USC practiced Tuesday for the first time since last week's victory over Hawaii, and one of the main focuses — in theory anyway — was improved tackling.
Despite Coach Lane Kiffin's continued moratorium on full contact, players declared that they were fixing problems during individual drills and they were confident they would perform better when the 16th-ranked Trojans play Virginia on Saturday at the Coliseum.
"I'm not buying all the, 'All right, because we didn't tackle in practice, that's the reason why we were missing tackles,'" senior linebacker Michael Morgan said. "We've been tackling since we were young."
Morgan delivered the fiercest hit against Hawaii, knocking Warriors quarterback Bryant Moniz out of the game in the third quarter. No penalty was called on the play.
"It was legal," Morgan said. "He had been sliding all game and I knew I was going to get him one time. It's part of the game."
The dispersal of playing time against Virginia might change based on performances against Hawaii and during practice, according to Kiffin. The defensive line, for example, did not produce the pressure coaches had anticipated.
Sophomore end Nick Perry, a 2009 freshman All-American who sat out the opener because of a high ankle sprain, practiced Tuesday and could play against Virginia. Perry had a team-best eight sacks last season.
But Kiffin won't push it by tackling in practice.
"I like when we look at our injury report going into this week and see almost all of our front-line guys will be available," he said.
Junior cornerback T.J. Bryant practiced for the first time since training camp began and said he was capable of playing against Virginia.
Bryant had been sidelined because of cheekbone surgery that was required after fullback Stanley Havili punched him during a conditioning drill a few days before camp opened.
"I was just happy to be here going full speed and giving it my all," Bryant said. "Sitting out just makes you realize how much you love the game. And hopefully, I never lose this feeling I had [Tuesday].
In the cellar
The Trojans rank last in the Pacific 10 Conference in total defense (588 yards a game) and pass defense (459).
But Kiffin seemed to be bothered most by the No. 10 ranking for penalty yardage. USC was penalized 11 times for 100 yards against Hawaii.
"It's embarrassing," he said, adding, "It is who we are until we change it.
Virginia Coach Mike London on USC: "You see athleticism — from everybody. Even the water boy is athletic and fast." … Tailback Marc Tyler leads the Pac-10 after rushing for 154 yards against Hawaii.