With USC’s sixth game of the season approaching on Saturday, the No. 11 Trojans are doing everything they can to prepare for the road matchup against Washington.
Such preparation includes getting ready for potential rainfall in Seattle, Wash., as the coaches and managers sprayed the players with sprinklers and hoses during individual drills in practice yesterday.
“The guys are excited to go play and ready to go to a very hostile environment versus a team that is undefeated at home,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “We know they’re going to throw everything at us.
The Trojans will have had eight days of rest after their 38-28 win over Utah last Thursday, and Kiffin believes the team has benefitted greatly from the time off.
“Our guys have really good legs right now,” Kiffin said. “Our guys look really fast. It feels like we’ve had a full bye.”
Kiffin confirmed that junior cornerback Torin Harris will start opposite of junior cornerback Nickell Robey, despite sophomore safety Josh Shaw seeing some snaps at the position.
“We think Torin is going to continue to improve,” Kiffin said. “As we know, he missed a lot of time, so hopefully this week he shows some improvement.”
Another player to look for in the back seven is sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey, who Kiffin praised yesterday for his intuitive play recognition.
“Dion really can understand everything.,” Kiffin said. “It’s very unusual to have a guy to play in base and then play in nickel like he does. He’s really able to diagnose the stuff coming out of a play real fast.”
Bailey has three interceptions and 35 tackles on the year, and the Trojans look to him to help anchor the pass defense against Washington quarterback Keith Price.
Though Price only has a 74.9 quarterback rating so far this season, Kiffin believes he can still be one of the elite passers in the conference and the country.
“He’s the same quarterback that lit up the [Alamo Bowl],” Kiffin said. “There’s been a lot of good quarterbacks to play [at Washington], and he’s broken almost all the records.”
In Washington’s 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl last season, Price threw for four touchdowns and 438 yards and added three rushing touchdowns.
This year, Price has five touchdowns and four interceptions through five games. Many have pointed to an injury-ridden offensive line as the reason for Price’s struggles.
“It’s going to be difficult when your offensive line is changing, you lose a receiver and you lose two tailbacks,” Kiffin said. “That’s not easy for any quarterback to deal with.”
Washington running back Jesse Callier is out for the season with a torn ACL, while running back Chris Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse now play in the NFL.
Despite the changes, Kiffin claimed that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has done a good job adjusting to his available pieces on offense.
“He wants to play to his personnel and to a quarterback that moves around pretty good. They sort of have a spread element,” Kiffin said. “That’s what good coaches do. They involve their personnel.”