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Trojans pick up the pace to get ready for Oregon

USC FOOTBALL FYI

Early-morning workouts during bye week are taking place at a breakneck pace to condition players for the Ducks' high-speed tempo; one junior says it's hardest bye-week practice he's had at USC.

October 19, 2010|By Gary Klein

So much for the notion of taking it easy during a bye week.

USC's philosophy of pulling back a bit with an open date looming changed dramatically with top-ranked Oregon coming to the Coliseum on Oct. 30.

The Trojans on Wednesday will continue a series of 6 a.m. workouts that are conducted at a breakneck pace to condition players for the Ducks' high-speed tempo.

"This is definitely the hardest bye-week practice I've had since I've been here," junior defensive lineman Armond Armstead said after Tuesday's practice.

As several teammates struggled through abbreviated rest periods and a series of newly instituted practice-ending sprints, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Armstead powered through a workout punctuated by Coach Lane Kiffin barking at players to push the pace in every drill.

"We have to find a way to make sure we're in really good shape for this marathon two Saturdays from now that'll be at a sprinter's pace," Kiffin said.

Oregon, which plays UCLA on Thursday night at Autzen Stadium, is averaging a nation-leading 567 yards and 54.3 points a game. And the Ducks do it by taking the no-huddle approach to a new level.

Over the last few weeks, USC's offense practiced at a faster tempo to acclimate the defense for what awaits against Oregon.

"We kind of went to the next step" Tuesday, Kiffin said. "I tried to create a practice like what their practices are like — from what people have told me.

"We tried to come as close as we could to it. I don't know if we were or not because I've never seen their practices, but I hope it was beneficial for our defense."

USC is ranked 90th nationally in total defense, giving up 402.4 yards a game, and 62nd in scoring defense, giving up 24.3 points per game.

Oregon's defense is apparently benefiting from practicing against its offense. The Ducks are 38th nationally in total defense (338.5 yards per game) and 16th in scoring defense (16.3 points per game).

USC has given up 62 points in the fourth quarter, Oregon zero.

"I wish we had that stat," Kiffin said.

On the mend

Senior tailback C.J. Gable wore a rubber sleeve on his left knee and did not practice, but he said doctors informed him that he suffered a bone bruise against California, not ligament damage. Gable said he intended to play against Oregon.

USC has only two healthy tailbacks — senior Allen Bradford and junior Marc Tyler — and both have been nursing injuries.

So Gable, who has played on USC teams that featured as many as 10 scholarship tailbacks, is eager to return.

"When the season comes, it's chop, chop, chop — everyone gets chopped down," he said. "That's why I wasn't really worried. I knew I'm going to get my opportunity, but I didn't know when. So I'm going to keep practicing hard. It's a long season. Stuff happens and I need to be ready."

Quick hits

Receivers coach John Morton, offensive line coach James Cregg, defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza and linebackers coach Joe Barry were absent from practice because they were recruiting, Kiffin said.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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