Freshman middle linebacker Lamar Dawson missed Thursday's practice and continued to wear the walking boot on his sprained left ankle, lessening the possibility that he'll play Saturday against Arizona State in reserve of starter Chris Galippo.
He hasn't practiced since suffering the injury late in last week's win over Syracuse. So what will the Trojans do if Dawson can't go?
There are two ways they could go about it.
The first is relying on redshirt sophomore Will Andrew, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship in fall camp after taking a number of snaps in spring practice while Galippo was out. Andrew, at 6-2, 230 pounds, has the size and has some experience playing middle 'backer in game situations late last season and early on this year. But could he play meaningful snaps -- 12-25 is the range they're looking at -- early and often in Arizona.
The second is moving over Shane Horton from weakside linebacker temporarily. Horton hasn't started this year and is viewed as Hayes Pullard's insurance on the outside, but is versatile enough to take on new duties in an emergency. Kiffin said he's been taking snaps at middle this week in practice. That, of course, would mean Pullard would take more snaps than usual. And backup strongside linebacker Marquis Simmons (neck) is likely out for Saturday's game as well, which could muddle up the mix even more.
There's also a third option, but it's less than ideal. The Trojans could simply keep Galippo on the field throughout the game, which they did in the season opener against Minnesota.
But Tempe temperatures are expected to approach 100 degrees at game time, so that's being looked at as a last-ditch possibility.