Practice was nearing an end Wednesday when USC defensive lineman Jason Wardlow burst into the backfield and knocked quarterback Carson Palmer to the ground. Guard Zach Wilson took exception, shoving Wardlow, which started players on both sides of the ball yelling.
"It's game week, baby," middle linebacker Mike Pollard said. "You can't wait to hit people in other colors."
Pollard and the rest of his unit might be especially antsy.
Saturday's opener against San Jose State at the Coliseum means playing against an offense that puts particular pressure on the linebackers.
"They spread the field so we have to watch for the pass," he said. "Then, we also have to play the run."
The middle linebacker watches the center and guards. If he sees the interior of the line driving low, that usually means run. If helmets are high, that usually means pass.
"Those big guys pretty much tell you what's going on," he said. "We've just got to be disciplined in our game plan."
Forced to redshirt this season after transferring from Michigan, former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame star Justin Fargas must find less obvious ways to help his new team.
One way is to play on the scout squad.
This week, Fargas has traded his No. 17 jersey for No. 21 and is posing as San Jose State tailback Deonce Whitaker.
That makes him a target for the first-team defense.
"I knew that was going to be my situation when I came here," Fargas said. "I have to pay my dues and contribute."
Asked how he goes about trying to imitate Whitaker, who gained 1,577 yards last season and is a Doak Walker Award candidate, Fargas said: "I don't. I just run the ball like I do it. Hopefully that will be good enough to get [the defense] ready for the game."
There was a moment of concern Wednesday when linebacker Frank Strong collided with fullback Charlie Landrigan near the goal line. Both players went to the ground, wincing in pain after knocking knees. But they soon got up and Landrigan said it was only a bruise.
Tailback Malaefou MacKenzie remains a question mark, getting limited work again on Wednesday. His status might not be decided until just before Saturday's game .... The Trojans will practice in shorts this afternoon, backing off the physical work a littleand reviewing the game plan.