Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
A glorified walk-through, Thursday's short practice "wasn’t a very long practice or a difficult practice," in coach Lane Kiffin's words. It was more of a mental practice than anything, if that makes sense. Going along with that, Kiffin got a bit existential when asked if it mattered to his team whether or not it rains Saturday -- which is currently about a 50-50 proposition: "It’s so hard to tell," the coach said. "When it rains, how much does it rain? Does it rain and then stop?...It all depends."
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey made news Wednesday with his comments that Oregon was "really not that good." Well, give him credit, because he didn't back down at all Thursday: "I won't be taking it back," he said. Teammates also defended his comments -- middle linebacker Devon Kennard included, with video below -- and even Kiffin didn't seem overly displeased with the quote. Said Kiffin: "I told him that he reminded me of when I coached (former Oakland Raider Warren) Sapp when he said what he said. I don’t think it matters what you say with [Oregon]. They are the No. 1 team in the country, the No. 1 offense in the country. They blow out everybody they play. So whether you say something or not, you’re going to have your hands full all day long.”
The injury report was even shorter Thursday, continuing with the shrinking trend over the course of the week: right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and defensive end Nick Perry (ankle) did not practice, and linebackers Malcolm Smith (knee) and Kennard were limited. It was Kennard's first injury-report appearance since the new method of reporting ailments was installed in fall camp, and he said it was more of a rest day than anything.
Perry's situation, however, is a bit odd. He was completely absent from practice Wednesday and Kiffin refused to explain why at the time. Then, Thursday, a smiling Perry said he was "ready to go for Saturday." He directed questions about his absence to Kiffin, who said Thursday that Perry would not have played had Thursday been gameday.
Tyron Smith's injury has to be a bit worrisome for the Trojans in that he has hardly practiced since playing almost two weeks ago against Cal. He's spent the majority of practice time this week sitting on the trainer's table while Kevin Graf picks up for him. Don't be surprised if Graf spells him at times against Oregon, even if he does end up starting. And the other Smith, Malcolm, doesn't look ready to play. Chris Galippo has spent the entire week playing weakside linebacker and it looks like that will be the alignment for the game.
Players now healthy who were out or limited earlier this week or last: running backs Dillon Baxter (toe) and C.J. Gable (knee), defensive ends James Boyd and Wes Horton (back), offensive linemen Khaled Holmes, Kristofer O'Dowd (shoulder) and John Martinez (foot) and tight end Jordan Cameron (knee). As the Trojans hoped, the bye week was very effective in allowing players to heal and rest.
Every offensive player seems to know exactly how many turnovers Oregon has forced this season. Translation: Kiffin and Co. are slamming it into their players' heads that ball control is the No. 1 issue on Saturday. "Can't turn over the ball. That's the key to this game," said receiver Robert Woods, who also mentioned ASU's limiting of Oregon's offense on third down as another key. "No fumbles. No interceptions."
Final notes: Desmond Howard greeted quarterback Matt Barkley as he walked off Howard Jones Field with receivers coach John Morton. Barkley stopped to chat with the former Heisman winner and current ESPN College GameDay analyst for a while. ... Thursday was the last open practice of the week for USC. The Trojans now have just a walk-through Friday afternoon and a night at their downtown hotel left on their schedule before Saturday.
Kiffin spoke to the media after Thursday's practice in an abbreviated session. See what he had to say:
You can tell Kennard's excited to play a team the caliber of Oregon in an atmosphere like Saturday's game promises to be.
See what the sophomore middle linebacker said Thursday about the game, about Casey's Wednesday comments and plenty of other topics: