D.J. Shoemate arrived at USC last summer as a receiver.
But the former Anaheim Servite High star could play a significant role at fullback against Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Stanley Havili, who started 11 games at fullback, did not practice Saturday because he has not been cleared academically to participate in the New Year's Day game, Coach Pete Carroll said.
Havili's academic standing could change during the week, according to Carroll, but the third-year sophomore from Utah also is nursing a sore knee that prevented him from practicing before the Trojans broke for the holidays.
Carroll said Friday that Havili was not at practice because of travel issues.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Shoemate moved to fullback around midseason to provide depth because Havili was playing through injuries.
"I just wanted to be the type of person, the type of freshman, to shut my mouth, do as I'm told and play as hard as I can," Shoemate said.
The need for Shoemate became even more pronounced after the regular-season finale against UCLA because backup Adam Goodman had knee surgery.
Shoemate said the transition from receiver to fullback is ongoing, but he would be ready if called upon against the Nittany Lions.
"Right now, I'm trying to get as much information as I possibly can so I can retain it for the game and block and catch and do what I can for the team," he said.
Tailback C.J. Gable might return for his junior season or he might turn pro.
But the third-year sophomore apparently will make his decision without the benefit of an evaluation from the NFL.
Gable filled out paperwork seeking a draft projection but did not submit it.
"I was about to turn it in, but I didn't," he said. "That doesn't mean I'm not going to go or not."
Gable said he would rely on USC coaches for advice.
"They know if I'm ready or not," said Gable, who has rushed for 604 yards and eight touchdowns this season. "They've been in the NFL. They know what they look for, so if they think I'm ready, then I'm ready."
On the day the Rose Bowl matchup against Penn State was announced, Gable expressed frustration about his playing time against UCLA. He fumbled on the Trojans' first possession and did not play the rest of the first half.
Gable wouldn't predict what his role might be against the Nittany Lions.
"I never get my hopes up because you never know what's going to happen," Gable said. "But I know I'm ready. If they call on me, I'm going to be ready to go."
Ellison probably out
Senior safety Kevin Ellison, who has not practiced because of knee soreness, said he probably would not play against Penn State.
"I don't think so," he said when asked if he would be ready by Thursday.
Ellison had knee surgery in November and missed four games. He played against UCLA on Dec. 6 but has not been able to practice since.
"I want to play, but if I can't go out there and move the way I want to and the way I need to so that I can help the team, I'll have to sit out," he said.
Tailback Stafon Johnson completed most of the practice but was held out of team scrimmage drills to protect the right kneecap he injured last week. "It's a little sore because the grass is a little mushy, but for the most part I felt good," he said. "I made the proper cuts when I was supposed to, so that's a good sign."
The Trojans had dinner and attended a comedy show at The Improv in Hollywood after practice.