Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's early-morning practice:
The Trojans were back at it Tuesday at 6 a.m. on the practice field with a quick, fast-paced practice that featured a solid 15 minutes of straight wind sprints to conclude it. Three assistants -- offensive line coach James Cregg, defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza and linebackers coach Joe Barry -- were absent from practice, presumably already on recruiting trips. Expect coaches to filter in and out of Heritage Hall this week to utilize the bye to "flood the country" in recruiting, as head coach Lane Kiffin said Saturday.
Injury report: linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee), offensive linemen John Martinez and Tyron Smith (ankle) and running backs Dillon Baxter (toe) and C.J. Gable (knee) did not practice; defensive ends Wes Horton (back) and Nick Perry (ankle), tight end Jordan Cameron (knee) and running back Marc Tyler were limited.
More on those injuries: Gable's knee injury was originally feared to be season-ending, but it now appears he will be able to play as soon as next week against Oregon. "I'm thinking I'll be able to play," Gable said Tuesday. "I'm not gonna have anything hold me back." Horton participated in sprints at the end of practice but otherwise sat out. He was sporting a back support during the team's visit to a local children's hospital Monday. Baxter, who practiced juking some after Saturday's game against Cal, did sit-ups and push-ups with the other injured Trojans on the Brian Kennedy Field sideline. Tyron Smith said after the Cal game that he would participate in practice this week after suffering a couple sprains in his ankle last week but stayed on the sidelines.
In college football, bye weeks are typically used as an opportunity to get younger, less-experienced players valuable time on the practice field. That is even more important than usual for USC this week, as the Trojans will likely have to use a lot of their backups on defense against Oregon next week because of the Ducks' super-speedy offense. The problem is that the USC second-unit has been horrid this season in garbage time, giving up touchdowns again and again.
Kiffin was asked about receiver Ronald Johnson, who has been sort of shoved out of the spotlight in recent weeks with the top-notch performances by freshman Robert Woods. But Johnson still leads the team in receptions -- with 39, he's already at a career-high -- and touchdowns too. Said Kiffin of Johnson, and then his pair of receivers: "He really has played well. He does a lot of things that we don't see. They're both similar; they play so hard, they make so many blocks down the field, hustle plays that have nothing to do with their stats, which is really why they've been a big part of the running game too -- because of springing guys with big blocks downfield. It's been great." And back to Johnson, who has been plagued by injuries in the past but has stayed healthy so far this year: "I wish we him longer than one year. He's a dynamic playmaker and someone that, if we didn't have Robert, we'd have to lean on even more. Luckily, we have two guys that are making a bunch of plays."
Final notes: Two more early-morning practices await the Trojans, with both Wednesday's and Thursday's scheduled for 6 a.m. But the team will get an off day on Saturday before returning to the field Sunday evening. ...USC will view the tape from Saturday's game against Cal today; typically, the team watches film on the Sunday after a game but the bye week threw a wrench into its plans.
Kiffin spoke to a smaller than usual group of media members after practice.
See what he had to say, including his profuse complimenting of Oregon's offense:
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was breathing fairly heavily in this one-on-one video interview -- understandably, considering the sprints he and his teammates had just completed a couple minutes prior.
See what Casey said about the defense's performance in retrospect of the Cal game, preparing for Oregon and more: