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Moala ready to get physical

USC FYI

September 11, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

USC defensive tackle Fili Moala wears No. 75, but he cannot escape the attention of No. 1.

That's the overall spot an ESPN analyst shockingly slotted Moala into last April in an early 2009 NFL mock draft.

For nearly the last two weeks, however, Moala has been forced to live with the reality of another number: zero.

That's how many tackles the senior was credited with in the top-ranked Trojans' season-opening victory over Virginia.

"Of course it bugs me," Moala said Wednesday. "But if you beat yourself up over it you're going to be so worried about what happened . . . you're not going to see the chance you have in front of you."

Moala, who sat out part of practice because of back spasms, expects to feel better mentally and physically Saturday when USC plays fifth-ranked Ohio State at the Coliseum.

Unlike Virginia, which ran a spread offense, the Buckeyes traditionally prefer a more smash-mouth style. Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells practiced in pads Wednesday for the first time since suffering a foot injury against Youngstown State on Sept. 30 and will play against the Trojans.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Moala is up for the challenge of playing against a physical offensive line.

"Come straight at me," he said, "and we'll see what's going to happen."

With Moala sidelined for much of Wednesday's workout, freshman Armond Armstead worked in his spot.

Senior end Kyle Moore also did not practice for a second consecutive day because of back spasms, giving Clay Matthews extensive repetitions.

"I'm trying not to sit still for too long," Moore said. "I'll be ready to play on Saturday."

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Thanks, but no thanks

USC and Ohio State have not met on the field since 1990, but that doesn't mean they haven't been competing against each other all these years: Coaches from the respective programs have crossed paths on the recruiting trail.

The Trojans made no headway with receiver Brian Robiskie out of Cleveland but did convince tailback Wells to visit from Akron before he decided to stick close to home.

Ohio State went after a number of Trojans, including quarterback Mark Sanchez, center Kristofer O'Dowd and guard Jeff Byers.

But there were two highly rated USC prospects in whom the Buckeyes showed no interest whatsoever. Receiver Patrick Turner said Ohio State was not among the major programs that recruited him. Same for Joe McKnight.

The 6-foot, 200-pound tailback figures he didn't fit the Big Ten mold.

"They like the big backs," McKnight said. "I'd love to show 'em."

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Quick kicks

Receiver Vidal Hazelton (ankle) participated in a few drills but still has not been cleared for full contact. . . . Linebacker Brian Cushing returned after being held out Tuesday because of a hip pointer. . . . Parking for Saturday's game is available for $25 in lots 5 and 11 at Staples Center. Shuttles will begin running to the Coliseum at noon and will stop running from the stadium one hour after the game ends.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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UP NEXT

* vs. No. 5 Ohio State (2-0)

Saturday at the Coliseum, 5 p.m., Channel 7

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