Stafon Johnson is taking his role in stride

Senior running back is not complaining about not starting and looks forward to contributing in whatever capacity.

September 10, 2009|Gary Klein

Stafon Johnson is not complaining.

After leading USC in yards rushing in 2008, the senior watched as juniors Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford carried the ball before he did in the season opener against San Jose State.

Johnson said Wednesday he knows that could be the same scenario Saturday when third-ranked USC plays at eighth-ranked Ohio State.

"At the end of the day, you want to be in the game when it's important to help your team and I think I did that," said Johnson, who scored two touchdowns in the Trojans' 56-3 victory last week. "You've got to make sure when you get your opportunities that you make the best of it."

McKnight will start again Saturday after gaining 145 yards and scoring twice in the opener.

But Coach Pete Carroll said Johnson's instinctive and creative running ability makes him integral to the game plan.

"When things are tough and most challenging, he's the guy we're going to lean on," Carroll said.

That's fine with Johnson.

"I appreciate being put in that position and that they put their trust in me," he said.

End game

USC defensive ends are happy that much of the responsibility for neutralizing Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor falls on their shoulders.

"When the D-line comes to play, the whole defense plays better," junior end Everson Griffen said.

Redshirt freshman Wes Horton could start opposite Griffen for the second consecutive game. Containing Pryor is the priority.

"Terrelle Pryor is elusive, so you can't just wrap him up and expect to bring him down," Horton said. "You've got to wrap him up and drive him into the ground because he can get out of anything."

Devon Kennard, a freshman who played well in the opener against San Jose State, also will be part of the defensive end rotation.

"With Pryor, we have to swarm -- you can't just leave it for one guy," Kennard said.

Bates on Barkley

Quarterbacks coach and play caller Jeremy Bates, who did not make himself available to the media after the opener, praised freshman Matt Barkley for his poise against San Jose State.

"The most impressive thing about him was how he kept his cool in that first quarter," Bates said. "We didn't get any momentum, we didn't get into any rhythm early. . . . [The] whole team, they knew it was going to happen and they stayed calm."

Bates, a former NFL assistant, said he was unaware that he was expected to be available for postgame interviews.

Quick hits

Cornerback Kevin Thomas and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey returned after two-day absences because of illness. . . . Cornerback Brian Baucham, who returned Monday after a week's absence, said he was stricken with a virus and was held out so team medical personnel could rule out H1N1. . . . Center Kristofer O'Dowd appears on track to start against Ohio State. With Butch Lewis sidelined because of an ankle injury, Jeff Byers continued working at left guard. . . . Carroll said he was eager to watch Saturday's game between UCLA and Tennessee. UCLA features former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Tennessee is coached by former USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and his staff includes defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin -- one of Carroll's mentors -- and former USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Asked whether he had a rooting interest, Carroll said, "I love the Pac-10."


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