Max Tuerk first freshman LT in 40 years?

LOS ANGELES -- The NCAA has allowed freshman to play varsity football since 1972.

In the 40 years since, the USC Trojans have never started a first-year player at left tackle. That should change this Saturday, with true freshman Max Tuerk looking like the player of choice to protect Matt Barkley's blind side.

Aundrey Walker has started the first seven games of the season at the spot, but he went down in the third quarter of last week's game with a neck injury. He was not on the practice field during Thursday's practice.

Tuerk has been taking significant reps at the position in practice all week, and Kiffin said the coaches' comfort level with with him is at an all-time high.

"We're really comfortable in this situation," Kiffin said. "It's halfway through the year, and he's played over there. He's done really well for us.

"It'd be a little different if it was the opener and we didn't know outside of practice."

Tuerk has gotten significant in-game time at left tackle on two other occasions this season: against Cal, after Walker's lackluster performance in the loss to Stanford, and last week against Colorado, in the first half while splitting time with Walker and then after the injury.

On Thursday, Kiffin declined to name Tuerk the for-sure starter against Arizona, but expressed plenty of confidence in the 18-year-old from nearby Santa Margarita High.

"If he plays, I think he'll play really well," Kiffin said. "Just like he has."