December 29, 2008

Practice Insider: Tackles will get tested

USC's offensive line coach Pat Ruel has spent hours upon hours studying film this season, sizing up who his guys would be taking on in the trenches.

He's marveled at Arizona State's Dexter Davis and Oregon's Nick Reed - two of the best pass rushers in the country.

Still, scouting Penn State's Aaron Maybin, though, and Ruel saw something special.

"He plays with a lot of energy. He has good athletic skills. He's a terrific player," Ruel said. "He's maybe as good as we've faced. He's got really good speed, and he goes really hard."

Maybin finished the season with 12 sacks - fourth most in the country - on one of college football's stingiest defenses.

"He really is just a great athlete," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "He's a great player with great competitiveness and toughness. Nobody can touch him."

Ruel said it'll be on Nick Howell, Butch Lewis and Charles Brown to keep Maybin out of Mark Sanchez's face.

"They have played him on both sides," Ruel said. "He'll test both of our guys, whoever we have out there.

"And because he plays so hard, you can't let up for a second."

Brown said he's been impressed with Maybin on film, but he said the USC offensive line can't forget about the rest of the Nittany Lion line.

"We're getting ready for him and the other defensive ends," Brown said. "He's pretty fast. He has a lot of moves too. He goes hard every play. Their other guys are good too."

Because the defense as a whole is talented, Carroll said Joe Paterno won't try to hide Maybin on the field.

"They don't have to do a lot of fancy stuff," he said. "They're very physical. They don't try to fake you out and fool you. They just want to out-play you, and they do it all the time."

The new two

Sometime between the Trojans' victory over UCLA and Monday, Carroll decided to make a move at quarterback.

Aaron Corp had made a move, and Carroll rewarded him on the depth chart, making him the new No. 2 quarterback.

"The last few weeks, he's just outplayed Mitch Mustain. Mitch's been battling too, but you can see that we've focused the second amount of reps on him because he's deserved it. It's as simple as that.

"It wasn't a quick decision. We watched it over time."

Corp had been the back-up quarterback earlier in the season before quickly getting passed on the depth chart.

"He's demonstrating that he's comfortable with it. He's dealt with it very well, and he's been," Carroll said. "All through this process, he's really jumped to the front. He's been very consistent. He's deserved it."

Extra Points

• Carroll's decision to rotate Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable the way he did drew plenty of exterior criticism.

A look at the final statistics, though, reveals all three backs over 600 yards.

"I think it shows that we have three really good players. They all earned and deserved the right to play. Through the competition [between them] everything kind of balanced itself out," Carroll said. "We didn't set out for everyone to rush for 600 yards. We just played the games and that is the way it worked out. Our running game was very effective and very good to us all year long and those guys brought a variety of style and intensity that added to our football team."

• Fullback Adam Goodman came back to practice and could be a factor on New Year's Day. Carroll said he hadn't received any update on Stanley Havili's academic status.

Kevin Ellison returned to USC's practice - not in uniform. Ellison watched USC workout, and after practice, Carroll said USC would have to play without one of their senior captains.

• Media attending practice from Penn State continue to marvel at the atmosphere at Trojan practices.

• McKnight had a monster game in the Rose Bowl last year against Illinois. This year, though, he said he's not looking back.

"That game was like a year ago," he said. "I don't remember anything from it, really. It's a new year, and I'm trying to start new."

McKnight gained 206 all-purpose yards against the Illini, and early this season against Ohio State, McKnight rushed for 105 yards on just 12 carries.

"I don't consider myself a big game player. I just go out there and play. Sometimes I get lucky and things go my way," he said. "I always dreamed about being on this kind of stage. I just don't get caught up in it."

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