USC linebacker Hayes Pullard upends Notre Dame receiver Theo Riddick during… (Jonathan Daniel / Getty…)
Hayes Pullard seemed to be in the middle of everything USC accomplished on defense last season.
As the weakside linebacker, he tied for the team lead in tackles. He tied for second in sacks.
For the last few weeks, with Lamar Dawson sidelined because of a leg injury, Pullard has played middle linebacker.
And the sophomore could play that position in the Sept. 1 opener against Hawaii if Dawson remains out or is limited upon his return.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Pullard is no stranger to playing in the middle -- he manned the spot and called out defensive alignments at Crenshaw High -- but his mind still occasionally wanders to the edges of the defense.
"Sometimes," he said Thursday after practice, "I've got to remind myself that I have to make the call."
After redshirting in 2010, Pullard started every game last season. He finished with 81 tackles, including 14 in the Trojans' 38-35 victory over fourth-ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium, a win that ended the Ducks' 21-game home winning streak.
Moving to middle linebacker has forced Pullard to alter his demeanor from last season.
"I was more like the quiet person on the defense," he said, "a silent but deadly type of guy. Now, I have to be more vocal."
Coach Lane Kiffin is pleased with Pullard's smart and physical play at middle linebacker.
"There's nothing saying that's not his best spot in the long run," Kiffin said, "and maybe his spot at the next level too."
Pullard, however, will return to the weakside position when Dawson returns.
Kiffin would not say when Dawson, a sophomore, would have to practice to start against Hawaii.
"We don't have a certain time or a certain date," he said.
Meantime, Pullard is prepared to play on the outside or in the middle for a back seven that is regarded as the strength of the defense.
"I just want to show I can play anywhere, no matter where they put me, and be a great team player," he said.
Time to taper
USC practiced in full pads and engaged in full contact for what would be the final time in training camp, Kiffin said.
"We got some guys banged up," he said, "but we needed to do this."
USC practices Friday and then will go through a mock game Saturday to review alignments and game-day procedures.
Two years ago, to avoid injuries, the Trojans did not engage in much full contact while preparing for their opener against Hawaii at Honolulu. The lack of preparation showed in a sloppy 49-36 victory.
"We've done more and I think we're somewhere in the middle of doing as much as we'd like to," Kiffin said.
USC announced that the Hawaii game is a sellout. The Trojans also have sold out home games against Oregon and Notre Dame. "That's what should be happening at 'SC," Kiffin said. "It's not the fans' job to come. It's our job to put the product out on the field so that they do come."... Anthony Brown continued to work with the first-unit defense at cornerback.