November 24, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojans back from weekend off

Saturday, Oklahoma was beating Texas Tech, Oregon State was pulling out a late win at Arizona, Texas, Penn State, Florida all took care of business and Notre Dame was losing to Syracuse.

While all that was happening, the USC Trojans were resting. They were relaxing. They were getting healthy, and they were waiting.

Monday, it was back to work.

"It was exactly what we needed going into these last two games, three days off. Most coaches wouldn't do that," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "Coach was great about giving us those days to see our family and relax before our final push."

Back on Howard Jones Field Monday, the Trojans started preparation for their game with Notre Dame Saturday, running through game plan installation.

USC head coach Pete Carroll said his team had a good practice Monday, but he could see the effects of the long weekend in his quarterbacks, who overthrew some balls because they "were all hyped up."

"In general we just all feel good," Carroll said. "Their legs are fresh, and everyone is strong."

Cornerback Josh Pinkard went home to visit his family, and he said the time off led to a good practice, as the Trojans worked without pads.

"It's always good to get a bye week, to go home and see your family and hang out some. It's good to let your body heal up too," Pinkard said. "We always have good energy on Monday without any pads. Everyone's always flying around on Monday. "

Any hangover from the break went away Sunday night, when the team gathered at Heritage Hall for meetings.

"It might put a little kink in the rhythm," Pinkard said. "But, we came back Sunday and got stuff done and got refocused."

Sanchez agreed, but he said Monday's practice was just what the team needed to get back into the flow of the season.

"You get a little rusty pretty quickly. I think we shook that off today," Sanchez said. "We're more than ready to go."

The six-year itch

Fifth-year senior Jeff Byers began the process of applying for a sixth year of eligibility, and he said Monday that he's eager to get an answer.

"I'd like to know so I can make my decision and get my mind around what I'm going to do," he said.

Byers and the USC compliance office have been in contact with the Pac-10, who would need to grant Byers a medical hardship waiver. From there, Byers would have to apply for a sixth-year with the NCAA, he said.

Byers said he hopes to hear back from the Pac-10 in the next week.

Byers has already finished an undergraduate degree and is in the second year of his MBA. If he were granted a sixth year, Byers said he'd love the chance to finish his master's.

"That's a huge bonus if I get a sixth year. It'll weigh heavily if I can come back and actually finish my MBA," Byers said. "Football's going to end sometimes, and to have your MBA is a very powerful tool and could really help me out in the future.

"It's always nice to get done and not have to come back to finish."

Still, he's not taking any chances, and he said he's preparing for Saturday's game like it's last chance to play in the Coliseum.

"As of right now, I'm going," he said. "I can't act like I'm staying."

Extra Points

• Freshman defensive tackle Armond Armstead broke a bone in his right hand last Thursday during practice. His hand was in a soft cast Monday.

"He said he'd be able to practice this week," Carroll said. "And if he can practice, I think he'll be able to play."

Armstead's played his way into the Trojans' regular rotation, and Carroll would need to adjust if he couldn't go against the Fighting Irish Saturday.

Carroll said Averell Spicer, Kyle Moore or an expanded role for Fili Moala could help make up for Armstead's loss.

• Senior safety Kevin Ellison went through walkthrough drills with the defense Monday, and Carroll said he expects Ellison to return to practice in a larger capacity Tuesday.

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