August 26, 2008
Practice Insider: Shared roles
Someone will be the first Trojan tailback to run onto the field Saturday at Virginia.
Maybe it'll be C.J. Gable; maybe it'll be Stafon Johnson. It could be Allen Bradford or Joe McKnight.
Whoever it is won't be the starter, really. Pete Carroll said he wouldn't name one.
"We're not doing that," Carroll said. "With our guys, they're all starters to us. They'll all play, and they're all important to us.
"You'll call the guy who goes out there first the starter. Really, it's about what we want to accomplish in the first few plays."
Carroll also said the Trojan receivers fall under the same philosophy.
"We have five or six guys we'll roll through there. We'll do the same with the tight ends," he said. "These guys deserve to play; they've earned it.
"We have plays for the things that they do, and we're going to specialize with them."
As the season goes on, players will have more time to carve out a specific niche, and in some cases, specific niches.
"It might be unusual," Carroll said, "but it's the way we do it everyday out here."
Weeks ago, this was the kind of thing Mark Sanchez wasn't in the position to talk about.
After days and days of addressing his left knee, the swelling, the pain and the brace, Sanchez got back to talking football - even if wasn't entirely good news.
Sanchez threw a pair of interceptions Tuesday, and while he's still giddy to be on the field, the turnovers soured his mood a little.
"I was bummed," he said. "I really concentrated on getting the ball to the right receivers, and the defense made some good plays."
Kevin Ellison picked Sanchez off first on a good throw. The second pick came when Sanchez, admittedly, made a physical mistake.
"It's actually good. I need to see that stuff," Sanchez said. "I need to know I just can't throw the ball anywhere. I need to be accurate.
"It's all right because we have a pretty good defense. I'm excited to see them making plays."
After practice, Sanchez received full clearance from team doctors, and he's expected to start at Virginia.
Carroll said he's been pleased with the energy and the boost the offense has received from having Sanchez on the field, but the Trojan quarterback still has to clean up his play before Saturday.
"He's missed two weeks of practice, and that's important," Carroll said. "He looks great, and he's moving around.
"But there's some rust in there."
Middle man, part two
Perhaps the most entrenched player on the field is senior middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
But the Trojans are taking steps to ensure the team wouldn't be devastated if Maualuga isn't able to be on the field.
Brian Cushing continued to take reps at middle linebacker, flanked by Kaluka Maiava and Clay Matthews.
"I'm just trying to learn the position now, just in case something happened with Rey," Cushing said. "It's a totally different position. I have to learn a lot more and learn a whole lot of new things and totally different assignments."
And the benefits extend past just being a disaster plan.
"It helps me to understand what the defense is doing, and it helps me read things better," Cushing said. "It's a win-win situation."
Cushing is practicing with a cast on his sprained left wrist, and he said the cast will be removed in the next two days.
• Shareece Wright participated in a good-sized chunk of practice Tuesday, but he wasn't on the field for the final 11-on-11 session.
Carroll said Wright looks good, and he expects the junior cornerback to be on the field this weekend.
• David Buehler made the play of the day, belting a 59-yard field goal through the middle of the uprights. The kick had plenty of leg, bouncing off the middle of a camera tower erected behind the posts.
• Vidal Hazelton made a great one-handed catch on a go route down the sideline, causing Sanchez to run after the receiver to celebrate the awesome play.
• After practicing Monday, Michael Reardon sat out Tuesday.
• Carroll said he expects to play a number of true freshmen Saturday and as many as eight could see the field. Malik Jackson continues to impress with his natural pass rushing.
• Travon Patterson had another big day, absorbing physical coverage for a number of big plays.
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