Senior Josh Pinkard has not started a game for USC since the 2006 opener at Arkansas, where he played safety and suffered the first of two knee injuries that forced him to miss nearly two seasons.
But Pinkard will return to the starting lineup Thursday at Oregon State, replacing cornerback Shareece Wright, who could miss six weeks because of a fractured vertebra, Coach Pete Carroll announced Monday.
Wright was hurt during the Trojans' victory over Ohio State on Sept. 13 and did not practice last week or Sunday. He had undergone several tests, but doctors did not diagnose a hairline fracture until after more tests Monday.
Wright did not attend Monday's practice.
"We're all surprised," Carroll said of the injury. "He's surprised as well that it's that serious. He had a stiff neck."
Carroll had said Sunday that Wright was being disciplined for his role in an incident that led to his being charged with felony resisting a police officer, but that the junior would play against Oregon State if he were cleared medically.
Instead, Pinkard will start at cornerback for the first time since the 2005 season, when he played the last six games at that spot.
Pinkard played in a rotation with starters Wright and Cary Harris and backup Kevin Thomas during the first two games. Moving back into the starting lineup does not hold special significance for the fifth-year senior.
"It doesn't change anything," he said. "It's the same mind-set whether you're starting or the backup. I'm always ready, so it doesn't matter."
Carroll said freshman T.J. Bryant would be the fourth cornerback, if needed, in a rotation with Harris, Pinkard and Thomas.
Receiver Ronald Johnson and Thomas will replace Wright on kick coverage, Carroll said.
Junior Garrett Green is the No. 2 quarterback for the Oregon State game, supplanting redshirt freshman Aaron Corp.
Green, a quarterback and defensive back at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High, played receiver last season but returned to quarterback when starter Mark Sanchez suffered a knee injury early in training camp. Green got limited work through the first few weeks of the season before taking nearly all of the second-team snaps Sunday and all of them on Monday.
"He's more in command and I think he'll have a better time of it communicating and helping the other guys play well," said Carroll, who added, "By no means have we made a long-term commitment."
With two days off because of last weekend's open date, fullback Stanley Havili returned home to Utah and sought treatment for a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice.
"I had my dad massage it out the Tongan way," Havili said.
The Tongan way?
"Massage it as hard as you can go and make him cry," Havili said, chuckling. "I wasn't crying, but I was screaming."
Havili, who caught a 35-yard touchdown pass against Ohio State, ran well Sunday and Monday and will start against Oregon State.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea attended practice and was introduced to the team. An athletic department spokesman said the musician was taking classes at the university. . . . The Trojans are scheduled to practice on the artificial surface at Cromwell Field in the track and field complex.