Freshman Jeff Byers will start in place of injured left guard John Drake if Drake does not recover in time for Saturday's Pacific 10 Conference game at Washington State, Coach Pete Carroll said Monday.
Drake sprained his right ankle in the third quarter of last Saturday's 38-0 victory over Washington and did not practice Monday. Drake broke the same ankle last season against UCLA, and it required season-ending surgery.
"He's been able to resurface, he's got this Lazarus thing going," Carroll said of Drake. "I don't know when he'll start practicing, but in the meantime, we'll go ahead and move Jeff up and let him take a crack at it."
Byers, who played center and guard against Washington, said he was ready.
"Whenever opportunity comes knocking, you've got to grab it in full stride and run with it," he said.
Byers, the first offensive lineman to win the Gatorade national high school player-of-the-year award, arrived at USC hoping to play center. But sophomore Ryan Kalil held on to the job and has played well, allowing Byers to also work at guard.
"You just don't have to snap the ball," Byers said. "It's one less thing you have to worry about."
Drake said he would be ready to play by Saturday and was looking forward to the Trojans' trip to Pullman, Wash.
"Who wouldn't want to play in 30-degree weather?" Drake said. "Forget playing in Miami. Wazzou is where it's at."
Flanker Steve Smith is undergoing daily treatment for a stress fracture in his left leg and hopes to return for the Notre Dame game Nov. 27.
"I'm fortunate it wasn't a ligament tear or something like that," Smith said. "Hopefully, something miraculous will happen and I'll be back sooner."
Carroll and offensive coordinator Norm Chow had similar reactions to Coach Ron Zook's firing at Florida.
"Ridiculous timing for everybody in the program, except for a couple people who wanted to make a statement," Carroll said. "The guy needs to coach his football team and try to win, and they couldn't have messed with it more."
Chow, whose name is annually mentioned in connection with almost every major coaching opening, said Florida representatives had not contacted him.
Fullback Brandon Hancock, who had knee and chest-muscle surgery last spring, donned a jersey for the first time since then and went through stretching and footwork drills with teammates.
"Coach Chow wants me to just keep mentally alert and stay with the program and the installations so I'll be up to speed when spring football starts," Hancock said. "The doctors don't want me coming out in shoulder pads at all, but we'll see how it goes."
Receiver Dwayne Jarrett (thigh), offensive lineman Fred Matua (ankle) and running back LenDale White (ankle) sat out most drills because of soreness, Carroll said.... USC's game at Oregon State on Nov. 6 will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised by FSNW.
USC'S REMAINING SCHEDULE
*--* Saturday at Washington St. 4 p.m., Ch. 7 Nov. 6 at Oregon St. 7 p.m., FSNW Nov. 13 Arizona 7:15 p.m., FSNW Nov. 27 Notre Dame 5 p.m., Ch. 7 Dec. 4 at UCLA 1:30 p.m., Ch. 7