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USC REPORT

Pinkard again sidelined for season

September 12, 2007|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC defensive back Josh Pinkard is all too familiar with the scenario.

Pinkard, a fourth-year junior, sat out nearly all of the 2006 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the opener against Arkansas. He went through a rigorous rehabilitation and was at the top of the depth chart at cornerback heading into this season's opener against Idaho.

Pinkard, however, injured his left knee in practice and sat out with hopes of returning for Saturday's game against No. 14 Nebraska.

Those hopes ended Tuesday when Pinkard was informed that he needed season-ending surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee.

"I've just got to go through it all again," Pinkard said. "I've been through it before, and I think the second time will be much easier."

At 6 feet 1 and 215 pounds, Pinkard is regarded by coaches and teammates as one of the Trojans' best and most versatile players. He started last season's opener at safety.

"We'll just have to bring him along with us, take care of him, and hopefully he'll figure out a way to put this in a good place, come back and get some more [playing] time done when he gets healed up," Coach Pete Carroll said.

Pinkard said he initially suffered a bruise in the week before the Idaho game and that an MRI exam revealed stable ligaments. But Pinkard said his knee gave out on Monday and he knew he had torn the ligament.

"Once you mess up one, you know the feeling," Pinkard said. "As soon as it happened, I was like, 'Yeah, that was it.' "

Pinkard will be a fifth-year senior in 2008 and could apply for a sixth year after his eligibility is complete.

Junior safety Kevin Ellison, who came back from 2005 knee surgery, said Pinkard would be missed.

"We're not worried about him," Ellison said. "He's going to be fine. He's going to be back on it, get to rehab, set his goal and come back ready to go."

Sophomore Taylor Mays, who replaced Pinkard last season and became a freshman All-American, said, "It hurts our depth, but at the same time through adversity guys have to step up."

In Pinkard's absence, sophomore Shareece Wright is expected to fill an even larger role in the cornerback rotation.

On consecutive plays against Idaho, Wright tackled receiver Stanley Franks for a 13-yard loss as he was attempting a pass off a reverse, and then stopped running back Deonte Jackson for a four-yard loss after he caught a pass.

"Two best back-to-back plays by a cornerback maybe in a long time," Carroll said. "He's equipped and ready to roll."

Wright agreed.

"It's what I've been wanting and asking for -- now it's up to me to do my part," he said. "I can't be yakking for something I'm not ready for. I just have to be ready when it's my time."

Carroll on Saturday's game between Michigan and Notre Dame, both winless: "What a great match-up this is this time. I mean, you can't imagine -- I mean, none of us could imagine how hungry those two teams are, the coaching staff, their fans as well.

"Unfortunately for one of those teams, somebody's going to get knocked off again. It's got to be extremely tense for those guys."

Tailback Allen Bradford said he sat out most of practice because of a bruised right knee and was scheduled to see a team doctor Tuesday night. Bradford said he injured the knee against Idaho but did not inform trainers until Tuesday. . . . The usually ultra-positive Carroll was unhappy with the Trojans' practice effort. "I didn't think we were as sharp as we need to be. . . . Hopefully, we'll come back [today] and be on the money." . . . Carroll said linebacker Brian Cushing (ankle) would practice today. . . . Senior Drew Radovich continued to work with the first-unit offense at right tackle. Carroll said both Radovich and sophomore Charles Brown would play against Nebraska.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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