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USC FYI

Captain Sanchez getting closer

August 23, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez remained on track to start the Trojans' opener at Virginia and also got affirmation of his status among teammates Friday when he was voted one of four captains.

"When your team elects you something like that and they appoint you as their leader, that means more than anything," said Sanchez, a junior.

Senior offensive lineman Jeff Byers, senior linebacker Brian Cushing and senior safety Kevin Ellison also were elected captains of a team that will conclude training camp today.

On Friday, Sanchez went through his most extensive workout since dislocating his left kneecap Aug. 8, completing several long passes to receivers during non-contact drills before sitting out the second half of practice.

Barring a setback, he appears on his way to leading the Trojans' offense next Saturday at Charlottesville.

"If Mark is capable of starting, then we'll go that way," Coach Pete Carroll said.

Sanchez expects to test his knee further today and then Monday after the Trojans return from a day off. He has not gone through a full practice since the first few days of training camp.

Sanchez, who started three games last season, expects some discomfort when he tries to practice at full speed for the first time since his injury.

"It's not supposed to feel great right away," Sanchez said. "You've got to be able to play hurt. It feels so good to be back it takes away from the pain."

Spicer starts

Junior Averell Spicer and sophomore Christian Tupou will share playing time at nose tackle, but Carroll said Spicer would start.

Spicer, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound junior from Rancho Cucamonga, sat out spring practice after arthroscopic knee surgery, but he has played well during training camp and will succeed Sedrick Ellis as the starter.

"He's never taken a backward step on it at all," Carroll said of Spicer's recovery.

The last two Trojans nose tackles were All-Americans who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Mike Patterson 31st overall in 2005. The New Orleans Saints chose Ellis seventh in April.

Spicer and freshman Jurrell Casey have seen tape of the similarly built Patterson, but Carroll said, "We don't want anybody to try and be like somebody else."

Gable on the mend

Tailback C.J. Gable, who suffered a hip strain Tuesday, did some running and said he expected to be cleared to practice Monday.

Gable, however, said he felt fine when he made cuts and could play if the Trojans had a game today.

Quick kicks

Today's practice is at 11 a.m. . . . Like Sanchez, former quarterbacks Matt Leinart and John David Booty also were elected team captains as juniors. . . . Cushing on being voted a captain: "If there's something that needs to be said, I'll definitely say it." . . . Cornerbacks Cary Harris (shoulder) and Shareece Wright (groin) remained out.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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