Tuesday, September 6, 2011
USC reinstates suspended Marc Tyler
By Pedro Moura ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Suspended University of Southern California running back Marc Tyler has been reinstated effective Tuesday and will play Saturday against Utah in the Trojans' second game of the 2011 season.
Tyler, a redshirt senior, was suspended for the season opener by Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin and athletic director Pat Haden after making comments to TMZ in July that implied USC paid its players. Tyler appeared to be drunk and joking, but USC wasn't amused -- certainly not while its football program labors under tough NCAA sanctions for a series of misdeeds surrounding Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush.
USC is in the second year of a postseason ban during four years of NCAA probation. The Trojans also will lose 30 football scholarships.
Tyler missed roughly a month of meetings and practices during his suspension and then began practicing with the team again two weeks ago, working almost exclusively with the scout team.
He was back on the practice field Tuesday working with the rest of the team. Kiffin said Tyler had been "doing everything right" since the suspension was announced, including working out on his own on an alternate schedule at USC's Heritage Hall.
"He had a number of things that he had to do between myself and Pat and he did and completed all those things," Kiffin said. "Hopefully he'll continue that way."
Tyler, listed at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, is USC's only big back. The Trojans played only the 190-pound D.J. Morgan and 180-pound Curtis McNeal at running back in their season opener against Minnesota and the two gained just 103 yards on 24 carries.
If healthy, Tyler could work well as an alternative to those two and Dillon Baxter, who's likely to get carries against Utah.
"He's looked very good," Kiffin said of Tyler. "He did service team all week for us last week and was very productive down there. I know they beat him up down there, which is what he needed after missing camp. He still has a lot of work to do but it's good to have a guy who's played a lot back.
"Anytime that you can add a guy who's been there, done it, they usually play better than the (less-experienced) guys."
Tyler, 22, was the Trojans' leading ball-carrier last season, rushing for 913 yards and nine touchdowns. He is the son of longtime NFL running back Wendell Tyler.
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Kiffin had to explain his own ill-advised comments Tuesday after he told a postgame television interviewer that the Trojans have only "got two good players on our offense." Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns, while Matt Barkley completed a school-record 34 passes for 304 yards.
"What I (meant) was that there were two guys that had great games, so I didn't phrase it (well)," Kiffin said. "I told our offense that this morning, too. I didn't mean it that way. Obviously, we had some guys that didn't play well ... but I didn't phrase it the right way."
Baxter barely played in the Trojans' opener, getting no carries and catching one pass for a 3-yard gain. The sophomore -- among the nation's top recruits out of San Diego two years ago -- and his parents met with Kiffin over the weekend, but Baxter said he isn't considering transferring.
"Out of everything that was said, I (realize) I need to work harder," said Baxter, who rushed for 252 yards last season. "Come out here and work harder than anybody else. It was probably just me falling into a little bit of being lazy."
Baxter blamed himself for an intermittent work ethic last season as well, when the former quarterback often played out of a wildcat formation. He realizes the competition for carries will only increase with Tyler back in action.
"There's still things I need to learn and pick up more as I step up my game," Baxter said. "We didn't talk about how much I was going to play this week. (Kiffin) just said to come out here and work hard, and we'll be happy."
Kiffin also said he doesn't plan to replace secondary coach Willie Mack Garza this season after Garza resigned last week. Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin and graduate assistant Sammy Knight will take over Garza's duties.
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.