September 22, 2008

Practice Insider: Wright to miss significant time

When the USC football team took the field Monday at Howard Jones Field, starting cornerback Shareece Wright wasn't around.

By the time practice ended, it became clear things could be like this for a while.

USC head coach Pete Carrollsaid Wright will miss "a number of weeks" with a hairline fracture of one of his back's vertebrae.

No immediate timetable for Wright's return has been given, but Carroll said the injury, like a broken bone, could keep him out of the lineup for six weeks.

"It's a crack, and it take a while to heal," Carroll said. "We're surprised. He's surprised as well that it is this serious because he had a stiff neck."

Wright did not practice during the Trojans' off week, but he did return to the field in full pads Sunday participating in drills but not hitting.

The Trojan medical staff became concerned when Wright's stiff neck didn't go away fast enough, and an MRI showed they were rightfully worried.

The injury will not require surgery.

"Things happen," Carroll said. "Unfortunately for Shareece, this is going to be a long recovery for him."

The Trojans have dodged some major bullets when it comes to injuries through two games, notably with Mark Sanchez's dislocated kneecap.

"We're always looking for a miraculous recovery," Carroll said.

With Wright out for the foreseeable future, the Trojan secondary will miss his instincts and toughness. Wright has started both games for the No. 1 Trojans this season, recording eight tackles.

"He's a great player. He's become one of our top cover guys," Carroll said. "We know that from his work in practice. He's got great quickness."

Wright, who recently plead not guilty to a felony charge of resisting a police officer, would've played against Oregon State had he been healthy.

Wright's also a valuable member of the Trojans' punt coverage unit, shooting down the field as a gunner. With Wright out, wide receiver Ronald Johnson will get the first shot on coverage.

The Replacements

With Wright sidelined, Carroll said Josh Pinkard, a fifth-year senior, would make the start opposite Cary Harris.

Pinkard has missed significant time with knee injuries the past two seasons, but Carroll said the veteran is showing no ill effects.

"He's had a tremendous recovery and he's been able to do everything through camp," Carroll said. "We've been very careful with him.

"He's ready to go. He's fine right now."

Junior Kevin Thomas will now become the third cornerback.

Prior to Wright's injury, Thomas and Pinkard were in the Trojans' cornerback rotation, and Thomas even intercepted a pass at Virginia in USC's opener.

"It just means we're one man less," Thomas said. "We've been rotating, and I'd imagine my role would increase with Shareece out…

"It's more of an opportunity for me, but it's unfortunate for Shareece."

Carroll said his four-cornerback rotation will shrink to three, but true freshman T.J. Bryant will be fourth on the depth chart and available to play.

"He's been playing corner his whole football career," Carroll said, "and he's always thought of himself as a corner."

Carroll said Bryant possesses similar athleticism to Wright, but his lack of experience could certainly be an issue.

"He's new," Carroll said, "and he has no more time."

Going Green

Garrett Green continued to work as the backup quarterback Monday, but offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said no decision would be made on the N0. 2 quarterback job until Tuesday.

Still, Carroll said, it looks like Green's the man.

"Right now if we're going into the game, Garrett's going into the game first," Carroll said. "That's because of his command of the offense more than anything."

"This is just where it is right now. By no means have we made a long-term commitment."

Carroll said the competition will remain open, and he's not surprised that Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain hasn't fully grasped the offense.

Extra Points

• Sanchez was picked twice during a moved-up "Turnover Wednesday." Freshman Drew McAllister made a leaping interception in the end zone, and senior Kevin Ellison took Sanchez's first pass during 11-on-11 drills back for a score.

• The Trojans pumped in crowd noise during the workout, preparing for their Pac-10 opener at Oregon State Thursday night.

• Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass guitarist Flea took in some of Monday's practice and got introduced to the team. He's currently taking music classes at USC.

• Carroll said it appears linebackers Chris Galippo and Luthur Brown will not be available to play Thursday night.

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