August 11, 2008

Practice Insider: Health concerns?

Depth can have its advantages, and it's starting to show out on the Trojan practice field.

Four prominent members of the USC receiving corps didn't participate in Monday morning's short workout at Howard Jones Field.

Brice Butler (ankle), Vidal Hazelton, Ronald Johnson (groin) and Jordan Cameron (ankle turn) were all sidelined with a variety of bumps and bruises.

Hazelton took a few major shots during Sunday night's practice, apparently coming out of it worse for the wear. He walked the sideline Monday with a boot on his left foot.

USC head coach Pete Carroll said Hazelton had a few reasons for getting a break.

"He's got a sprained finger and a big lump on his hand and his ankle was a little sore," Carroll said. "That's three reasons to keep him out."

Carroll said he expects all of his injured receivers back sooner than later.

The offense did struggle at times throughout the day, as drops and errant passes led to turnovers. After the workout, wide receivers coach John Morton had his players doing extra pushups and sit-ups.

"Coach Morton was just on us today," Patrick Turner said, "It's nothing really. He can't break us."

Turner, Travon Patterson and Damian Williams took the majority of first-team reps Monday.

Williams has continued to keep Morton impressed with solid, steady play.

"He's just so consistent," Morton said. "That's what I want from my guys more than anything."

Nothing new

Aaron Corp took first team reps during two-minute work at the end of practice Monday, meaning Mitch Mustain worked with the No. 2's. The two have traded off spots since Mark Sanchez dislocated his left kneecap Friday.

"I don't know what they're thinking," Mustain said of his status. "It does (make it tougher not knowing where I stand), but at the same time, it brings focus to the fact that I shouldn't worry about competing against Corp right now. I need to worry about just getting the stuff down in the first place."

Carroll said it's not the right time to anoint either Mustain or Corp as the No. 1 quarterback while Sanchez recovers from his injury.

"Everything's moving along fine, and guys are making some plays," Carroll said. "As they become more comfortable, their consistency, confidence and decision-making will all get better."

Hail Mary

Practice ended with the Mustain-led offense firing a long pass against the first-string defense, backed up in the prevent defense.

Mustain's lofted pass found Williams in the end zone for the score - Mustain's second touchdown during the two-minute installation.

"It's 50-50," Carroll said. "I loved that we threw it and Mitch ended up finding Damian. That was good. But, we didn't play it very aggressively.

"That was a good indication that we need some work."

Mustain said he never hooked up with Williams on a last-second bomb while the two prepped together in Springdale, Ark.

"I don't think I ever had to throw one," he said. "Hopefully, I won't have to here."

Extra Points

• In addition to the wide receivers out, Josh Pinkard, Everson Griffen, Mark Sanchez and Tyron Smith didn't participate. C.J. Gable missed some time early receiving attention, but he returned to the field with no signs of injury,

Marc Tyler returned and got carries during drills.

Taylor Mays and Uona Kavienga both picked off Mustain during the morning session. Mays picked off a pass down the seam thrown into double coverage, and Kavienga caught a ball tipped off Williams' hands.

Shane Horton blocked a David Buehler field goal as the clock wound down during the two-minute drill.

• The team will focus on installing goal line and short-yardage plays during the afternoon session.

• Prior to practice, Carroll showed his players the 4x100 relay won in dramatic fashion by the United States.

"I'm really into aquatics right now," Carroll joked. "The guys loved it. It was awesome.


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