August 27, 2007

Monday insider: Dennis makes progress

Hershel Dennis wore a helmet. A small step, but it's progress.

The sixth-year senior running back watched most of training camp, after aggravating the most recent injury in his thrice-repaired left knee. Monday, with the season opener five days away, Dennis returned. A little.

He had not worn a helmet in almost three weeks, so that was a start. Then, as practice began, he participated in light positional drills, catching short, unguarded passes from USC's quarterbacks.

When the Trojans switched to team drills, Dennis stood on the periphery of each offensive huddle, listening to the quarterbacks call out the upcoming play. When the huddle broke, Dennis stepped back - but not too far - crouching into position behind the tailback.

"Being up in there close and being around it helps me - eases the pain a little bit of not being able to practice," he said. "I try to make myself as active as possible."

After tearing up his knee during the 2006 spring practice, he petitioned successfully for a sixth year of eligibility. Then, Dennis re-injured the knee toward the end of this year's spring workouts and needed arthroscopic surgery.

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