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Emulating Arizona State

9/20/2011

USC freshman linebacker Anthony Sarao got to play Arizona State kamikaze middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict in practice on Tuesday, late hits and all.

USC freshman quarterback Max Wittek took on the persona of the Sun Devils' lanky, deceptively athletic quarterback Brock Osweiler

And the entire USC scout team got to hit people after the whistle, as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin and his staff tried to get the team ready for the Sun Devils this week.

That's USC's plan: allow the players plenty of time to get used to the extracurricular hits and oddities of ASU's team so that Saturday's game in Tempe won't be a surprise. Burfict and his Sun Devils teammates are known for their late-hitting proclivities -- true or not -- and USC is taking a proactive approach to it.

"Our service guys were popping guys right and left after the whistle and hitting them and hitting helmets just to kind of prepare for that," quarterback Matt Barkley said Tuesday. "We've given our guys heads up about that type of behavior.

"We won't let it affect us."

It's not the first time the Trojans are doing something like this. They did the same thing last year heading into the season opener in Hawaii. But late hits were still an issue in that game. And they've been an issue for this team this year too, as Kiffin noted USC has had at least one personal foul called in each of the first three games.

"We just want to make sure we're doing a great job with our composure and not get into a personal foul type of game, regardless of what the opponent's doing," Kiffin said Tuesday. "We're just trying to practice it exactly how it happens in games."

Or as close to exactly how it happens as is possible. Wittek is four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Osweiler and Sarao is three inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than the 6-3, 250-pound Burfict.

But Wittek has the arm. And Sarao has the play-making tendency. And that's the best USC can do.

"He's the best guy we have on service, but we don't have anybody like him," Kiffin said of Sarao's imitation of Burfict. "They don't make too many 245-pound guys that can run like him."