November 13, 2008

Practice Insider: Depth paying off

Before the USC football season ever began, USC head coach Pete Carroll knew his secondary was going to be a big strength.

USC returned a talented cast of players led by senior safety Kevin Ellison and junior cornerback Shareece Wright.

But as USC heads into its 10th game, neither Ellison nor Wright will be available to play at Stanford Saturday.

And, the secondary, reall, will be just fine.

"Seriously, think about it," secondary coach Rocky Seto said. "You lose your top corner. You lose your top safety, maybe the best player on our team."

And, thanks to big-time efforts from Josh Pinkard, Kevin Thomas and Will Harris, there's not been any real drop off.

"Isn't it cool?" Seto said. "That's what separates us from other teams. It's depth."

And senior Cary Harris has been standing through most of it. Harris has played in all nine games this season.

"All the people have played Kevin Thomas has played in the past. Josh Pinkard's played before," Cary Harris said. "We're lucky to have all that experience in the secondary over the years. It's not that big of a loss.

"Of course we miss them, and we want them back. But, we've got guys who can step back in."

Wright will miss the rest of the season after suffering a neck injury, and Ellison will be out at least one more game after having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus.

"I'm very pleased with their response. It just goes to show you how committed these guys are. When their turns come up, they step right in," Seto said. "These guys live together. They hang out together. They eat together. They understand if one guy goes down, they can trust the next guy who goes in."

And with Will Harris' aggressive play filling in for Ellison, the Trojan defense hasn't skipped a beat.

"Will fits in good. He's been here for four years, and he knows the system. He knows what's going on," Cary Harris said. "He's aggressive. That's always a plus."

Northern Exposure

USC leaves Friday for Stanford's campus, where the Trojans will try and avenge last season's upset loss.

Carroll said the team closed its week of practice Thursday on a high note, giving him confidence that his team's ready for the Cardinal.

"There's a feeling out here that we're ready to make this trip. We know that this is the last road trip, and we've been going through it really well.

"It's been a great week, and we're ready to go after it."

Extra Points

• Thomas didn't practice Thursday after getting kicked during Wednesday's practice, but he'll be fine for Saturday's game Carroll said.

• Defensive end Everson Griffen has been playing with a sore right knee, but he was able to make it through Thursday's practice.

"It's a little sore, but I'll be fine," he said.

• Due to a "banged-up" shoulder, D.J. Shoemate will not be able to play Saturday, Carroll said.

Blake Ayles returned to practice Thursday, but his status is uncertain for Saturday's game at Stanford.

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