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USC FOOTBALL FYI

USC receiver Robert Woods learns the price of a record

After 17 receptions against Minnesota, the sophomore is sore. Utah figures to be very aware of him.

September 07, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC receiver Robert Woods hauls in a 43-yard touchdown reception during Saturday's 19-17 win over Minnesota.
USC receiver Robert Woods hauls in a 43-yard touchdown reception during… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Robert Woods felt as if he was in sync with quarterback Matt Barkley during a record-setting, 17-reception performance in USC's season opening victory over Minnesota.

Afterward, he also felt sore.

"That was like three games of catches," he said Wednesday. "Three games of hits."

To preserve the sophomore receiver, USC Coach Lane Kiffin plans to rest Woods during Thursday practices.

Woods does not favor the idea. He prefers being in the huddle as the Trojans prepare for Saturday's inaugural Pacific 12 Conference game against Utah at the Coliseum.

But Kiffin wants to keep Woods fresh.

Woods knew the ball was coming his way against Minnesota, coaches telling him before the game that he would be on a record pace.

"I would like it to be a habit," he said of having double-digit receptions.

It does not figure to be as easy against a Utah defense that gave up only 10 points against Montana State last week. Linebacker Brian Blechen intercepted two passes.

The Utes are expected to take steps to neutralize Woods, who scored three touchdowns against Minnesota.

"When something is working, it's hard not to continue doing it until they take it away from you," Kiffin said. "I'd imagine that's going to happen in this game. I'm sure they're going to look at it and say, 'Let's take away Robert and make the other guys prove themselves.'"

Role playing

Kiffin has said he would prefer to rotate two tailbacks, a strategy that might prove difficult against Utah.

Marc Tyler, USC's leading rusher last season, is back after sitting out the opener because of a suspension. D.J. Morgan is atop the depth chart, Dillon Baxter is expected to play a larger role and Curtis McNeal is coming off a workmanlike performance.

Tyler, listed at 5 feet 11 and 230 pounds, outweighs the others by 35 to 40 pounds.

The smaller backs, Kiffin said, had "long speed and the potential for home runs," but, "Those short-yardage situations that we came up short on a couple times [against Minnesota], the big back has a tendency to make those."

USC ran 28 times and passed 45 times against the Golden Gophers.

"We don't want our future to be having to throw the ball 50 times a game all over the place," Kiffin said. "We'd like to establish the run and be a little bit more typical SC."

Quick hits

Senior Martin Coleman has been working with the first-unit offense at left guard…. Kiffin on the possibility of expanding the Pacific 12 Conference: "We just got used to this one. And so whatever happens, we'll figure it out."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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