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USC running back Marc Tyler has more hurdles to clear

Suspended tailback returns to practice, but it's not determined whether he will play this season.

August 24, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC running back Marc Tyler looks for an opening against California last season at the Coliseum.
USC running back Marc Tyler looks for an opening against California last… (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles…)

USC has not determined whether suspended tailback Marc Tyler will play this season.

The fifth-year senior was banned from training camp and will not participate in next week's opener against Minnesota.

But Tyler practiced with the team for the first time Wednesday, working almost exclusively with the scout team.

"He's done what we've asked him to do to be able to come back and practice," Athletic Director Pat Haden said. "He still has a lot more hurdles to overcome."

Tyler, USC's leading rusher last season, was suspended in July after a series of off-the-field incidents. He appeared before the school's Office of Student Judicial Affairs and has said that he was enrolled in counseling for alcohol-related issues.

His return to practice coincides with his return to team meetings.

"It's the next step in the process [of] Marc hopefully coming back," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said. "This isn't a major step. He's not cleared for the second game. This is just something that we had in place as he goes through this process."

Tyler was not made available to the media.

"We'll just mix him in there some in practice, especially with the [scout] team so he'll get beat up down there going against our No. 1 defense," Kiffin said.

Backup role

Freshman Cody Kessler is on track to serve as quarterback Matt Barkley's backup.

"We have headed down that direction," Kiffin said after Kessler took second-team snaps.

With redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins injured, Kessler and freshman Max Wittek have competed for the No. 2 spot.

Ideally, Kiffin said, he would prefer to redshirt Kessler and Wittek.

When Barkley leaves school, Kiffin said, "the competition will be wide open and we'll start over because we have great confidence in both of them."

Moving on

Scandals at Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon and Miami have spurred USC fans to besiege school officials with calls for relief from NCAA penalties that will keep the Trojans out of a bowl game again this season and reduce scholarships over the next three years.

USC President Max Nikias issued a statement saying he had

"determined that the university's mission is best served by moving forward at this time, without pursuing further redress. This decision followed an extensive review of all of our options and after consultation with many sources."

Quick hits

Freshman defensive linemen Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend Jr. were absent from practice Tuesday and Wednesday because of NCAA Eligibility Center issues, Kiffin said …. Freshman defensive end/linebacker Charles Burks will have season-ending knee surgery, Kiffin said…. Freshman receiver George Farmer took scout-team snaps at quarterback to imitate Minnesota's MarQueis Gray.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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