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USC FYI

Switching of tailbacks will be less frequent

November 26, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

USC tailbacks might have finally got what they wished for, or at least something closer to it.

Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said Tuesday that they were happy, for now, with a philosophy that allows the tailbacks to play entire series rather than alternating every play or two.

The Trojans are averaging 208 rushing yards a game going into Saturday's nonconference game against Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

"We're just allowing them to find rhythm," Sarkisian said.

Several tailbacks complained earlier in the season -- and many fans on Internet message boards have voiced their displeasure throughout -- about the tailback rotation and distribution of carries.

But in the Trojans' last game, against Stanford, sophomore C.J. Gable carried six times during a seven-play fourth-quarter drive that he capped with a touchdown run.

"We've been trying to give them a little bit more of a feel than just onesies-twosies type stuff," Carroll said.

Carroll said there was not a specific point for the philosophical shift.

"We all know every running back wants to stay on the field," he said, adding, "I don't see it being anything to write in stone forever. It's just what's happening right now and I kind of like it.

"It could change Saturday."

Gable hopes not.

"It's easier for us to get into our groove," said Gable, who is averaging 6.5 yards a carry. "We did it [in the season opener] against Virginia and then we stopped and started switching everybody out.

"It's working good so I hope we stay with it."

Ellison cleared

Senior safety Kevin Ellison practiced for the first time since knee surgery on Nov. 3 and was later cleared by doctors to play against Notre Dame.

Ellison did not participate in team scrimmage drills but is expected to as the week progresses.

"I'll be out there Saturday," he said.

Carroll said the Trojans were preparing junior Will Harris to start for the fourth consecutive game, but would evaluate where Ellison fits in coming days.

Hard to shake

Linebacker Chris Galippo, a redshirt freshman, said he was among a group of recruits who visited Notre Dame when he was a junior at Anaheim Servite High, the same school that produced former Fighting Irish quarterback Steve Beuerlein.

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who eventually signed with the Irish, and USC tailback Marc Tyler also were on the trip.

Galippo said it was memorable because Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis never acknowledged him.

"I went 3,000 miles cross-country and couldn't even get a handshake," Galippo said.

Galippo said he had no hard feelings.

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

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