USC coach Lane Kiffin announced Tuesday that senior defensive tackle Armond Armstead will redshirt the 2011 season. Armstead has been absent from practices because of an undisclosed medical condition and was hospitalized in March when he underwent a series of tests.
“After meeting with everybody involved, the best thing is to redshirt him right now being this late in the season,” Kiffin said. “He’s going to probably graduate, finish his degree this semester and we’ll have him back next year.”
Last season Armstead started 11 games for the Trojans, finishing with 43 tackles and three sacks, but he has not practiced since being hospitalized. Though redshirting, Armstead could still leave for the NFL draft should he opt to declare.
After a strong game on both sides of the ball in a win against Syracuse, No. 23 USC heads to the desert in its first Pac-12 road game against Arizona State.
“We want to make sure we do a great job with our composure and not get in a personal foul type of game regardless of what the opponent is doing,” Kiffin said. “When emotions go up, we can’t let our decision-making go down.”
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley noted he enjoys playing road games because of the energy.
“I almost like away games more,” Barkley said. “Just being in that environment, everyone is yelling at you. You almost have to focus more.”
USC is approaching its first road match-up as if it were just another game.
“We just got to take it week by week and approach it like every other game,” said redshirt freshman tight end Xavier Grimble. “Every game is a serious game. You can be beat on any given night.”
Barkley is no stranger to hostile environments on the road, as he led the Trojans to a victory over Ohio State in Columbus his freshman year. He offered advice to the younger players on how to deal with the pre-game jitters and uneasiness of playing in an unfamiliar environment.
“Be yourself,” Barkley said. “Don’t worry about those — it’s still our game plan and it’s still our offense.”
Senior tailback Marc Tyler feels Barkley exudes more confidence this year behind center.
“It feels like he [Barkley] has a better timing and rhythm with the receivers,” Tyler said. “I know him and Robert [Woods] work together a lot. Matt looks confident out there.”
Though Barkley’s 8:1 touchdown-to-inerception ratio through three games indicates he has made progress since last year, he is pleased with the play of the other receivers who have stepped up.
“It’s great because we have other athletes on our team that can make plays as well,” he said. “If they want to overcompensate for covering [Woods], it is just going to open up other guys and that’s what you saw on Saturday.”
Though Syracuse was missing its defensive end — and arguably top defensive presence — in Chandler Jones on Saturday, the USC defense will have to prepare for Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has made a name for himself as one of the top linebackers in the country. Burfict has accumulated 17 tackles and four sacks for the Sun Devils this season.
“As young as we are, I think we are a mature group so that [Burfict] shouldn’t take us out of our game at all,” junior center Khaled Holmes said. “Their whole defense plays with a lot of tenacity.”
Barkley echoed similar sentiments, saying although the team has to worry about Burfict, the entire Sun Devils’ defense should be the team’s focus.
“Vontaze is the highlight of that defense,” Barkley said. “They play it really well and they play fast so it will be a good challenge for us.”
The Trojans remain relatively healthy after three weeks. Kiffin announced freshman linebacker Lamar Dawson, senior offensive tackle Martin Coleman, redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Prater and junior wide receiver Brice Butler were out for Tuesday’s practice. Junior guard Abe Markowitz was limited in practice.
“We anticipate all of those guys playing and we hope to have them back later in the week,” Kiffin said.