As USC linemen went through one-on-one drills on Monday, Jethro Franklin's voice boomed across the practice facility.
"He's back! He's back!" the Trojans' defensive line coach yelled as sophomore Armond Armstead curled past an offensive tackle. "He's 295 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal!"
The 6-foot-5 Armstead was a starting defensive end before he suffered a broken bone in his left foot during training camp.
Armstead underwent surgery and was sidelined for the first five games. He performed agility drills last week and participated in contact drills for the first time Monday.
Armstead and receiver Ronald Johnson, who suffered a broken collarbone in the final preseason scrimmage, are expected to be available Saturday when the sixth-ranked Trojans play at No. 25 Notre Dame.
"I'm not sure if I'm ready to play 60 to 80 snaps, but I'm sure I can play," Armstead said.
Armstead's return comes at a good time for the Trojans, who might be in need of depth along the defensive line as they prepare for Notre Dame and quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Nick Perry, who has a team-leading six sacks, did not practice most of last week or Monday because of a knee bruise.
Starting nose tackle Christian Tupou also is nursing a knee injury, and tackle Averell Spicer did not practice because of lingering ankle soreness.
Armstead, who can play end and tackle, acknowledged battling confidence issues as he returns from an injury that required surgeons to place a screw in his foot.
"It's supposed to be healed, I just have to get used to it," he said. "I don't know how much of that is mental or physical, but I feel like it's probably 50-50 . . . just me getting over the fact that I had the injury."
Coach Pete Carroll has declined to make it official but, as noted last week, Mitch Mustain appears to be the No. 2 quarterback.
Carroll once again balked at designating the junior as Matt Barkley's backup for Notre Dame despite Mustain's taking all of the second-team snaps as Aaron Corp looked on.
"He's a little bit ahead right now," Carroll said of Mustain. "The competition just stays open.
"All I can say is we've been here before and watched these guys move back and forth a little bit."
Mustain looked sharp most of the day but he also had two passes intercepted by safety Drew McAllister and mishandled a snap.
Cornerback Brian Baucham took part in drills for the first time since suffering burns and abrasions in a motorcycle accident on Sept. 17.
Baucham was the Trojans' third cornerback before he was hurt.
"He's resilient, he's tough-minded and he just won't accept the fact that he's hurt," Carroll said. "He came out there and went right after it today like he didn't miss a beat."
Running back Joe McKnight was absent because of a class assignment, Carroll said. . . . C.J. Gable and Curtis McNeal will return kickoffs against Notre Dame. . . . Carroll said last week that the place-kicking competition was open, but Jordan Congdon will continue to handle field goals.
USC (4-1) AT NOTRE DAME (4-1)
Saturday at South Bend, Ind.
12:30 p.m. PDT, Channel 4