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NCAA reinstates USC's Dillon Baxter

Tailback is expected to fortify Trojans offense against Notre Dame. He was ineligible to play last weekend against Oregon State.

November 24, 2010|By Gary Klein

Dillon Baxter was reinstated Wednesday by the NCAA, clearing the way for the USC tailback to play Saturday against Notre Dame.

"Hopefully, this week he can do some things for us," Coach Lane Kiffin said. "And what better game for it to happen in."

Baxter was ruled ineligible for last week's game at Oregon State after accepting a golf-cart ride on campus from a student who is also an agent. He was reinstated after making a $5 donation to charity — the approximate value of the prohibited extra benefit he received.

Baxter practiced Tuesday and Wednesday but was not made available to the media.

"It's been an up-and-down season with him in general," Kiffin said.

After being suspended for the season opener at Hawaii for violating team rules, Baxter appeared to be finding his rhythm in midseason against Stanford. He scored the Trojans' first touchdown against the Cardinal before suffering a toe injury on a run later in the game.

He was sidelined against California and started two games later against Arizona State, but he played sparingly against Arizona when Marc Tyler rushed for 160 yards in 31 carries.

Baxter, though, is expected to fortify an offense that stalled in the Trojans' 36-7 loss at Oregon State, a game in which Tyler aggravated an ankle sprain.

Kiffin said Baxter's recent incident underscores the need for the freshman to make better decisions as he continues to mature.

"I'm sure a lot of people look at this one as something that could happen to anybody and [a time] that he wasn't necessarily in the wrong," Kiffin said. "But it doesn't matter. He's already put himself in position where there isn't room for any poor judgment."

Mustain continues preparation

Quarterback Mitch Mustain remains on track to start against the Fighting Irish.

Matt Barkley watched practice wearing shorts and sweatshirt, his injured left ankle heavily taped with a wrap designed to increase blood flow.

Barkley said he was "over 50%" and receiving treatment four times a day with the intent of playing Saturday. A possible return for the Dec. 4 UCLA game appears more realistic.

"What I've done so far in rehab — it's a good sign for next week if it doesn't happen this week," he said.

Meantime, Kiffin praised Mustain's practice performance and the fifth-year senior's attention to film study in preparation for his first start for the Trojans.

Rivalry renewed

With Kiffin facing off against Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Saturday's game marks the first time since 1941 that both teams will have first-year coaches on the sidelines.

Kiffin wants to continue the Trojans' eight-game winning streak against the Fighting Irish and parlay it into success against UCLA.

Former Trojans coach Pete Carroll was 16-2 against Notre Dame and UCLA.

"We'd take 16-2," Kiffin said. "It has been a pretty special run and one we'd love to continue."

Quick hits

Linebacker Chris Galippo (concussion) was limited but said he planned to play Saturday…. The Trojans will practice Thursday morning.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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