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
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
"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."