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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : USC FYI

Tailback McKnight is back at practice

October 24, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

It's getting crowded again in USC's backfield.

Sophomore tailback Joe McKnight, who did not play against Washington State because of a toe injury, practiced for the first time this week Thursday and will play Saturday at Arizona.

"I'm back," said McKnight, who rushed for a career-best 143 yards two weeks ago against Arizona State.

McKnight's return potentially jumbles a tailback rotation that worked smoothly and evenly against undermanned Washington State.

Redshirt freshman Broderick Green ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns in 18 carries in the Trojans' 69-0 victory. Junior Stafon Johnson had 112 yards in 11 carries and sophomore C.J. Gable ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns in 16 carries.

"It was a good game to mix everybody evenly but that was not by design until we realized how the game was going," Coach Pete Carroll said. "This is different. This will be like we always play and we'll just take the game as it comes to us."

Gable and Johnson will get the bulk of the work, Carroll said. And Johnson will continue to return punts.

Jacquizz revisited?

Arizona freshman running back Keola Antolin amassed 237 all-purpose yards last week against California, including 149 rushing.

The 5-foot-8 Antolin is similar in stature to Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who ran for 186 yards in 37 carries in the Beavers' 27-21 victory over the Trojans.

Asked whether a smallish running back presents a similar challenge, Carroll said, "We'll find out. I don't know that. That was a very odd game for us. . . . It was totally uncharacteristic for us to have so much of a problem.

"If it happens again, then we'll start taking a look at it. I don't think it's because of the guy's size."

Getting the message

As offensive lineman Butch Lewis left the field, he communicated in sign language with members of the football team from the visiting California School of the Deaf in Riverside.

Lewis said he is fluent in sign language because he has a sister who is deaf.

Before Lewis departed, offensive line coach Pat Ruel had summoned the sophomore for a five-minute meeting. Lewis did not play against Washington State because of illness and has been supplanted by Nick Howell as the starting right tackle.

"I told him I thought he needed to practice better," Ruel said. "We've counted on him in the past and he's come through. We just need to get him to the level he needs to be at."

Lewis agreed.

"It's kind of exciting to come back and have to fight for your job, to make sure you love the game again and really appreciate it," he said.

Quick kicks

Alex Parsons will start again at right guard. . . . Receiver Damian Williams practiced despite a shoulder sprain and will play against Arizona. "I've had a lot of rehab," he said. "I've been in the training room since 8 this morning." . . . Defensive tackle Fili Moala (ankle) did not practice but said he would play Saturday.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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