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USC FYI

Knee now appears to be a joking matter for Sanchez

August 24, 2008|David Wharton and Gary Klein | Times Staff Writers

Finally, the truth comes out.

Mark Sanchez and his dislocated kneecap? A clever ruse to escape the drudgery of practice.

Moments after USC's training camp officially ended Saturday, Sanchez grinned and laid out his master plan. Last summer, he missed time with a broken thumb; this year it was the knee.

"I mean, I'm skating through the practices like they're nothing," he said.

But then the grin evaporated and the junior quarterback talked about the anguish of being injured, the worries of rehabilitation and, now, his relief at recovering ahead of schedule.

Saturday marked his first attempt at playing in a scrimmage-like situation, running the first team offense for more than a dozen plays.

That included rolling out, throwing on the run and even scrambling on occasion. He missed a few receivers and, during seven-on-seven drills, overthrew a streaking Ronald Johnson, overexcited about getting back into action.

But his passes had zip and, on a fumbled snap, Sanchez showed no hesitation diving on the ball.

"I didn't want to [mention the] fumbled snap," Sanchez said. "Did I look fast, though?"

Fast enough to reinforce expectations that he will be ready for the season opener at Virginia on Saturday. As for his backup, practice was also noteworthy in regards to who did not play. At least not much.

Sanchez and Aaron Corp split most of the snaps, with Mitch Mustain getting only limited duty. Mustain said he was not injured.

"I guess that's just the way it worked out," he said. "I have no idea."

Coach Pete Carroll did not give a reason for Mustain's light workload and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian suggested the coaches might not announce a No. 2 quarterback for now.

"You want to keep both of them motivated and competing," he said of Corp and Mustain.

Sanchez still faces a few more milestones in his recovery. After wearing flat-soled shoes this weekend, he will switch to cleats Monday or Tuesday. There is also the issue of contact.

"I think I'm going to need to get tackled a couple times," he said, adding: "Just to get the feel back."

Secondary thoughts

Cornerback Cary Harris returned to practice wearing armor to protect the shoulder he injured in the Trojans' second scrimmage.

"Cary's got a real nice harness on there right now and a bullet-proof vest," Carroll joked. "You can't hurt that guy right now."

Cornerback Shareece Wright was held out again because of groin soreness, but Carroll said he would probably return Monday.

In the meantime, senior Josh Pinkard and junior Kevin Thomas have been working with the first-unit defense.

Looking ahead

Though game-week practices start Monday, USC has already installed a game plan for Virginia, coaches feeding it to the team in bits and pieces this week.

"That doesn't mean much unless we can do it right," Carroll said. "So this week will be about cleaning it all up."

Quick hits

The Trojans are off today. . . . Tailback C.J. Gable (hip) said he would practice Monday and be ready for the opener. . . . Carroll said the status of recruit Nick Perry remained uncertain pending Perry's second attempt at completing a test.

--

david.wharton@latimes.com

gary.klein@latimes.com

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