After missing the last week and a half because of a bothersome shoulder injury, middle linebacker Chris Galippo returned to practice Sunday and looked as if he missed very few beats in his absence.
"It was great to have Chris back with the first group today," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "The last five days, he’d been getting parts of practice. Today he got the entire practice.
"He’s raring to go."
Galippo participated in most of the 2 1/2-hour session, including all of the team-drill portion, taking the place of freshman Lamar Dawson, who had supplanted him over the last 10 days. Afterward, he said he planned to start Saturday's season opener against Minnesota, assuming the coaches agreed with his assessment.
"I'm confident that I can get in a game," Galippo said. "As much as I've missed full-contact reps I've stayed engaged mentally and stayed in shape and stuff like that. It's really just a matter of taking this week and getting the contact side of it down, getting used to the hitting tempo.
"I'm for sure confident in myself."
Galippo had said Friday that he'd need a full week's worth of practices to adequately prepare himself for the Golden Gophers. He'll get it now, with three full sessions remaining before the Trojans take the Coliseum field. But coach Lane Kiffin hesitated after Sunday's practice when he was asked if Galippo was on track to start that game.
"Oh, I don't know," Kiffin said. "We'll see. We'll need to see some more of him [Tuesday]."
As we wrote Saturday, one likely difference between Galippo's play this year and last is how many snaps he'll play, regardless of his health. The coaching staff is not going to ask him to play every single snap anymore, like Gallipo sometimes did in 2010.
Instead, he'll get in the range of 50 plays and Dawson will probably pick up the rest of them. Different defensive sets may also figure into the equation.
Kiffin called the frequent substitution patterns "something that we lacked last year" and said the Trojans "want to" complete a regular rotation in the linebacking corps and at various spots on the team.
"The difference between playing 40 plays and playing 75 plays, when it’s the fourth quarter in a two-minute situation, it’s huge," Galippo said.
And, if they really are going to do that, it's a great thing that Dawson was able to get significant snaps during fall camp -- because it'd be tough to justify playing an experience-less freshman in Galippo's place, no matter the time. And the situation would likely spiral downward into one similar to last year, where the starters were playing too many snaps overall.
“He’s done a great job," Barry said of Dawson. "I think [Galippo's injury] was actually good in the sense that Lamar got thrust into the situation as a freshman, because he really had to be on his stuff and it really forced him to learn.
"Lamar’s not a really vocal guy and he’s a freshman, so he’s kind of a laid-back dude, so it was good in the sense that – not that Chris missed that time – but that it kinda forced Lamar to step up and get out of his shell a little bit."