The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Trojans.
Without the pressure of an impending game and the necessity to work out all the kinks by Saturday, the coaching staff can let players rest and recover from nagging injuries.
The entire starting offensive line, beside redshirt sophomore Matt Kalil, sat out or was limited during practice. Senior center Kristofer O’Dowd rested what he called a “strained shoulder.”
He was seen at the beginning of practice wearing a wrap around his shoulder, which was removed by the end of the practice session. He expressed no doubt he’d be ready for the game against Oregon on Oct. 30 and said he was expecting a Tuesday return. He called sitting out a preventative measure to ensure full health.
Junior tackle Tyron Smith sat out with an ankle injury, and senior guard Butch Lewis sat out with an undisclosed injury. Redshirt sophomore guard Khaled Holmes was limited and sat on a training table during the second half of practice.
“As we’ve said all along, hopefully we get these guys back by Monday, and be ready to go with a full week of practice,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
With all the injuries and the lack of depth on the team, the bye week functions as a training ground for the younger players to earn playing time and demonstrate to the coaching staff whether their talents can translate to the collegiate level.
The Trojans spent significant time in a four wide receiver set from the shotgun to simulate the style of play of the highly touted, high-scoring Oregon offense.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley was hurrying the team to the line and coaches were emphasizing quickness and speed on both sides of the ball.
During a receivers and defensive backs drill, Kiffin told his players to ask themselves, “How am I going to tackle the fastest team in the country?”
It was a common line from the coaching staff during the moments when the team was working on full-speed drills, especially during the scrimmage at the end of practice.
Freshman running back D.J. Morgan got a number of carries during Thursday’s practice, even with the first-team offense.
He broke one of his carries for a touchdown and was picking up a number of yards on each attempt.
Kiffin praised Morgan on his ability and said that it was promising that the freshman was able to show off his skill set in practice.
“This is the first week that we’ve been able to see a lot with him,” Kiffin said. “He looks very explosive, even though he’s not 100 percent yet.”