There was a distinctly medical tone to the USC football practice on Thursday, and the prognosis was encouraging.
The good news started with a visit from a doctor who is treating Stafon Johnson for the severe throat injury the tailback suffered in a weightlifting accident last week.
Johnson had undergone a series of tests earlier in the day.
"They were beside themselves with the wonderful results they got, to see how everything they worked on is looking great at this point," Coach Pete Carroll said. "His throat really is responding well, enough that the doctor couldn't wait to get out here and talk about it."
Carroll relayed the information to the rest of his players as they huddled at the center of the field after practice.
"Heck yeah, you like to hear that," offensive lineman Jeff Byers said. "Everything we've heard so far has been good news."
Johnson is up and moving around and no longer requires a feeding tube, Carroll said. However, he is limited to a liquid diet and has not spoken.
"They don't even let him make a peep right now," the coach said.
Raring to go
In his third day back at practice, returning from a broken collarbone he suffered in the preseason, receiver Ronald Johnson still must wear a yellow jersey, which means no one is supposed to touch him.
But he can't wait to rip it off.
"I talk to Coach every day and tell him, hey, I want to come out here and play," Johnson said. "It's kind of frustrating."
The junior said he feels as if he's in good shape, maybe even faster than before the injury, but it's hard to tell for certain because defensive backs are playing soft coverage against him while he recovers.
"He wants to return kickoffs already," Carroll said. "He's clamoring to do everything."
Doctors have told Johnson that he can expect to be cleared for contact next week.
Defensive end Armond Armstead also went through individual drills Thursday. The sophomore is recovering from a broken foot suffered in late August and has healed slightly ahead of expectations.
The open week has given a number of underclassmen more opportunities to show what they can do in practice.
Coaches singled out several young players who have performed well, including safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling.
"They've had a lot more work," Carroll said. "Where they were barely hanging on to the information, I think they were feeling more at home and playing a little faster."
On offense, receiver De'Von Flournoy impressed, as did offensive tackle Kevin Graf. Tailback Curtis McNeal also got more reps.
"I think it went pretty good," McNeal said. "Better than sitting around at practice. I like to get my feet going."
With coaches heading out to recruit during the weekend, today's practice will begin with a 6 a.m. team meeting, followed by a brief practice that is scheduled to end by 7:45 a.m. . . . Defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo, recovering from a broken ankle, watched practice for a while before leaving in his motorized wheelchair.