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USC FOOTBALL FYI

USC's Robert Woods regaining his spark

After an injury and a hospitalization, the productive freshman receiver appears to be near full speed.

November 11, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC receiver Robert Woods, slowed last week because of a back injury and illness, is looking to return to his highlight-reel form on Saturday night at Arizona.

Woods caught 26 passes and scored five touchdowns in the three games leading up to last week's game against Arizona State. But the freshman from Carson was limited in the Trojans' 34-33 victory at the Coliseum, catching only three passes for 18 yards.

"You can definitely tell, without his presence, how much our offense was kind of changing," quarterback Matt Barkley said Thursday.

Woods suffered a bone bruise against Oregon on Oct. 30. The pain worsened, and necessitated hospitalization, after Woods vomited repeatedly after practice last Thursday.

"Once I got sick, it just brought out the pain in my back," he said.

Woods remained limited early this week before increasing his workload Wednesday. He appeared to be near full speed Thursday, catching passes and returning kickoffs with his familiar burst.

Woods has caught 42 passes, six for touchdowns, and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown for a Trojans team that could finish 10-3 by winning its final four games.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Woods also has some personal goals for the final part of the season.

"Just getting stronger," he said, "and being able to make more explosive plays and break more tackles."

Tailback update

Freshman Dillon Baxter would welcome a second consecutive start at tailback, but junior Marc Tyler looks to be recovered from the ankle sprain he suffered at the end of a 119-yard rushing performance against Arizona State.

Meantime, senior Allen Bradford hopes for more than the one carry he got last week.

"I just continue to stay ready, to watch film and just prepare like I'm going to play," he said.

Asked if Bradford was in his doghouse, Kiffin said no.

"Allen has worked extremely hard," Kiffin said. "[But] Allen has put the ball on the ground lately. If you pull out his last 15 carries, there's not a lot of great stuff there."

Finish with a flourish

After passing for 24 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, through nine games, Barkley said one of his goals was to conclude the season without another interception.

Kiffin, meanwhile, wants the sophomore to make better decisions and "not play on his emotions."

Two of Barkley's worst interceptions came against Washington State and Arizona State — both on the first play after the Trojans blocked kicks.

"That's about as emotional of a play as you can have for your sidelines — then all of a sudden you're running out there … and the coach gives you a play that has potential to go to the end zone," Kiffin said. "You can't just throw it, unless it's there."

Quick kicks

Sophomore Jawanza Starling (hamstring) sat out again, putting junior Marshall Jones on track to start at safety…. Left tackle Matt Kalil (ankle) returned after sitting out earlier this week…. The Trojans will have a short practice on campus Friday before departing in the afternoon for Tucson, Ariz.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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