USC's Simione Vehikite back on team

LOS ANGELES -- Linebacker Simione Vehikite has returned to the USC Trojans after a jail stint and is back on scholarship, coach Lane Kiffin announced Thursday.

Vehikite was recently released from jail after being ordered in May to serve a year following a 2011 car accident. He pleaded no contest to leaving the scene of an accident and driving at or above the legal blood-alcohol content and was ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the accident among other punishments.

The terms of his sentencing included three years' worth of felony probation, which would last until May 2015.

Vehikite first appeared at USC practice Wednesday and was again present Thursday.

"Simi has done everything fulfilling his obligations to the team to get back, been through a lot, and fulfilled all his legal obligations as well," Kiffin said. "So he's back part of our team."

Vehikite, a redshirt junior, took and passed more than a semester's worth of classes last spring and is "very close to graduating" from USC, Kiffin said. He took part in the university's student-athlete graduation in May.

USC did not make Vehikite available for comment Thursday. His lawyer, Redondo Beach-based Michael Norris, did not return a message left at his office Thursday morning.

As a special-teamer in 2011, Vehikite collected six tackles while playing in all 12 of the Trojans' games.

Kiffin said it's unlikely Vehikite will play much in USC's season opener against Hawaii on Saturday, but he'll be available.

"He wouldn't have a very big role," Kiffin said. "If the time came where he was called on, he'd be ready to go."

Vehikite's addition appears to put USC at 75 scholarships for the 2012 season. NCAA sanctions have limited the Trojans to a 75-man max for the next three seasons.

Incoming freshman Darreus Rogers signed with USC in February but has not been academically cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. It appears he will not be able to join the Trojans on scholarship this season, even if he is cleared by the university's deadline of Sept. 14.

Kiffin declined to say whether Rogers still could be added to the roster, saying he didn't want to "get into specifics of numbers and planning."

Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com