It isn't unusual for aspiring USC tailbacks to serve an apprenticeship at fullback. Ricky Bell did it; so did Marcus Allen.
Ryan Knight, a senior tailback, is going the other way. He is now practicing as a fullback while still being available as a tailback.
"I'm sure he wants to play tailback," USC Coach Larry Smith said Saturday, "but he wants to contribute to the program any way he can. He wants to be the best player he can be. His attitude has been excellent."
With Steven Webster recovering from an ankle injury, Smith has also been working freshmen Ricky Ervins and Scott Lockwood at tailback to get more speed.
Webster is practicing, wearing a lightweight cast on his left ankle. "He's looking better," Smith said. "He's hitting the holes and not tiptoeing."
The Trojans were idle Saturday, providing Webster with more time to get ready for next Saturday's game with Boston College at the Coliseum.
However, Ervins, a 5-foot 8-inch 190-pounder from Pasadena's Muir High School, figures to play against Boston College. Smith said he might even start if Webster is still gimpy by game time.
Smith also said that suspended tailback Aaron Emanuel has told him he intends to return to school next spring. Emanuel was found guilty of misdemeanor battery three weeks ago for allegedly punching USC hepathlete Sharon Hatfield. He'll be sentenced Oct. 1 in Pasadena Municipal Court.
Emanuel had been ordered by the USC Office of Student Affairs to complete 100 hours of community service and to undergo psychiatric treatment once a month while serving his suspension.
Smith celebrated his 48th birthday Saturday on the USC practice field. And in keeping with a tradition that he brought with him from Arizona and Tulane that involves both coaches and players, he resorted to an old silent-film comedy routine.
Smith chucked a Boston cream pie into the faces of linebacker Marcus Cotton, defensive tackle Tim Ryan and trainer Jack Ward.
On the occasion of his 20th birthday Tuesday, Ryan chose Smith as his subject, covering his coach with the gooey pie.