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Even practice draws a crowd

August 11, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

Every USC home game is sold out this season, so fans in need of a college football fix jammed Howard Jones Field on Sunday night to get a glimpse of the Trojans.

A crowd of more than 1,000 stood five- to six-deep along the sidelines and some spectators also watched from a platform atop the baseball stadium as the Trojans went through their first full-pads workout in preparation for their Aug. 30 opener at Virginia.

"Crazy," defensive end Kyle Moore said of the atmosphere.

"I love it," defensive tackle Fili Moala said.

Coach Pete Carroll also welcomed the throngs, saying it was a perfect setting for the Trojans.

"This is so cool to have this kind of a night," Carroll said, adding, "Fortunately everybody got out without getting banged up along the sidelines, [I'm] talking about the fans. So I think that in itself was a successful night."

Quarterbacks Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp continued their competition to possibly replace injured Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback for the opener. Sanchez is scheduled to begin rehabilitating his injured left knee today.

Corp, a redshirt freshman, threw a touchdown pass to Patrick Turner and also led a drive that resulted in a field goal during a scrimmage session at the end of practice.

Mustain, a sophomore transfer from Arkansas, led two drives that ended with field goals, but said his performance was "average" and that he needed to improve his vision as plays developed.

Corp said he did not yet sense any separation between the quarterbacks. "That's going to take time," he said. "As soon as one starts getting more reps than the other, then we'll officially know."


Knocking 'em down

The players spent part of their Sunday at a bowling alley. After knocking down pins by day, they spent their evening practice flattening each other.

"We're a very physical defense," safety Taylor Mays said. "It feels good to get out there and go full speed."

Mays and linebacker Malcolm Smith sandwiched Turner. Cornerback Shareece Wright blasted tailback Stafon Johnson out of bounds. Cornerback Kevin Thomas leveled receiver Vidal Hazelton coming across the middle.

"I saw that play the whole way -- it was either going to be an interception or a big hit," Thomas said. "Unfortunately, I had to hit the boy."

Carroll was especially interested to see how the younger players responded to an increased level of intensity.

"I made a big deal to these guys that this was the first chance they get to make a first impression about what kind of football players they are," Carroll said. "This is real ball. . . . That's what you hope to see on a night like this."

And what about the bowling? Defensive end Everson Griffen rolled a 173. Thomas scored a 129 but was happy.

"That's the best I've ever done in my whole life," he said.


Quick kicks

David Buehler kicked four field goals during the scrimmage session, including one from 54 yards. Last year, his longest field goal was 47 yards. . . . Running back Marc Tyler (concussion), linebacker Luthur Brown (back), receiver Brice Butler (ankle) and offensive lineman Tyron Smith (ankle) did not practice.


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