George Farmer's status

All signs point to USC receiver-turned-tailback George Farmer playing on Thursday against Cal in what can only be characterized as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin's next attempt to infuse some excitement and big-play ability into his backfield.

But how did we get here? How did we so quickly move from the true freshman Farmer redshirting to the freshman Farmer playing right away? And is this really that big of a deal?

First of all, we got here when Kiffin and the Trojans did a little experimentation following the first loss of the season and put Farmer in as a scout-team quarterback and running back. The topic of moving him there permanently had never before been breached -- or even thought of extensively, it appears.

But when Farmer shined running out of the backfield, getting to the outside quicker than any of USC's other backs, minds were quickly made up to move him there in the long-term. By the next week, he was pretty much a full-time running back.

After a few days at running back, Kiffin presumably realized that Farmer would be a legitimate threat in the Pac-12 as soon as this month and immediately got to thinking about the sense of burning his redshirt almost halfway into the year.

By late last week, Kiffin publicly admitted he was re-visiting the decision to redshirt Farmer. And in the days since, he hasn't come right out and said that the freshman will play, but it's apparent in the way that the player himself talks that it is expected.

He doesn't speak in terms of 'if.' He speaks in terms of 'when' -- as in, when he makes his collegiate debut against Cal on Thursday at AT&T Park. When he replaces fellow freshman Amir Carlisle as Kiffin's choice to break up the monotony in the tailback rotation and break big runs.

"I'm going to try to my hardest to give them that breakaway character," Farmer said Tuesday. "Show my speed, get to my gap and go, following my blocks."

Farmer says he feels "much more comfortable" now than he did two months ago upon his arrival at USC. And he says he feels comfortable at both running back and special teams.

So, in the end, not playing right away didn't hurt him all that much. Well, it hurt his spirit at the time -- but it didn't hurt his progress. It goes unsaid, but that time away from the spotlight actually did him some good in lessening the overall pressure.

Put it this way: If you think people are talking a lot about Farmer this week, imagine how much people would have been talking about him in Week 1, leading up to the Minnesota season opener.

"Everyone's talking about my debut and everything, but it makes it a little different not being the first game and being now," Farmer said. "When you come on the field, now you're prepared for everything that you're supposed to do.

"It's like a test."