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USC FYI

Wright's trouble is used as a lesson

September 19, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Another open weekend, another warning.

In the aftermath of cornerback Shareece Wright's legal situation, Coach Pete Carroll on Thursday implored players to avoid potentially troublesome situations as the top-ranked Trojans approached two days free of football.

"It's a tremendous challenge for everybody to stay in line, to keep track of what's going on and do the right thing," Carroll said.

Wright pleaded not guilty Wednesday to one count of felony resisting a police officer in connection with an incident that occurred at a party in Colton on Sept. 7, the weekend of an open date. Wright and three co-defendants are scheduled to appear in court for a settlement conference on Oct. 29.

Carroll described Wright's situation as a "teachable moment" for his players.

"Sometimes, when something happens like that, it helps a lot of people understand the reality," Carroll said.

Wright once again did not practice because of a neck injury suffered in the Trojans' victory over Ohio State. Carroll said the junior had an MRI exam, but the nature of the injury had not been determined.

Asked if Wright would play against Oregon State, Carroll first pointed to the injury and Wright's inability to practice. In regard to any action he might take because of Wright's legal situation, Carroll said, "I don't have all the stuff that I need to make any decision."

Rather than going out this weekend, junior running back Stafon Johnson said he would spend the off days playing video games at home or visiting with teammates at their residences to avoid public scrutiny.

"You can spit and that would be in the newspaper the next day," Johnson said. "So the best thing to do during the season, especially on break, is just to chill out. Just relax."

Big impression

Freshman Curtis McNeal, generously listed at 5 feet 8, finished his first week of practice by imitating 5-7 Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers during scout-team drills.

McNeal, who starred at Venice High, also returned kicks.

"It's hard for big guys to get down low to get you, so you have to use it to your advantage," McNeal said of his size.

Coaches and teammates have taken to calling McNeal "Sproles" after smallish San Diego Chargers running back Darren Sproles, who helped Kansas State beat USC in 2002.

"He makes everything look simple," Carroll said of McNeal.

Turner's time

As the only senior in the receiving corps, Patrick Turner is embracing his veteran status. "He's feeling the leadership position more than he has in the past," Carroll said.

While sophomore transfer Damian Williams has infused the Trojans' passing game with a dose of excitement, Turner has quietly provided sure-handed dependability. The Tennessee native has six receptions, including a touchdown.

Last season, Turner caught 48 passes, including three for touchdowns, but was part of a group that performed below the standard of recent Trojans receiving corps.

"I worked real hard this summer cleaning up things," said Turner, who did not practice Thursday because of illness. "A lot of technical stuff, focusing on the ball all the way in, little things that make the difference between a 40-yard play and a five-yard play."

In the season opener against Virginia, Turner turned a reception on a short slant route into a 42-yard gain. A few plays later Mark Sanchez found him for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Against Ohio State, Turner had four catches for 43 yards.

Quick kicks

Williams (ankle) and fullback Stanley Havili (hamstring) benefited from the week off and are expected to return in time to play against Oregon State, Carroll said. . . . The Trojans resume practice Sunday.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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