While senior quarterback Mitch Mustain remains on track to start for USC for the first time Saturday against Notre Dame, freshman Tommy Rees is preparing for his third start for the Fighting Irish.
Don't expect Rees to be overcome by playing in a historic stadium.
Taking over for injured starter Dayne Crist, he made his first start at home in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Then came a neutral site matchup at Yankee Stadium against Army.
Now, Rees — who lived in California as a boy when his father, Bill, served as a UCLA assistant and recruiting coordinator — gets the Coliseum.
"It's a pretty rare opportunity," he said this week. "You've just got to focus into the game."
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rees, brother of UCLA holder Danny Rees, played extensively for the first time after Crist suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter against Tulsa. Rees completed 33 of 54 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions, in a 28-27 defeat.
In his first start, Rees was 13 of 20 for 129 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-3 victory over Utah at Notre Dame Stadium.
Last week, he was again 13 of 20 for 214 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, in a 27-3 victory over Army in New York.
USC Coach Lane Kiffin had hoped to land Rees when he was coaching at Tennessee.
"He's the classic non-combine quarterback," Kiffin said Thursday. "He's not Carson Palmer when he walks in the door or when he goes through a workout, but he's so smart and aware.… He's going to be a really great player and he's already been playing really well."
USC expects Rees to look often for receiver Michael Floyd, a 6-foot-3, 227-pound junior from St. Paul, Minn.
"He wrote us a letter [in high school] that SC was his dream school and this was where he always wanted to play at the time," Kiffin said. "He was a dominant player then and still is."
Floyd, who has 62 receptions, including nine for touchdowns, did not play against the Trojans last season because of a knee injury.
Marc Tyler will start at tailback, Kiffin said…. Mustain said he had not been told "explicitly" that he would start but he is preparing as if he will. Matt Barkley increased his activity and continues to receive treatment for a high ankle sprain. "I plan on suiting up and getting out there and we'll see when it comes game time," he said…. Kiffin closed practice to the media because he thought an account from Wednesday's workout violated a policy that prohibits specific descriptions of strategy.
Staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.