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USC's Marqise Lee, Curtis McNeal in question for Sun Bowl play

Lee apparently hurts his left knee during a drill and is held out for most of the Trojans' final workout. McNeal sits out for a second straight day.

December 30, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • Marqise Lee apparently hurt his left knee during a drill.
Marqise Lee apparently hurt his left knee during a drill. (Robert Laberge / Getty Images )

EL PASO — — USC, already without quarterback Matt Barkley for the Sun Bowl, finished Saturday's practice with receiver Marqise Lee and running back Curtis McNeal in question for Monday's game against Georgia Tech.

Lee, an All-American who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver, was held out of most of USC's final workout after apparently hurting his left knee during a drill.

Asked whether he was optimistic that Lee would play Monday, Coach Lane Kiffin said, "I'm hopeful, that's for sure…. But we have other guys that will step up if he can't play."

If Lee is sidelined, freshman Nelson Agholor will start opposite junior Robert Woods, Kiffin said.

Players were not made available to the media Saturday, but Lee emerged from the locker room and walked toward the bus limping slightly. He lifted himself into the bus by grabbing a handrail and hopping on his right leg.

A few minutes later, Lee left the bus and then returned walking with no apparent discomfort.

McNeal, a senior, sat out for a second consecutive day because of an injury.

"Hopefully, he'll play," Kiffin said.

Like father, like son

Monte Kiffin, who will step down as assistant head coach for defense after the Sun Bowl, has not expressed much emotion about coaching his final game for the Trojans.

Lane Kiffin also has avoided sentimentality.

Asked whether he had thought about what it would be like without his father on the staff, he said, "I really haven't.

"It's not like we've been together for 15 years or something like that. I've done this before without him and he's done this before without me, so I haven't really thought very much about it because we've known it was going to happen for a while now."

Meantime, the search for a defensive coordinator continues.

Kiffin said he has received numerous inquiries but will wait until after the bowl game to step up the search and interview candidates. National signing day is approaching in February, but Kiffin indicated the search would not be rushed.

"We've got to find the best guy," he said. "I think people speed through things, often to try to do something to help a recruiting class. That doesn't matter if you can't stop people once they get here."

Increased responsibility

Kiffin, who calls plays, has delegated more responsibility to offensive assistants during bowl preparation, enabling him to spend time with the defense and special teams.

"He's kind of becoming a whole head coach — a complete head coach," offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu said.

On Saturday, when asked whether there was a chance that Polamalu, receivers coach Tee Martin and other assistants could have more of a role in play-calling next season, Kiffin said, "Yeah, there could be" adding, "We'll look at everything after the season just like we always do."

Polamalu said that "every coach would love" to call plays. But discussions with Kiffin have centered on utilizing the strengths of staff members.

"He's still the head coach," Polamalu said. "A lot of head coaches I've been around that have been offensive coordinators, it's very tough to give that up."

Quick hits

Defensive lineman Devon Kennard and tailback Tre Madden, who redshirted this season while recovering from chest and knee injuries, respectively, have been running and performing agility drills in preparation for spring practice…. The Trojans will conduct a walkthrough Sunday.

gary.klein@latimes.com

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