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USC FOOTBALL FYI

USC's Stafon Johnson reportedly intends to turn pro

The senior tailback who suffered season-ending throat injuries in a September weightlifting accident is expected to announce soon that he will make himself available for the NFL draft.

December 13, 2009|By Gary Klein
  • USC tailback Stafon Johnson heads for a touchdown against Ohio State to help the Trojans open the season 2-0.
USC tailback Stafon Johnson heads for a touchdown against Ohio State to… (Amy Sancetta / Associated…)

USC tailback Stafon Johnson, who suffered season-ending throat injuries in a September weightlifting accident, is expected to announce soon that he will make himself available for the NFL draft, a family source confirmed Saturday.

Johnson's intent to turn pro was first reported last week by NFL.com.

After the Trojans' first workout in preparation for the Emerald Bowl, Coach Pete Carroll said that he had spoken to Johnson and that the senior "hasn't decided that yet, officially."

Johnson, who is in his fourth year at USC, could petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility because of the injury.

Carroll said that an announcement by Johnson was imminent and that he will support whatever decision the former Dorsey High star makes.

"It's very unusual circumstances, of course, that plays into this," Carroll said. "All of the drama that went through this weighs into this thing about being here.

"So I think wherever his heart is, where he feels best about it, I'm going to support him. I'm not going to try and talk him into anything one way or the other."

Running backs coach Todd McNair said, "I think he's leaning on going."

Pinkard hurt

After a week off, Carroll had hoped to begin practice for the Emerald Bowl with a healthy roster.

Instead, the Trojans practiced without starting cornerback Josh Pinkard and starting safety Will Harris.

Pinkard's status for the Dec. 26 game against Boston College is still to be determined because of a knee injury suffered in the Trojans' season-ending defeat against Arizona, Carroll said.

Pinkard, a sixth-year senior, sat out nearly all of the 2006 season and the entire 2007 season because of major knee injuries.

Harris, a fifth-year senior safety, was hospitalized last week because of complications from an abscessed tooth, Carroll said.

So it goes for the Trojans, who tried to muster enthusiasm during a rain-soaked practice on Cromwell Field's artificial surface.

"We're still working on it," junior receiver Ronald Johnson said. "Got to get back to it, get back to the swing of things."

He's the boss

Carroll on USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett, who said during a Friday radio interview that he was "very dismayed" by the Trojans' season:

"He can say whatever he wants: He's the athletic director," Carroll said. "Call it like he sees it, which he pretty much is always going to do."

Opportunity time

Several younger offensive linemen and defensive backs got extended work with the first team and will continue to get more today.

Freshman offensive tackle Kevin Graf, who was a redshirt this season, said he was pleased with the opportunity.

"I definitely worked hard and improved on some things I've been shaky on, so I'm really happy about it," Graf said.

Quick hits

Ronald Johnson, who was sidelined for the first five games because of a broken collarbone, said that he would not seek a draft projection from the NFL and that he would return for his senior season. . . . After practice, junior tailback Joe McKnight and junior defensive end Everson Griffen rolled the length of the field on the wet turf as part of an unspecified disciplinary action.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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