Trojans’ defense suffering from injuries

USC held its last practice of the week Wednesday morning to prepare for its Friday game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo. The team, however, has come across a small issue: It might have two new defensive starters in the secondary.

Question mark · Junior safety Jawanza Starling did not practice Wednesday and is uncertain if he will play at Colorado on Friday. - Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

With junior safety T.J. McDonald suspended for the first half of the game and junior Jawanza Starling not practicing because of injury, the Trojans could be without both of their starting safeties.

“[Having two new safeties] could be the case,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said, “with Jawanza not practicing today and obviously the [Pac-12] deciding T.J. can’t play.”

Kiffin expects two older players will get the starting safety nods Friday: senior Marshall Jones and junior Drew McAllister.

“They’re good stories when guys that have played a bunch before get another shot,” Kiffin said. “A year ago when [senior linebacker] Chris Galippo came in at a backup role and played better, so hopefully, that will be one of those cases.”

Not only is Starling in jeopardy of not playing Friday, redshirt freshman Dion Bailey, a starting linebacker, was limited in practice after sustaining a concussion against Stanford last Saturday.

Though he has not missed any games this season, sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods has not been fully healthy this year.

“For whatever reason, that ankle just won’t get right,” Kiffin said, regarding Woods’ status. “Some days it’s really bad, some days it just hampers him a little bit. Unfortunately, he can’t get back.”

Statistically, Woods had a decent outing against the Cardinal last Saturday, catching nine balls for 89 yards and one touchdown. But Woods uncharacteristically dropped a couple passes, particularly one that would have led to a USC touchdown.

“We take it for granted how rare [a Woods’ dropped pass] is,” Kiffin said. “As good as he is, if you miss that much practice, you’re just going to be a little bit out of rhythm.”

Kiffin named junior Curtis McNeal the starting tailback for this Friday.

“Curtis will start regardless [of Marc Tyler’s health],” Kiffin stated. “But I do hope that Marc plays and as of right now, he’s scheduled to go on the trip, and we’ll continue to test him starting with tomorrow morning again.”

Kiffin also praised his current starter.

“You want to see guys improve all the time, and he’s really improved in the run game and pass protection,” Kiffin said. “Early on in the year, our fear was pass protection, picking everything up and all the different rules, and he’s really done a great job with that, being a smaller guy.”

Kiffin revealed that redshirt freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins received more reps and would be able to play in particular situations.

“There are some scenarios where Jesse would go in,” Kiffin said. “So that’s why we gave him some more practice this week, now that he’s fully healthy.”

Besides Starling and Tyler, freshman tailback George Farmer did not practice and senior tight end Rhett Ellison was very limited. Kiffin did not give any timetable for Farmer’s return.