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USC to explore the futures market

Injuries and likelihood of a blowout today will probably translate to extended playing time for younger players.

October 18, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Seven games remain in the regular season, not including a probable bowl appearance. But as sixth-ranked USC reaches the midpoint of its schedule today against Washington State, Trojans players, coaches and fans will glimpse the future.

Several key players are either nursing injuries or didn't make the trip because of illness, so the next generation of starters figures to play extensively against a struggling Cougars team that is a 42 1/2 -point underdog.

"There's been a different energy," Coach Pete Carroll said. "[Younger ] guys are coming up a lot to study film and they're dropping by the office to make sure they know their assignments and their stuff."

Tailback Broderick Green, a redshirt freshman from Arkansas, did not make the travel roster for the Pacific 10 Conference opener at Oregon State three weeks ago. But since that defeat, junior Allen Bradford has been sidelined because of a season-ending hip injury and sophomore Joe McKnight suffered a toe injury that prevented him from practicing this week. So Green will be in the tailback rotation with sophomore C.J. Gable and junior Stafon Johnson.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Green does not anticipate a heavy workload at the outset, but by game's end he could amass more than the nine carries and 24 yards he has accrued during mop-up duty. "I'm ready," he said. "I want to help rather than just watch."

So does freshman Tyron Smith, who is expected to play a significant number of snaps at left tackle. Starter Charles Brown could be rotating to the right side to spell junior Nick Howell, starting for the first time in place of Butch Lewis, who is ill.

Smith, 6-6, 270 pounds, will line up alongside left guard Jeff Byers, a fifth-year senior and mainstay of the line.

"That helps a lot," Smith said. "If I have a question, he's got the answer."

The greatest preponderance of young players could get playing time at linebacker, where three seniors will be playing with injuries.

Rey Maualuga is wearing a brace for a knee sprain suffered against Oregon State. Brian Cushing could be limited because of a bone bruise in his shoulder suffered last week in the Trojans' shutout victory over Arizona State. And Kaluka Maiava practiced sparingly this week because of a sore foot that resulted from an Arizona State lineman's falling on him.

If the Trojans take a large lead as expected, redshirt freshman Chris Galippo and sophomores Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith could be on the field at the same time.

"Going into the season, I remember thinking, 'God, when these [seniors] leave, these other guys never have played,' " Carroll said. "But sure enough, it's taken a turn where the young guys have got plenty of chances already and they could play a lot together if we need them to."

Morgan started at the strong-side spot against Oregon and had eight first-half tackles before suffering a concussion. Galippo, who had back surgery, has lost 12 pounds and is moving better since returning before the Oregon game. Smith also is showing a more complete understanding of the defense.

"I guess it could be a little preview" of next year, Smith said.

Defensive tackle Armond Armstead, nose tackle Jurrell Casey, cornerback T.J. Bryant and safety Drew McAllister are among first-year players who also could play a lot on defense.

Bryant preserved the shutout against Arizona State with his first interception. He would love to make another big play against the Cougars, but beyond that, he said, "It's just another game under my belt to gain more experience," he said.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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