As their teammates practiced routes at Monday’s practice, injured redshirt junior receivers Damian Williams and David Ausberry watched from the sidelines — Williams suffering from a high ankle sprain from Saturday’s game against Arizona State and Ausberry from a nagging calf injury.
Wide receivers coach John Morton listed both Williams and Ausberry as “day-to-day” and predicted that Ausberry wouldn’t return for Saturday’s game against Stanford. Head coach Pete Carroll said that if Williams practices at all this week, it would not be until after he sees team doctors Tuesday.
Against ASU, Williams was a bright spot in the Trojans’ sputtering offense, scoring the team’s only offensive touchdown on a thrilling 75-yard touchdown pass. The receiver showed confidence regarding his status.
“I’m a quick healer,” Williams said. “I’m going to be smart about it, obviously. I’m not going to play if I can’t, but I’m going to try to. I’m going to rehab as much as I can, and hopefully I can come back and play. We’ve got the bye week next week, so that will help a lot.”
A major hole in the Trojan offense, according to Carroll, has been the absence of senior tight end Anthony McCoy, sidelined with an ankle injury. Before exiting Monday’s practice early, McCoy ran several drills. He said he felt ready to play Saturday.
“The season’s almost over — that’s my urgency in trying to get back,” McCoy said. “Regardless of how the tight ends now are doing, I’m going to get back so I can finish out my senior season the right way,”
Carroll commented that the injuries plaguing the Trojans all year have allowed more players to make names for themselves on offense and defense, singling out redshirt sophomore linebacker Shane Horton and redshirt freshman receiver Brice Butler as examples.
“I think we’ve been banged up pretty good,” Carroll said. “We’ve had our share of issues, everybody has them. But a lot of guys step up and do really well when they’ve got the chance to.”
Morton similarly said that the one good aspect of all the injuries within his unit is the chance for younger players to gain experience both on the practice field and in real game situations. Even with Williams and Ausberry questionable, Morton said the team is ready to play Stanford.
“The good thing is that the younger guys get the reps, so we’re well prepared and ready for the game,” he said.
Both Carroll and defensive coordinator Rocky Seto offered praise for a Stanford Cardinal team that has surprised some this season. The Cardinal ran over Oregon for 51 points in its victory against the Ducks last weekend.
“They’ve been playing great football,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen them throughout the season. They’ve done tremendous things on offense with the new quarterback. They already have a great concept and approach with running the football with Toby [Gerhart].”
Seto said that Gerhart, who rushed for three touchdowns and a school record 223 yards against Oregon, presented a different kind of challenge for a defense accustomed to smaller running backs like Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State.
“He’s definitely not like a Joe McKnight, he’s not like a Jahvid Best. He’s a hammer,” Seto said.
Despite bouncing back against Arizona State, Seto said that the defensive unit will continue to practice and improve upon the weaknesses that crippled them against Oregon.
“We’ve definitely got to emphasize tackling and making sure we’re physical,” Seto said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but as long as we prepare well I think we’ve got a good chance.”