Some important faces weren't participating as the Trojans held Tuesday practice at Howard Jones Field.
With guys like Joe McKnight sidelined with injuries, new, fresh faces have had to step up and take advantage of the added reps.
Freshman running back Broderick Green finds himself in that position, now, and after a good day's work Tuesday, he could be in position for meaningful carries when the Trojans head to Washington State Saturday.
"He's really come alive here in the last few weeks," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We've always wanted him to run big and thick and hard, and he's doing it."
Green and C.J. Gable were the only two healthy Trojan tailbacks Monday, and Tuesday, Stafon Johnson returned from a sinus infection to give USC another capable back.
McKnight spent Tuesday's practice in a boot, and no update on his progress has been given. Carroll said he wasn't too optimistic.
"He's not moving very well. He couldn't get out of the boot," Carroll said. "It's going to be hard for him to make it unless if he makes a pretty big turnaround."
With the door seemingly closing for McKnight against the Cougars, it's opening for green.
"It's kind of weird. I'm not used to it. I'm really trying to make the most of this opportunity," Green said. "They have been telling me to stay ready, just in case. We really only have two guys healthy right now. I'm just trying to stay ready if my name's called."
With the opportunity comes a risk, Carroll said.
"Guys can try to make too much of it," he said. 'He's already been in games, so that's not a big deal to him. He knows that the door's open to him to do something, and we'll try to work him through it to make sure he doesn't over-try or press."
Green's spent most weeks helping prepare the rest of the team by working as the scout team running back. This week, he's getting to run USC's offense and not their opponent's.
"I have had a long time on the scout team, and I'm kind of rusty. Guys and coaches have been helping me out, and I'll be back on top of it," he said. "It's been really important to get the chance. It's been tough being on the scout team and watching every day. Then again, I'm getting better being down there and I'm helping the team out.
"It's a good feeling to get this chance."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez knows what it's like to have an injury open the door.
"When guys go down, it's just another opportunity for our young guys to step up. I had my chance last year," Sanchez said. "Whenever it happens, I'm quick to share my story. If someone goes down and they step in, it doesn't have to end. They don't have to come out anytime soon.
"They can play for a long time."
But, it starts in practice.
"You just have to show your ready to take on that spot and to be a factor in our game plan," Sanchez said. "That means carry it high and tight in practice. That means know all the protections. That means know the checkdowns and catch the ball when it's thrown to you.
"With the little things, you just have to do it all right to prove your ready for that spot."
If McKnight's not able to go, Sanchez is confident that whoever gets the nod will be able to handle it.
"We're thinning a little bit, but that's really what our depth is all about," he said. That's why we recruit so hard. That's why we get so many good players in our system.
"Anytime, you can get a chance to play, and we're starting to see that now."
The thin get thicker
Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris met with Pete Carroll Tuesday to discuss a possible change.
Carroll asked the hefty redshirt freshman to turn in his defensive jersey to take a spot with the offense. Harris wasn't moving to tackle, center or guard, as his frame might suggest.
Tuesday, he played tight end.
"A couple tight ends are hurt. I played tight end in high school, and I guess they thought I was one of the only guys who could handle it," Harris said. "They asked me and I agreed to it. I'm just trying to help the team."
With Rhett Ellison out, Jimmy Miller sick and Blake Ayles nursing an abdominal injury, USC needed a fresh body at the position.
"We're auditioning," tight ends coach Brennan Carroll said. "We're looking for a big blocker."
Harris took some reps with the offense and even caught a ball in seven-on-seven drills - the first time he's worked in seven-on-seven's since high school.
"It was a little tiring for him. He probably hasn't run that much in awhile," Brennan Carroll said. "I don't think we'll split him down the field and expect him to beat linebackers."
While Harris tries to learn the playbook, Brennan Carroll said there might be a few plays he could run as soon as Saturday.
• With injuries to Kaluka Maiava (bruised foot) and Brian Cushing (bruised shoulder, hand), Carroll said the focus is on giving more reps to Michael Morgan, Chris Galippo and Malcolm Smith.
Luthur Brown, Carroll said, has not yet been cleared and the team's "not counting on him."
Maiava and Cushing met with team doctors Tuesday and will be limited in practice this week, but both could still play.
• Tailback Allen Bradford's MRI on his hip revealed a slight tear to the labrum. Bradford said he'd prefer not to play the rest of this season and apply for a medical waiver.
"I don't want to come back and make it worse," he said. "I'd rather sit the year out, let it heal properly and then come back. If I come back, it's going to get worse."
Bradford will meet with a specialist Thursday to determine if there has been cartilage damage.
• Jeff Byers sat out Tuesday's practice. Butch Lewis, Everson Griffen and Jordan Campbell all missed practice with illnesses.
• Mitch Mustain found Brandon Carswell in the corner of the end zone late in practice for the best toss-and-catch of the day.
• Ayles abdominal injury has yet to be pinpointed, but it's a nagging one.
Carroll said sitting him out won't make the injury any better, and he expects Ayles to play Saturday.
• McKnight was scheduled to meet with the team's medical staff after practice but did not show up, according to a team spokesman.
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