A big choice coming for Armstead

Senior defensive tackle Armond Armstead practiced with the Trojans on Tuesday for the first time in several weeks, participating in individual drills with the other defensive linemen in advance of USC's Thursday game against Cal.

Armstead, who's redshirting the season because of medical issues and has skipped practices to focus on academics, did not take part in team drills and left Howard Jones Field early by a back way before speaking to the media. USC head coach Lane Kiffin indicated that the Trojans have no immediate plans to play Armstead this year, but they do plan to bring him with them to Cal on the team flight Wednesday.

"He's going to come on the trip with us, being from Northern California and knowing so many people up there," Kiffin said Tuesday. "We've involved him in meetings at times and stuff like that. His number one focus right now is getting his degree and he's doing a great job with that.

"He's got a full load this semester to finish up so that he can graduate and so it's good to have him back here running around."

Armstead, hospitalized for five days in March because of chest pain, will graduate a semester early with a sociology degree in mid-December. From there, he can do a few different things. He can enter the NFL draft, he can transfer to another school or he can return to the Trojans as a redshirt senior and presumably start next season.

Said Kiffin: "He's got a big decision to make in December and January -- whether he comes back and helps us win a championship or whether he goes to the NFL."

The only restriction on Armstead's transfer would be that he would have to go to a school offering a graduate program USC does not. It's not likely he'd be picked high in the draft -- he was thought of as a mid- to late-round selection after last season -- but there's a chance he could be scooped up late with a good combine showing. And if he stays with the Trojans he could begin work on a master's degree as well.

Most graduated seniors at USC opt for the communication management track, but he could apply for a number of other options, including a master's in business administration or a real estate degree.