USC DT Ellis has surgery, will miss several weeks

Updated: September 13, 2006, 3:04 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Young and inexperienced to begin with, No. 4 Southern California finds itself without three players projected to be starters just one game into the season.

Fullback Brandon Hancock sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice Aug. 14, and the same thing happened to safety Josh Pinkard in the Trojans' season-opening 50-14 victory at Arkansas on Sept. 2.

The latest injury occurred Monday in practice, when nose tackle Sedrick Ellis' right knee locked. He had to be carted from the field, and underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday. The good news, coach Pete Carroll said, is he hopes that Ellis won't be out for very long.

"A few weeks is what we're hoping," the coach said.

"Nobody's that worried," linebacker Dallas Sartz said regarding the loss of Ellis. "I wouldn't see a dropoff."

Fili Moala, listed as a co-first stringer with Chris Barrett at defensive tackle, will start at nose tackle Saturday night when the Trojans face No. 19 Nebraska (2-0) in their home opener. A sellout crowd of over 90,000 is expected at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where USC has won a Pac-10 record 27 straight games.

Freshman Taylor Mays will start in Pinkard's place in just the second game of his college career. Carroll expressed no concern.

"He's ready to do it," Carroll said regarding the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Seattle.

Kevin Ellison, USC's other starting safety, tweaked his left knee in practice Tuesday, but Carroll said he didn't believe that would keep Ellison out of Saturday night's game. Ellison underwent surgery on the same knee last season.

"I always look at these challenges as opportunities," Carroll said Tuesday at his weekly meeting with reporters. "We know that there's going to be issues that come up during the season. We've had these situations for years. We've dealt with it before."

The USC depth chart lists six possible starters at tailback -- juniors Chauncey Washington and Desmond Reed, and freshmen C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson. All but Johnson played in the opener, and Carroll indicated all will play against Nebraska.

"Something's going to make some sense to adjust it," Carroll replied when asked if the time will come when a smaller number of players will get the bulk of the carries. "It doesn't matter to me, I just hope we do well."

Gable had 12 carries, Washington eight, Moody seven, Bradford five and Reed four against Arkansas. Washington, who gained 55 yards, has missed some practice time with an injured hamstring, and said Tuesday he thought he was 50-50 to play against Nebraska.

"It's kind of tricky with the hamstrings," he said. "Today it felt pretty good. I want to [play]. The reality is, they want me for the whole season. We're taking it day-by-day."

Linebacker Oscar Lua, who didn't return after the first series at Arkansas because of an injured hamstring, said he felt much better and would be ready to go against Nebraska. Lua is listed as a co-first stringer on the depth chart with Rey Maualuga, who made six tackles in the opener.

Nebraska has rolled up some impressive numbers in its two victories, but the Cornhuskers haven't exactly played powerhouses, having beaten Louisiana Tech 49-10 and Nicholls State 56-7.

"They are on a big roll right now. They've come out of the chute flying," Carroll said.

While USC has played such non-conference opponents as Notre Dame, Auburn, Virginia Tech and Fresno State in recent years, Nebraska has played the likes of its first two opponents this season along with Maine, Western Illinois and Troy.

"The schools have their opportunity to orchestrate their season as they want to," Carroll said. "There's different philosophies. It really depends on how you look at it. Their confidence is peaked and they're ready to go. I can see why they do it."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press