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COLLEGE FOOTBALL DAILY REPORT / USC

Top Freshmen Will Redshirt

September 21, 2000|DAVID WHARTON

Two of USC's top freshmen will undergo surgery and redshirt this season.

Tailback Chris Howard, who missed several games as a senior at Wilmington Banning High, will have arthroscopic surgery on a persistent knee injury.

Tight end Gregg Guenther Jr., from Woodland Hills Taft High, will be operated on for back pain that flared up in training camp. His loss could mean more playing time for another freshman, Alex Holmes, and sophomore Doyal Butler.

Also likely to redshirt are safety Matt Grootegoed, who has mononucleosis, and offensive tackle Joe McGuire, with a sore back. Coach Paul Hackett hopes to have all of them healthy for spring practice.

"Four years from now we'll be thinking what a wonderful move this was," he said. "But right now it hurts our team."

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Guenther's surgery will be performed by Dr. Robert Watkins, a USC team physician who treated San Jose State tailback Deonce Whitaker last spring. Whitaker came to see the doctor for a bulging disk.

"He told me I could still play football if I had the surgery and he was right," Whitaker said. "He was very nice and even called my parents to answer any questions they had."

The orthopedic surgeon did mention it was "weird" to operate on the star of a future USC opponent, Whitaker recalled.

"We try not to horde him," Hackett said of Watkins. "But he will be on our sideline. He's still our team doctor."

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Tailback Sultan McCullough was the latest victim of flu-like symptoms that have pestered the Trojans. He missed practice Wednesday.

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