Some items of note from coach Lane Kiffin's Sunday conference call in advance of the bye week:
Redshirt sophomore running back Curtis McNeal is academically ineligible, Kiffin announced Sunday. McNeal, who played sparingly in 2009 as a backup runner and returner, has missed the entire season -- but the issue came to a head when receiver David Ausberry went in near the end of Saturday's game against Cal as a running back. Ausberry was Kiffin's only backup option besides Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford because C.J. Gable had just gone out of the game because of a knee injury. McNeal, you may remember, also had trouble qualifying for USC as a freshman in 2008. He missed the first month of fall camp and was approved only in mid-September, the day before the NCAA deadline for recruits to qualify.
Speaking of Gable, X-rays on his left knee were negative, Kiffin said. At first, the coach said Gable was probably out for the year. Sunday, Kiffin said Gable could very well be back for the Oregon game in two weeks -- so it's clear that the original expectations were too severe. Against Cal, Gable had been having his best game since November 2008, carrying the ball a team-high 12 times for 72 yards.
High praise for quarterback Matt Barkley continues to come from Kiffin. Sunday, the coach said Barkley would be a front-runner in the national Heisman race had the Trojans not lost games to Washington and Stanford. “There are not many plays over the last four games where you could pull out any throws that he’s missing,” Kiffin said. Through seven games, Barkley is on pace to obliterate his numbers from a season ago. He already has 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions. In 12 starts last season, he threw only 15 touchdowns and had 14 interceptions.
The practice schedule is being shifted heavily this week to accommodate coaches' recruiting trips. The Trojans will practice at 6 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, which will allow assistants to get a lot of travel in during the week.