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USC FOOTBALL

Happy Return for Byrd

August 06, 2005|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Dominique Byrd has a chance to win a third national-championship ring.

If not for the act of a good Samaritan, USC's senior tight end might have started the season with only one.

Jeffrey Sanders Jr. of Torrance was running along the shoreline in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday night when he stepped over a large ring buried halfway in the sand. It turned out to be Byrd's 2004 championship ring.

"I wasn't quite sure what it was at first," said Sanders, who works as a lifeguard at a Torrance city pool. "I had to call my grandpa to see if this is really what I thought it was."

Sanders, 18, contacted the USC football office Wednesday and returned the ring to Byrd after Friday's morning practice.

"He gave me a big hug, shook my hand and said 'Thank you so much,' " said Sanders, who also received a media guide and autographed T-shirts. "He said he was at the beach on Tuesday and he must have lost it playing in the sand.

"He was lucky. It was almost high tide when I found it. A half-hour more and it would have been gone forever."

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Running back Reggie Bush spent the off-season packing muscle onto his frame and has shown no loss of speed at 202 pounds.

"Everybody knows I can run outside and run around people," Bush said after blazing past defenders in several drills. "I wanted to show people I can run between the tackles this year. Be a complete running back."

Bush played at 195 pounds last season when he finished fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting.

USC Coach Pete Carroll has said Bush is in better shape than any Trojan player. Bush said he was scheduled to appear in a fitness magazine this month.

"I'm trying to get them to give me the cover, but I don't know if they want to do that yet," he said laughing.

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Senior Collin Ashton worked at middle linebacker with the first-team defense as the search continued for a replacement for All-American Lofa Tatupu.

"He's the most well-versed guy that we have, the most experienced," Carroll said of Ashton, a former walk-on who started twice at weakside linebacker in 2003 and was a backup last season.

Ashton, 6 feet 1 and 220 pounds, said he was ready to play wherever he was needed.

"I might not be the biggest guy. I might not be the fastest guy. I might not make a tackle for a two-yard loss," Ashton said. "But when a guy is going to come down for a two-yard gain, I'm going to be in the right spot. It's not going to break for 50."

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Carroll was characteristically blase when asked about the Trojans' receiving 60 of the 62 first-place votes in the USA Today preseason coaches' poll. "I didn't even know," said Carroll, who does not vote in the poll. ... Defensive end Jeff Schweiger had surgery for a broken bone in his right foot. ... As part of its Heisman campaign for 2004 winner Matt Leinart and Bush, a video log or "vlog" that will be updated periodically by the players can be accessed at MattReggieTV.com.

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