Lamar Dawson says he'll play in opener

USC middle linebacker Lamar Dawson has missed much of fall camp due to injury, but he maintains it won't have any impact on his status for the Trojans' season opener Saturday against Hawaii.

Following Wednesday's practice he said he will playing against the Warriors -- injury or no injury.

Now he has to catch up with what he missed over the first few weeks of camp.

"I just want to just learn my keys and my assignments and get everything down," Dawson said. "I just need to get back on the field to get physical reps."

Dawson, a sophomore, said he was able to take some "mental reps" by watching Hayes Pullard move over from weakside linebacker to the middle and take his spot while he was out. And he was impressed with how rapidly Pullard picked up on the responsibilities of playing in the middle.

"I learned a lot from Hayes," Dawson said. "He's coming from Will [weakside] playing the Mike [middle], so he brings a different contribution to the game and a different style. He's just getting used to it and getting a feel for playing Mike.

"It's a hard position to learn, and he's doing a great job with it."

Under USC's new injury/strategy policy, coach Lane Kiffin did not comment on Dawson's status. But the Trojans' coach did say Wednesday he expects Dawson to "go to the next level" this season.

Dawson, a Kentucky native, started the final four games for the Trojans last year and appeared in eight.