November 25, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojans ready for Clausen homcoming

When Pete Carroll first came to USC, he played Notre Dame each season. Then, he met the Fighting Irish again and again on the road as both programs tried to court the nation's best prep football players.

Notre Dame and USC have fought over players like Brian Cushing, Sam Young and Mark Sanchez. In the case of Cushing and Sanchez, USC won out.

And with Notre Dame starting right tackle, Young, and the player he protects, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the Trojans lost out.

Carroll said the Trojans recruited Clausen, and he's been impressed by the sophomore's season, when he's passed 2,730 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

"He's really playing well, really banked on the experience he got from last season. They've thrown the ball a lot. They've showed a tremendous trust and confidence in him. He's done a beautiful job with it," Carroll said. "He's growing. He's a young, sophomore kid doing it, playing in tough games - all of that… He's been involved in every match up. He's much improved.

"He has a big-time arm, accuracy, all the throws - all that to make him a big-time quarterback."

Sanchez said he's known about Clausen for some time.

"I know he was just a standout in high school. I've seen him all over the Internet and stuff like that," Sanchez said. "He's obviously made headlines and done a good job for himself.

"He put himself in a great spot where he's gotten the chance to play a lot and to throw the ball a lot."

Still, when the Trojans face Notre Dame Saturday at the Coliseum, Sanchez won't be worried about out-playing another quarterback from Southern California.

"I haven't thought about it really," he said. "I'm playing against the Notre Dame defense. It's not about comparing our stats, and it's not a Clausen-versus-Sanchez match up."

Clausen has a pair of high school teammates on the Trojans roster, running back Marc Tyler and defensive back Marshall Jones.

Jones said he thinks the defense can force Clausen into some uncomfortable positions by shrinking the pocket.

"We could give him a little trouble. He might get a little antsy in the pocket and start scrambling," Jones said. "He's not really a scrambling type of quarterback. I think a lot of pressure on him could get him antsy.

"I think our defensive line is going to get to him. I think our linebackers are going to get to him. I'm not sure he's going to finish the game."

Healing up

Senior safety Kevin Ellison took part in a good chunk of Tuesday's practice and said he felt fine being back out on the practice field.

"For it being his first day," Carroll said, "he looked really good."

Ellison left practice early to allow team doctors to look at his knee, but he said he didn't think there'd be any major obstacles left to clear. Doctors later cleared Ellison to play Saturday against Notre Dame, he said.

"It loosens up as I go and as I stay warm," he said. "I went through most of the practice without any pain. Sometimes, it just gets a little uncomfortable. That's just part of it.

"When I'm playing, I'm not really feeling too much. It's more just standing around after."

The plan for Ellison is to keep adding more and more to his practice regime, and Ellison's confident he'll be on the field against Notre Dame.

"I think it'll be fine," he said.

Extra Points

• The Trojan offense has taken on a new look over the past few games, with running backs not shuffling in and out as often.

"We kind of just eased into it. When we've had some chances to leave guys out on the field, we've done that," Carroll said. "It won't be like that all the way through, but it's like that at times when we can.

"We're trying to give them more of a feel than onesy-twosys."

Allen Bradford watched some of Tuesday's practice on crutches from the sidelines. Bradford underwent hip surgery Friday, and he said the procedure was a success.

He's already begun rehab on his hip and said he'd be off of crutches in two weeks.

• Freshman defensive tackle Armond Armstead missed Tuesday's practice with a broken bone in his hand.

• Cloudy skies and the threat of rain forced the USC practice up to 3:30 p.m. It didn't rain during Tuesday's practice, though.

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