October 23, 2008

Practice Insider: Healing up

For around the last two weeks, USC running back Joe McKnight has had to watch his teammates, his guys, do the one thing he couldn't do - play football.

After his best game in a Trojan uniform, McKnight had to sit out with turf toe.

But after a Thursday practice where McKnight returned to the field for a significant amount of playing time, all signs are pointing to McKnight getting what he wants most - to play football.

"I'm even more hungry," McKnight said. "I've got a couple of more days of treatment, and if I can keep getting better, I'll be ready."

McKnight said he's very close to 100 percent, as he's still trying to burst out of his cuts without any pain. He's used the time off to go through all of his mental reps, and McKnight said he's ready to help the Trojans on Saturday.

"Joe looked good today," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "He was able to do some stuff at full speed, and things are looking good."

The Trojans will likely take four tailbacks with them to Arizona, and all four could be factors. Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Broderick Green all rushed for over 100 yards last week, and with McKnight returning, Carroll said he hasn't predetermined how he'll spread the ball around.

"We're not going in with any goals for how many carries or any of that stuff," Carroll said. "It'll be tougher."

Still, McKnight will be a factor in the Trojans' plans.

"Joe's ready to contribute and to play," Carroll said. "We've got plays for him that we'd like to get him in for.

"He'll be part of it."

The healer

Carroll and his staff aren't in possession of any magical powers (that the public knows about), but the Trojans continued to dodge some other potential bullets Thursday.

Wide receiver Damian Williams said his banged up shoulder won't hinder him come Saturday.

"It was just a little sprain," Williams said. "They just elevated the cushion in my pads to pull my shoulder back a little."

Williams said there are no restrictions because of his shoulder.

Defensive tackle Fili Moala didn't practice Thursday, resting a sprained ankle.

Moala said his straight-ahead movement isn't effected, but when he moves laterally, Moala said there's pain on the outside of his right ankle.

"I came out here and got to run around on it," Moala said.

The results were positive enough for Moala to say there was a "100 percent" chance he'd be on the field Saturday.

"I'm playing Saturday with an ankle or not. I'd be playing without a left foot," Moala said. "I'll play no matter what.

"My team needs me, and I need my team."

Extra Points

• Carroll said Thursday that Nick Howell and Alex Parsons would remain in the starting lineup for Saturday's game at Arizona. Both Zack Heberer and Butch Lewis will be available and both will plays.

"We thought it was the right thing to do after this week of work," Carroll said. "We'll see what happens Saturday and what happens next week."

Lewis missed last Saturday's game against Arizona State, and Heberer hasn't played since the Trojans' loss at Oregon State.

• Stafon Johnson will continue to be the Trojans' first punt returner, but McKnight caught punts during Thursday's practice.

Gerald Washingtonis not on the Trojans' travel roster. Malik Jackson will back up Kyle Moore.

• Moala said the Trojan defensive line needs to get into its gaps and create chaos in the backfield against Arizona and the Wildcats diminutive running back, Keola Antolin.

Antolin rushed for 149 yards against California last week.

"When you can chaos back there, it makes you think just that much quicker," Moala said. "You can get him frustrated back there by making him unsure of which way to go.

"Those are precious seconds we can use to our advantage."

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