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USC FOOTBALL

Offense Seems to Be on the Same Page at Scrimmage

April 07, 2002|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With several veterans sidelined by minor injuries, the USC football team expected to use Saturday morning's scrimmage at the Coliseum to showcase reserves and younger players.

As it turned out, familiarity was the theme of the day.

Familiar names such as quarterback Carson Palmer and tailback Sultan McCullough. And an offense that appeared more familiar with its playbook than at this time last year, when Palmer and the others were just getting acquainted with coordinator Norm Chow.

"No one's guessing anymore," tight end Alex Holmes said. "We know where to go."

Palmer completed 12 of 15 passes for 137 yards, turning to Holmes and Keary Colbert because leading receiver Kareem Kelly was nursing a sore leg.

McCullough carried 13 times for 42 yards even without starting tackle Jacob Rogers, who sprained his knee this week. Reserve Darryl Poston looked stronger, carrying 11 times for 86 yards. Chad Pierson scored on three short runs.

"That's key," Chow said. "High efficiency [passing] and being able to run the ball."

Barely three months removed from a dismal performance against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl, the offense needs to develop consistency this off-season.

So it was surprising the defense struggled to stop the ball Saturday.

The Trojans got steady performances from safeties Troy Polamalu and DeShaun Hill, who combined for 13 tackles, and lineman Shaun Cody, who had three sacks. Melvin Simmons, a transfer linebacker from Washington State who sat out last season, also played well.

Still, Coach Pete Carroll was disappointed. He talked about having to replace several starters from last fall--including both cornerbacks--and a lack of depth.

It doesn't help that two key reserves, linebacker Chris Prosser and defensive back John Walker, are ineligible because they dropped classes and are not carrying enough units. They can make up for the deficiency in summer school.

Until then, Simmons figures the defense will improve with two more weeks of spring practice.

"It's definitely about feeling comfortable," Simmons said.

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