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USC FOOTBALL FYI

Lane Kiffin meets with Dillon Baxter and his family

Sophomore running back is concerned about playing time. Marc Tyler could return soon.

September 04, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC running back Dillon Baxter carries against Minnesota on Saturday in the first half of the season opener.
USC running back Dillon Baxter carries against Minnesota on Saturday in… (Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire )

Marc Tyler's suspension for a series of off-season incidents infused USC's tailback situation with a dose of drama.

More occurred Sunday, but it did not involve Tyler.

In a teleconference with reporters, Coach Lane Kiffin said he had met earlier with Dillon Baxter and his family regarding the sophomore's lack of playing time.

Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan and junior Curtis McNeal combined for 24 carries in USC's 19-17 season-opening victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

Baxter, who had more game experience than any of the available tailbacks, was in for only a failed two-point conversion attempt and a fourth-quarter pass play.

Afterward, Baxter expressed disappointment when reporters asked how he felt about his limited role.

The former San Diego Mission Bay High star had a troubled freshman season that included two suspensions. But by all accounts, including Kiffin's, he has worked hard on and off the field and adhered to team policies.

"There's really not much I can do," Baxter said Saturday. "Just keep working hard and I guess when they want to put me in, they'll put me in."

Kiffin said Baxter did not talk of transferring during a meeting that was requested by the family.

"That's something that … happens a lot, especially with your highly recruited players, especially if they're not playing," Kiffin said. "I call them 'Tell the truth' meetings."

Kiffin said he could not immediately read how Baxter felt after the meeting, but he added that players are told, "'How much you play isn't up to us. It's up to you. You'll decide how much you play."

Baxter was not available for comment Sunday.

Meanwhile, Kiffin intimated that Tyler might be returning soon.

The senior did not participate in training camp, but he practiced with the Trojans last week, mainly as part of the scout team.

"As of right now, nothing's changed," Kiffin said. "Marc's just been doing everything we've asked him to do. We'll just keep evaluating it and I may have something here shortly."

Morgan rushed for 70 yards against Minnesota, McNeal 33. Morgan is listed as the starter on depth chart for Saturday's game against Utah.

"I'm sure the rotation is going to get even stronger once Marc gets in," Morgan said after the Minnesota game. "Whenever we go in, we're all fresh and the defense is tired. That's what makes a good team good — when the back-ups are just as good as the starters."

Taking it in stride

After the Trojans twice failed on two-point conversion attempts, special teams coach John Baxter said he heard the cheers — derisive or otherwise — from the Coliseum crowd when the Trojans opted to kick an extra point.

"I thought it was funny," Baxter said of the crowd's reaction."It's a game. It's meant to be fun. Let's not get to the point where funny stuff is not funny."

Quick hits

Kiffin said the Trojans emerged from the victory with no injuries. … Defensive lineman Armond Armstead has yet to be cleared by doctors to participate, Kiffin said. … Upon review, school officials credited the Trojans with another sack, giving them four against Minnesota.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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