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USC REPORT

Receivers eager to play on big stage

September 14, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Minutes after USC's football practice ended Thursday, three of the Trojans' leading wide receivers walked off the field together, excited about the opportunity they face at Nebraska this weekend.

Junior Patrick Turner could not hide it. Neither could sophomore Vidal Hazelton, nor redshirt freshman David Ausberry. Finally, a chance to play together in a big road game on a national stage.

"We're really looking forward to just going out there on the field and cutting loose," said Ausberry, expected to start with Turner. "We want to do it all where everything works. We're going to run. We're going to pass. We're going there to win."

After looking very pedestrian in a four-touchdown victory over Idaho on Sept. 1, USC is ready to take the next step in its offensive development since the departure of receivers Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett and Chris McFoy.

With Turner missing the Idaho game because of injury, this will be the first time USC's new group of receivers -- which includes freshman Ronald Johnson, sophomore Travon Patterson and senior Brad Walker -- will at least be close to full force.

"We really have a good game plan with things for a lot of players," said Hazelton, who had four catches for 44 yards and one touchdown against Idaho. "I know that I'm looking forward to playing in this game. . . . This is my first big game like this, so I don't really have anything to compare with this."

The Trojans will face a secondary that rotates seniors Cortney Grixby and Zack Bowman and junior Armando Murillo at cornerback. The Cornhuskers gave up only 248 passing yards in winning their first two games of the season.

"They have a real tough secondary. They are fast and physical," Turner said about Nebraska. "But everybody you play is different. Their guys play a little bit different than the way our guys play but they are good. It's going to be a big challenge."

Ausberry said he expects the difference maker to be senior quarterback John David Booty.

"He gives us a lot of confidence," Ausberry said. "He's been in the program a very long time. We listen to him. He knows what we should do. We know all we have to do is go out there and run good routes and he'll get the ball to us."

USC Coach Pete Carroll on Nebraska's complex offense: "They can really load you up with their run game or spread you out. And, they've done it all in their games. We've seen so much of these guys over the last two years. We're real impressed with the variety of things that they do. You have to really prepare for a big game plan and then try to zero in on what they are trying to do."

Carroll added: "We have to stop [running back] Marlon Lucky. . . they would like nothing more than to get him going. I don't think that we will see the same game plan that we saw last year. We'll see them mix it a lot more and get it around to all of the great receivers that they have."

Linebacker Brian Cushing's ankle injury is still bothering him and Carroll said that Clay Matthews would start in his place against Nebraska. "He's dressing for the game," Carroll said about Cushing. "We'll see what he can do."

Carroll said that a decision has not been made on whether Drew Radovich or sophomore Charles Brown would start at right tackle but he expected both to play against the Cornhuskers.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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