USC QB Booty, RB Johnson hoping to play against Notre  Dame

Updated: October 17, 2007, 11:42 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Southern California appears to be getting healthy at the best possible time.

Several injured Trojans, including quarterback John David Booty and leading rusher Stafon Johnson, expressed optimism Wednesday concerning their availability for this weekend's game at Notre Dame.

"These guys are fighting to get back, there's no question," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Everybody's fighting to make this trip."

While Notre Dame (1-6) is one of No. 13 USC's top rivals,

Saturday's game is a nonconference affair. The most important games for the Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-10) are coming up, starting Oct. 27 when they play at No. 7 Oregon. The following weekend, they host Oregon State, and then hit the road again for games at No. 10 California and No. 12 Arizona State before finishing at home against UCLA.

Standout linebacker Brian Cushing, who has missed most of the season with a sprained ankle, seems a lock to return Saturday.

"I'm playing, no doubt," he said.

Among the other starters thought to be questionable who said they hope to play at Notre Dame in addition to Booty and Johnson are offensive linemen Sam Baker and Chilo Rachal and linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Carroll isn't so sure how many will go, but he'd love to see the injured players return at least by the time the Trojans face Oregon, if not this weekend.

Booty, who sat out USC's 20-13 victory over Arizona last weekend because of a broken middle finger on his throwing hand, felt no ill effects from extensive throwing Tuesday.

"Really not much different [from Tuesday], which is a good thing, I guess," Booty said of Wednesday's workout. "I really felt good with my intermediate throws."

When asked if he thought he would start against Notre Dame, Booty replied: "You'll have to ask coach Carroll that. I feel like no matter what they decide, I'm going to be there, I'm going to be able to go. Once we get there, if they do call on me to start or play, I'll be there."

Mark Sanchez filled in for Booty against Arizona, completing 19 of 31 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.

"We're just staying the course we've been on," Carroll said. "John got some work in today. He's getting better every day. I'm not rushing into any choice right now. Mark's preparing to start. There's no question John can play."

Regarding Sanchez, Carroll said: "He's doing really well. He's had a great week so far. That's a real good sign."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press