically miss the whole week of school,” Kiffin said. “So it’s more important for him to stay here and we hope he’s learned his lesson and that this is extremely hard on him.”
Kiffin did acknowledge that USC is a different team when Baxter is on the field, but thinks that Baxter’s actions were severe enough to keep him out of the first game.
“There is a ‘Dillon Factor’ like you’ve heard us refer before with Reggie,” Kiffin said. “When he’s banged up or not in there, there is a difference. He does things other guys don’t exactly do. He’s very unique and we’d be running different players if he were playing this game.”
In injury news, cornerback Shareece Wright and quarterback Mitch Mustain kept it light at practice yesterday. Mustain felt a pain in his rib after throwing a ball in drills and Wright experienced some pain in his hip. Neither injury is expected to be serious; but with limited numbers, Kiffin is taking caution, especially with Wright as the secondary prepares for a high-octane-passing Hawaii offense.
“We just want to make sure we manage our guys as best we can,” Kiffin said. “Our DBs have done a lot of running and as you look at our DBs preparing for this week, we have a big game plan with all the spread offense Hawaii does, so they will have to do a lot of running in the next few practices.”