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Practice No. 8 tidbits + video

4/7/2011

Two main stories out of practice Thursday: New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez visited with the team and watched practice on Howard Jones Field, and running back Marc Tyler made a full return from the hamstring injury that had sidelined him for six spring practices. Here's the rest of what went on the practice field Thursday, with more coming on defensive tackle Christian Tupou on Friday:

Wright takes the lead

Sophomore Demetrius Wright has taken an early lead for the starting strong safety spot, it appears. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin praised his spring practice performance Thursday.

"Demetrius Wright has really flashed, shown speed, shown ability to hit and tackle, and I think as we continue through the spring and the fall I think he'll be able to push those guys," Kiffin said.

That spot is probably the open position with the most available depth for the Trojans. There is Wright, who hasn't started a game, and then there's also redshirt senior Marshall Jones, who started four games last season, redshirt junior Drew McAllister, who started one game in 2009, and junior Jawanza Starling, who started nine games last season.

Wright has been practicing behind McDonald at free safety but will switch with Starling and practice at strong safety beginning Saturday, Kiffin said.

Injury updates

Tupou, a redshirt senior who tore his ACL in last year's spring game, made his first return to the practice field on Tuesday but quickly suffered a left knee bruise and missed the rest of the session.

We'll have more on his situation in a post tomorrow, but Kiffin said he could be back practicing Thursday while Tupou said a more realistic return goal is about "a week and a half" from Thursday.

Offensive lineman Jeremy Galten, a junior college transfer who enrolled in January, exited practice early with a hurt knee and underwent X-rays after practice.

If he were to be out for an extended period of time, the Trojans would have just five available scholarship linemen in his absence.

"Obviously that would hurt our ability to practice, losing another lineman," Kiffin said.

Burnett jumping, Armstead studying, Ambles running

Three Trojans missed Thursday's practice for unusual reasons.

Firstly, redshirt junior cornerback Tony Burnett was out because he is in Austin, Texas to compete in the triple jump and long jump in the annual Austin Relays. He'll also miss Saturday's practice for the event.

Secondly, redshirt senior defensive end Armond Armstead, who was hospitalized last month as a result of chest pains, has been absent the last two practices as he attempts to get caught up on the schoolwork he missed while at the hospital.

"Nothing to do with anything with his health status," Kiffin said. "We're keeping inside to work with our tutors, because he can't really do all that much anyway."

Armstead had begun running and lifting during practice last week.

And, lastly, sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles was on the field but spent most of practice running around the perimeter of Howard Jones Field as a result of a late arrival to a weightlifting session earlier in the week, Kiffin said.