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USC REPORT

Cassel Ponders Position Move

October 15, 2003

Quarterback Matt Cassel always wanted to be in position to call audibles at the line of scrimmage for USC.

On Tuesday, the redshirt junior was contemplating a different kind of change in plans.

As expected, with tight end Dominique Byrd out for the season because of torn knee ligaments, coaches asked Cassel on Monday to consider moving to tight end. Junior Gregg Guenther is now the starter and redshirt freshmen Kurt Katnik and Nick Vanderboom are backups.

"If we needed help, the best guy that could help us would be Matt because he knows enough of the offense," Coach Pete Carroll said.

Cassel did drills with the quarterbacks Tuesday as the fifth-ranked Trojans continued preparations for Saturday's game at Notre Dame.

"I'm going to weigh the positives and the negatives of the situation and see if it would be a good decision for me to make," Cassel said. "I'm going to take my time. I'm not going to jump into this thing because there's no turning back usually when you do."

Cassel, 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, was Carson Palmer's seldom-used backup for two seasons. Redshirt sophomore Matt Leinart won the starting position last spring, and Cassel opened the season as the top backup.

Cassel played most of the second quarter against Arizona State when Leinart was injured, but he dropped on the depth chart last week after freshman John David Booty was elevated to No. 2 over Cassel and junior Brandon Hance.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Cassel was approached about switching positions because it offered Cassel the best chance to play.

"It's more for Matt's benefit than ours," Chow said.

Cassel caught one pass for 12 yards in 2001 and was asked to consider a switch after that season. He wrestled with the decision for months before deciding to remain a quarterback.

"It's a little bit different now," he said. "A few years ago, you're battling and you're doing things [hoping to become] a starting quarterback.

"Right now, it definitely doesn't look like it's going to work out. They have their guys picked out so things are set a little bit in stone there."

Cassel said one of the factors that would weigh in his decision is his weight. He would be far lighter than most of the defenders he would be assigned to block.

"I'm not saying I can't, but it's definitely a different position," Cassel said.

*

Linebacker Matt Grootegoed did not practice again because of a high ankle sprain, but Carroll said Grootegoed could still play against Notre Dame even if he does not practice this week.... Freshman Whitney Lewis, who was moved from receiver to fullback during training camp, and played tailback for a few plays against Arizona State, worked out at receiver.... USC will take 76 players to Notre Dame, including all seniors. "Being a walk-on, this is why you come out every day and work hard," senior offensive lineman Spencer Torgan said. "To be a part of this makes it all worth it." ... Asked if he believed receiver Mike Williams should be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, Carroll said, "If we're doing well down the road like we did last year, then anything could happen in that regard. But you have to have extraordinary numbers and our football team would have to win out in order for something like that to even come up."

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