October 1, 2008

Practice Insider: Cushing moving inside

Oregon State gashed the USC defense on the ground, essentially running slight variations of the same play.

The huge game on the ground led to a Beaver win.

This Saturday, it turns out, Oregon's other Pac-10 team could attack USC the same way.

"They run the ball over the field, but they're an inside-zone-rush-team," Brian Cushing said. "We're going to need to stop the run. We just have to be better at it.

"We can't let that happen again."

The Trojans likely will not be at full strength, with Rey Maualuga still unable to practice with a sprained MCL in his right knee.

"It's Wednesday and he's not suiting up," Cushing said. "He's probably going to take it easy. He needs to let it heal."

USC head coach Pete Carroll said Cushing could get the start at middle linebacker.

The transition from strongside linebacker to inside began back in camp.

"He's really, really good inside," Carroll said. "We found that he's very instinctive and he loves playing in there. He looks the feel of the game from the middle out.

"It's fun watching him play. He's got a real knack."

Cushing and redshirt freshman Chris Galippo will carry the bulk of the load if Maualuga cannot go, and the pair will have to deal with the Pac-10's best rushing team.

"Today was the first time Chris really got his timing and was really smacking guys," Carroll said. "He's well behind, but he looked good today."

The shirt store

Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton hasn't caught a pass since the Trojans' opener, and this week, he went to his coach.

Hazelton didn't lobby for my catches though. He asked to redshirt.

"I've been talking to Coach Carroll about it. He hasn't gotten back to me on it as of yet," Hazelton said. "I'm still playing as of now. It was definitely my idea."

Hazelton could only take a medical redshirt at this point in the season. Already playing on one sprained ankle at Oregon State, Hazelton sprained the other one late in the game.

He said a redshirt year would help him mature.

"There are a lot of things going on," he said. "I need to grow up as a person in certain areas. That's why I asked him. I thought it'd be good for me."

Carroll said he wouldn't comment specifically on any redshirt plans.

"It's about what's best for the team," Hazelton said. "If he needs me to play, I'm sure he'll make me play."

Tyron's turn

At his size, Tyron Smith can make just about anyone do just about anything.

After two good weeks of practice, you can add offensive line coach Pat Ruel to that list.

"He's getting close to getting some playing time," Ruel said. "And I do have to play him because he's starting to do (stuff) right"

Smith, along with Derek Simmons, has been pushing the Trojan regulars up front.

Ruel said Smith is finally starting to get back to speed after missing time in fall camp with an injured knee.

"Tyron missed a lot of reps in two-a-days, the equivalent of about 20 practices. He was behind, but he's made a lot of strides the last week or two. He's got a lot of natural ability."

Ruel said Simmons has done well since moving to guard from defensive tackle, but there have been some nagging issues.

"The transition from defense to offense has been a little tough for Derek because he's constantly trying to push guys away instead of locking them up and getting inside," Ruel said. "He's made progress and he's getting better. He'll be able to help up in another week or so.

"Both of them are getting really close to being accountable."

Extra Points

David Buehler's injured knee didn't hurt him on kickoffs Wednesday.

Mitch Mustain took the second-team reps, and has put together two-consecutive solid days, Carroll said.

Joe McKnight flashed his explosiveness on a punt return, shaking Marshall Jones. He also broke free for a long run.

Damian Williams continues to be the most consistent receiver and will get even more playing time.

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