A non-eventful week of practice took a potentially worrisome turn for USC on Thursday when safety Kevin Ellison suffered a possible knee injury.
Ellison, a senior who leads the seventh-ranked Trojans in tackles, hurt his right knee during a drill about midway through practice and spent the rest of the workout on the trainer's table. He rode a cart to the locker room afterward and then left immediately to have X-rays and an MRI exam.
"My knee hurts now, so I'm going to go get it looked at," Ellison said.
Ellison suffered torn ligaments in his left knee during the 2005 season but returned in 2006. He is regarded as one of the most important players for a defense that ranks first nationally.
Coach Pete Carroll said he would not know Ellison's status until test results are reviewed today.
Will Harris would start in Ellison's place if he could not play Saturday against Washington.
Carroll said Josh Pinkard would not be moved from cornerback to safety. Pinkard played safety in 2004, and safety and cornerback in 2005; he started the 2006 season at safety before suffering the first of two season-ending knee injuries.
Tailback Joe McKnight practiced this week as if he were fully recovered from a toe injury that forced him to sit out against Washington State and play sparingly against Arizona.
But the sophomore was held out after apparently reinjuring the toe.
McKnight said he "stepped on somebody else's foot and just bent it all the way back."
McKnight said he would play Saturday.
Washington has not been a consistent national power since the early 1990s, when the Huskies won a national title and played in three consecutive Rose Bowls.
But with Coach Tyrone Willingham leaving after what has so far been a winless season, the Huskies could rise again under a new leader.
"In time, whenever it gets redirected and focused, we will very much be concerned about how it comes together and how long it takes them because there's no question it has the magnitude and potential to be a really tough program," Carroll said.
Washington's ability to effectively recruit top players from California would be a key to a resurgence, Carroll said.
"When things get lined up right [for Washington], we'll have to deal with it," Carroll said. "Hopefully, it takes them a long time."
Carroll said Nick Howell would start at right tackle and Alex Parsons would start at right guard against Washington. . . . Former All-American defensive end Kenechi Udeze attended practice. Udeze, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, is on the non-football injury list this season after being treated for leukemia.