Tyler still not the official starter

Twenty-four carries and 113 yards don't go as far as they used to, apparently. At the very least, they don't get you an immediate starting spot on this USC team.

Marc Tyler, who made his return from suspension to much fanfare on Saturday against Utah, is still being forced to compete with the other running backs in practice this week while Lane Kiffin and the USC coaches attempt to decide whom to go with against Syracuse.

But, yes, it does seem as if Tyler will end up starting. He was the first running back to get snaps Tuesday. Kiffin talked highly of him. He didn't do anything to mess up that status during practice. For now, though, he's still in a four-man tandem -- not that he minds it or anything.

"It feels good to be down there with the first-team offense and not be over there with the black jerseys on and just be with all the guys and feel like you're a part of something again," Tyler said after Tuesday's practice.

An interesting part of this situation: Sure, Tyler had a good game Saturday, but he could still do a lot better. He's really only had about three weeks of practice at this point, whereas the other backs have had about six. And that brings up eerily similar comparisons to how Kiffin feels about star freshmen.

Say a freshman is about equal with a sophomore through a month of camp, Kiffin has said in the past. If that's the case, the freshman is most likely going to jump ahead of the sophomore by the time another month comes around. So, Kiffin says, start the freshman. He'll be better than the sophomore soon. And that's why the USC coach often feels comfortable starting freshmen or young players right away.

It's also why it's pretty clear Tyler is the team's No. 1 running back, whether or not Kiffin will say it publicly.

"I thought Marc played well, especially for missing the majority of camp and going in there. The good thing is hopefully he'll improve on that," Kiffin did say Tuesday before going back into his coach-speak. "We haven't named a starter yet. We want to see those guys compete and see who comes out here and really wants to play."

Tyler will always talk and most often says exactly what he thinks, not what the politically correct statement would be. (This whole suspension will tell you that, too.) He admitted Tuesday that he didn't realize he was going to be used so much in the Utah game. And, he said, he didn't realize he'd be able to take the beating he did.

"I felt like it was pretty good," he said of his performance. "You could tell my cutting wasn't really there -- that's from not practicing a lot -- but I feel good. I didn't think I was gonna get the ball 24 times, and if I did, I didn't think I was gonna be able to handle it, but I feel good."