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USC FOOTBALL FYI

Freshman Kyle Prater making the most of his head start

The wide receiver graduated early from his Illinois high school so he could participate in spring practice with the Trojans, and he’s already making a positive impression.

April 06, 2010|By Gary Klein

Kyle Prater graduated early from high school to get a head start on his USC career.

The rangy receiver from Illinois has been slowed some by a hamstring injury, but the 6-foot-5 freshman is making a big impression during the Trojans' spring workouts.

On Tuesday, Prater made several impressive catches, including one that came just before cornerback Torin Harris delivered a neck-bending hit.

"That was the hardest hit I've ever felt," Prater said.

Prater, 17, was among the recruits who were stunned by the news that Pete Carroll was leaving USC to coach the Seattle Seahawks. Prater, though, went through with his plan to enroll for the spring semester, joining freshman running back Dillon Baxter.

While Carroll often said that he discouraged most recruits from giving up their final semester of high school, new Coach Lane Kiffin said he would encourage the practice as a way for players to take advantage of practices, meetings and off-season training.

"It's a huge benefit, something that we'll continue to try to get more guys to do as we evaluate them and get on them early as sophomores and juniors," Kiffin said.

Prater is confident he will contribute this season for a receiving corps that must fill the void left by the departure of Damian Williams. Returning senior Ronald Johnson and sophomore Brice Butler caught 34 and 20 passes, respectively, last season.

"I came in early to come out here and show 'em what I got," Prater said. "I feel like I can [have] a big impact on this team."

So does Kiffin, but he wants Prater to become stronger and more physical.

Senior cornerback Shareece Wright said the freshman creates matchup problems even for a veteran.

"He's not going to be faster or quicker, but he's going to be able to get the ball at its highest point," Wright said.

In his corner

Wright ended practice by intercepting a pass from quarterback Matt Barkley and returning it for a touchdown.

Wright also delivered one of the biggest hits of the day on running back Allen Bradford, his former Colton High teammate.

Wright is eager to play a full season after missing nearly all of the previous two because of a neck injury and academic ineligibility. He is entrenched at one starting spot, with T.J. Bryant, Harris and the injured Brian Baucham among those vying at the other corner.

"We have a great player in Shareece right now and we need to find more guys that can play at his level," Kiffin said.

Quick hits

Harris intercepted a pass by Barkley, and redshirt freshman safety Byron Moore made a spectacular interception on a long pass thrown by Mitch Mustain that bounced off Johnson's hands. . . . Kiffin was not happy with the Trojans' initial effort after two days off and he stopped practice to reiterate the need to work with the same intensity every day. At least one unit has impressed the new coach. "We've got a good defensive line — I know that much," he said. . . . Offensive lineman Butch Lewis practiced for the first time after sitting out the first week because of thigh injury.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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