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Injury-plagued USC a little unsettled

10/19/2011

USC coach Kevin O'Neill has told reporters he expected the Trojans to be picked 10th in the Pac-12 and called the Trojans without injured point guard Jio Fontan a "rudderless ship."

According to ESPN Los Angeles, the backcourt without Fontan is still a work in progress as it is now expected that Maurice Jones will slide over to play point guard rather have freshman Alexis Moore be the primary ballhandler.

"Mo's going to play the point," O'Neill said Saturday. "I don't know what it's going to do, but he's going to play the point."

Part of that is Jones, who noticeably talks and acts much more like a leader than he did last season, as a true freshman some 2,000-plus miles away from home in Michigan. And part of that is Moore, who proved over the last two months to be a risky proposition as an immediate starter.

"I just feel like it's too much pressure for him to be the starting point guard," O'Neill said. "He's going to play some point, obviously. And we're running what is probably going to be a two-guard offense, but I just don't want the pressure to be on him.

"I don't think he's ready for that yet."

Moore certainly seems open to it in comments made to the team's website.

"Personally, I like to have the ball in my hands, but we have a great guy in Mo in terms of his playmaking ability, so I also like playing with him and playing off of him," he said. "Any way I can, in terms of whether that's catching a drive-and-kick from him or even setting him up for something like that, I'm happy to do it."

It's expected that Fontan will redshirt, and the Trojans appear to have added to their backcourt as well for next season when former Virginia Tech guard J.T. Terrell, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transferring to USC.

But for this season, the injuries will be something the Trojans will have to overcome. Fontan had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Forward Curtis Washington is out for the season following surgery on a torn labrum. Another forward, Dewayne Dedmon, is working toward playing with a broken hand. And according to the Daily Trojan, there are more minor injuries to forward Aaron Fuller's dislocated finger and Jones' ankle.

"He has not said a word, and that is what I like about [Fuller]," O’Neill said. "You are not supposed to sit on the side with the sniffles."

Jones has been bothered by a minor ankle injury. He has not been sidelined, but O’Neill stated he might rest Jones at times because he is valuable to the team.

"The crippling injury would be to [Jones]," O’Neill said. "If [he] gets hurt, I am in front of a bus."