Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
Never mind that the Trojans have now lost consecutive games for the first time in nine years, USC's team morale is as good as ever, according to coach Lane Kiffin. “I think it’s been great," he said Wednesday when asked how his team was responding to the Washington and Stanford losses. "I don’t think you can tell, off of them, whether we won or lost the game."
Injury report: Defensive end Wes Horton (back), linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee), running back Dillon Baxter (toes) and tight end Jordan Cameron (knee) did not participate in practice. Defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), linebacker Shane Horton (groin), guards Khaled Holmes and Butch Lewis and right tackle Tyron Smith were limited. Perry's injury -- a high-ankle sprain -- has lingered for nearly two months now, but he's a definite go for Cal. Shane Horton's situation is more fluid, as he missed all of Tuesday's practice but looked good in practice Wednesday. All of the offensive linemen's injuries have not been disclosed.
In the event that Tyron Smith is unable to go against Cal, the Trojans' first option to start in his place is redshirt freshman Kevin Graf, who took most of the snaps at that spot Wednesday -- although Kiffin indicated that Graf had a lot of catching up to do in order to fill in adequately. Smith's return, then, is good news for Kiffin and Co.
In perhaps the most intriguing news of the week, freshman receiver Robert Woods is practicing some at cornerback this week in the hopes of logging time as the Trojans' nickel corner as soon as possible -- perhaps even this Saturday against Cal. Woods did some one-on-one drills at the position on Tuesday and did the same Wednesday while adding some seven-on-seven participation. Kiffin was asked after practice if the Woods situation was being taken seriously by the coaching staff. “Very seriously," he said. "Here’s somebody who was a great player on defense in high school as well and we’re always doing to look to do as many things as we can, especially him being a freshman. Continued Kiffin, making reference to something he has alluded to often in the past: "As we continue down the road, as we’ve discussed before, with this probation and sanctions, the possibility of guys playing both ways if we can do it. This week, he’s kind of the first guy that we’re looking at it with." We'll have more on this situation, including Woods' thoughts on it, later on in this post.
The Pac-10 has apparently reported back to Kiffin and USC about his complaints about last week's game against Stanford, but it doesn't look as if anything will come of it. “I have heard back that they have dealt with it," Kiffin said. "That’s all I can say. I’ve heard that they’ve dealt with the situation and that’s all I can say. We still lost the game.”
Final notes: If Cameron is unable to play Saturday, one of the most potentially intriguing matchups in all of college sports will be missed out on. See, Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan will probably go head-to-head against USC's Cameron at times if he plays -- which would create an incredible mano-a-mano of players with reverse names. ... Thursday's 4 p.m. practice is the Trojans' last scheduled one for the week. The team has a bye next week.
Kiffin spoke to the media after Wednesday's practice and talked about the possibility of Chris Galippo filling in for Malcolm Smith at weakside linebacker this week, other injury-based issues and more.
See what he had to say:
While Kiffin would say only two words -- "We'll see" -- when asked if Woods could play on defense as soon as this weekend, Woods said after practice that he is in the team's game plan for Cal, presumably as the nickel corner, where he would play strictly on passing downs with the hope of making a play on the ball.
Yes, he knows that means he might have to make a tackle. He said he did so just fine -- and frequently -- as recently as last fall at Gardena Serra.
"If I'm on the defensive side, I gotta be able to make plays -- if that's either picking off the ball or making the tackle coming up," Woods said.
See what else the freshman receiver said about the defensive experiment, including some great insight on what he's already learned from defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza about what he's already about playing receiver after two days moonlighting as a corner: