September 10, 2008

Practice Insider: Havili is a unique weapon

Stanley Havili and most of the first-team offense watched Aaron Corp taking reps as the sun was setting on Wednesday's practice at Howard Jones Field.

A defensive player came off the edge from Corp's back, and knocked the ball loose.

Most of the first team offense watched the scrum. Havili put his helmet back on and dove right in.

"I was trying to take the ball back," he said with a grin.

It was typical for Havili - putting his nose into everything.

Havili, the No. 1 Trojans fullback, had a typical day Wednesday practice. He caught some passes, made some blocks, ran some routes and took a few handoffs - status quo.

"You can do a bunch with him. He's tremendously versatile," running backs coach Todd McNair said. "He's able to do anything we want him to do. It depends on what the game plan calls for, but he can be an impact player."

Linebacker Brian Cushing said Havili is one of the offense's most important players.

"He's big time," Cushing said.

Just a sophomore, Havili has become a template for what head coach Pete Carroll wants from a fullback.

"We love what he contributes. He's really a bright player who we can move all over the place. We really trust him and can go to him in critical situations," Carroll said. "He's going to have an extraordinary career at that position for us. He's really defined the position with the multitude of things he can do.

"He'll be really hard to replace someday."

Unearthing a player like Havili is difficult on any level. McNair, who used to coach with the Cleveland Browns, said true fullbacks are tough to find.

"Kids are selfish, and fullback is a selfless position," McNair said. "If you're big enough, strong enough, fast enough and athletic enough to play fullback, you could easily play linebacker."

Havili is a selfless player, taking the time leading up to Saturday's showdown with Ohio State to brush up on his blocking.

"I think the coaches help me towards my weaknesses. They give me opportunities to block in a zone scheme," Havili said. "Ultimately, that will help me out a lot. This week, it's helped me out a lot."

Whether it's blocks, running or passing, USC will lean on Havili against Ohio State. It's what the coaches like to do.

"They like to do a lot with their fullbacks," Havili said. "From here on out, my role could only grow."

And it's a role the Trojans treasure.

"They're very, very valuable," McNair said. "I like the one we've got."

Injury report

A day after taking a slight shot to his hip, Cushing returned to the practice field Wednesday and went through the workout with no discomfort.

"I came out here and was 100 percent today. It didn't bother me at all," he said. "It was sore when it first happened, and I just took it easy. I didn't want to push anything."

Vidal Hazelton also donned pads Wednesday, practicing more than he has since spraining his ankle. Hazelton worked in one-on-one, seven-on-seven, individual and service team drills.

"I'm pretty confident (I'll play Saturday)," Hazelton said. "I'm not in a rush. I know it's a big game against Ohio State, but I'd rather play the rest of the season than rush back."

Extra Points

• Carroll said he was pleased with the Trojans intensity and competitive spirit during Turnover Wednesday. Now, it's time for game week to die down.

"We had another good day today, and we have one really important day left to do what we need to do," he said. "Then, we'll have done what we needed to do to get ready.

"It's exciting. You can feel a buzz."

• A huge crowd of media attended Wednesday's practice, with plenty of heavy-hitters. Rick Reilly, Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreet and, a friend of uscfootball.com, Bruce Feldman, all took things in. Writers from Sports Illustrated and USA Today have visited Heritage Hall this week.

Fili Moala said he's being bothered by back spasms after getting bent the wrong way Wednesday. Moala said he knows how to handle the ailment and expects to be fine well before Saturday.

Wes Horton did not practice, and Will Harris sprained his ankle during Wednesday's workout.

• Uncharacteristically, David Buehler missed consecutive field goals wide.

• Prior to practice, Buehler and some of the Trojans' other specialists kick a soccer ball around. Rey Maualuga stole the ball and kicked it out of Howard Jones Field. Then after the ball was retrieved, he did it again.

"Linebackers," Buehler said.


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