December 20, 2008

Practice Insider: PSU offense could be trouble

The USC Trojans have been tested by a number of players this season.

They had to deal with a talented dual-threat quarterback against Ohio State. They faced great running backs against Oregon State and Oregon. They dealt with stud receivers against Arizona.

But after Saturday's practice, Pete Carroll acknowledged his team will be in for a different kind of challenge when USC faces Penn State on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl.

"We've played a lot of good teams, but these guys have been so balanced that they've been a winning football team," Carroll said. "We've faced players on different teams as good as their guys in the skill spots but never a collection of all of them together."

The Nittany Lions' quarterback, Daryll Clark, earned first-team all-Big Ten honors this season from the coaches and the media. Penn State's running back Evan Royster was a second-team pick.

Both Derrick Williams and Deon Butler, the Nittany Lions' leading receivers, also earned first and second-team honors.

And with so many weapons, the Trojan defense won't have its attention focused in one direction,

"They're all good," linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said.

But while USC hasn't faced an offense like Penn State's in a game, Norton Jr. said the Trojans have a good idea of what they're in for when facing a team with so much offensive talent.

"We face one every day in practice," he said. "It's a very similar style to the one we get to play against in practice every day. That's the best preparation we can get."

Defensive end Kyle Moore said he's not too worried about changing things up before facing such a balanced attack.

He said his defense will do what it always does.

"We've got to watch out for those guys. But we just have to keep doing our job," Moore said. "We'll treat them like every other team. We don't change a thing. We'll keep playing the same way."

Still, Carroll said, Penn State is a unique challenge.

"They're just loaded," he said. "They're loaded in the right spots."

Sorting it out

Carl Smith again attended practice Saturday, but Carroll said nothing is finalized in terms of bringing the veteran coach onto the USC staff.

"Carl's here sitting with us and working with us," Carroll said. "We just have a few things we have to work out. If we get that thing all ironed out, I'd be really happy about that."

John Morton, USC's new offensive coordinator, said he's enjoyed being able to get to know Smith better over the past few days.

"We're talking some and watching film together," Morton said. "He's got a ton of experience. He's been a around a lot and he knows a lot."

Extra Points

• Controversy swirled over the final minutes of practice, as the offense and defense battled near the goal line. The offense had a touchdown overturned by a penalty, and the defense held on the day's final play.

"Everything's rocking along," Carroll said. "We had a nice competition day today. Everything's going fine.

"We had a heck of a day out here just having fun and playing football."

Stanley Havili hobbled around Saturday after practicing some the day before.

• Carroll said he hoped the grass field at Howard Jones Field would respond from the beating the weather and the Trojans have put on it.

"I wish the field was a little better," he said. "The field is not holding up for us the way we'd like."

• Four-star USC recruit Byron Moore watched practice Saturday, wearing a sweatshirt that had "USC Bound" on the back.

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