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USC FOOTBALL FYI

Trojans' defense looks to make a strong closing statement

USC has struggled stopping teams the second part of the season, but its hopes things are different against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl.

December 24, 2009|By Gary Klein and Lance Pugmire
  • The USC defense, shown ganging up on Chane Moline of UCLA, has been under fire since the second half of the TrojansÂ’ victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 17.
The USC defense, shown ganging up on Chane Moline of UCLA, has been under…

While USC has enjoyed clear weather in the Bay Area since arriving for the Emerald Bowl, the Trojans have been enshrouded in the fog surrounding Joe McKnight's situation.

Defensive players, however, have not been distracted, their concentration focused on reclaiming confidence, if not respect, when USC plays Boston College on Saturday at AT&T Park.

USC's defense was regarded as one of college football's best during the first half of the season. It mostly has been under fire since the second half of the Trojans' victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 17.

"This isn't where we were thinking to go at the beginning of the season, but it's still a huge opportunity for us to get some momentum going into next year," middle linebacker Chris Galippo said Wednesday.

After the Trojans completed practice at City College of San Francisco, Coach Pete Carroll said he was still awaiting word from USC compliance officials regarding McKnight.

The junior tailback, who started all but one game this season, remained in Los Angeles as USC continued its investigation into his use of a sport utility vehicle owned by a Santa Monica businessman. It may constitute a violation of NCAA rules that prohibit student-athletes from accepting benefits from marketing representatives or agents, or "extra benefits" from anyone based on athletic ability.

"I'm hoping that there will be some communication," Carroll said. "I'll make my efforts to find out what's going on."

Todd Dickey, USC's senior vice president for administration, has said that school officials planned to speak with Scott Schenter, the owner of the SUV. Schenter owns and has worked for several companies with marketing interests, one of which previously registered the website domain "4joemcknight.com," but he has said that he "has nothing to do with agents, marketing players or representing athletes."

Schenter and Dickey did not return e-mails or phone calls seeking comment.

Galippo, a third-year sophomore, said players were enjoying bowl activities but remained focused on defeating Boston College and playing well in the season finale.

"For the older guys, it's their last opportunity to show the next level what they've got, so everyone's got some kind of importance behind the game," he said.

Defensive end Everson Griffen is among those who could be playing his final game for the Trojans.

The junior requested a draft projection from the NFL but said he had not received it back.

"It hasn't come in yet, so I don't know," Griffen said of the possibility of making himself available for the April draft.

Trojans receiver Damian Williams and running back Stafon Johnson are other draft-eligible players expected to turn pro.

Wright stuff

Cornerback Shareece Wright, who was academically ineligible this season, has made a big impression since gaining clearance to play against Boston College.

Carroll declined to say whether Wright would start ahead of T.J. Bryant and Brian Baucham, but the junior from Colton has made enough big plays to warrant it.

"He looks really good playing, so it's hard to keep him out of there," Carroll said.

Quick hits

With Rhett Ellison the only available tight end, receiver Jordan Cameron was regarded as a potential backup. But Cameron has been slowed by soreness that has kept him from working out at the tight end spot. . . . The Trojans were scheduled to take a city tour and attend a show at a comedy club Wednesday night.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

Klein reported from San Francisco, Pugmire from Los Angeles.

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