August 20, 2008

Practice Insider: Back in the mix

Even though Mark Sanchez still spent time behind the wheel of a golf cart, there was a little wider smile on his face.

Tuesday, Sanchez got to work with his teammates, throwing them passes without a hint of rust.

"I was getting bored," Sanchez said.

Sanchez worked with receivers facing a dummy defense and in one-on-one drills.

"I felt good today doing a little more," he said. "It's what we expected."

Sanchez said he's ahead of schedule, and each day, he pushes himself to do just a little more than the trainers are advising.

In the excitement surrounding his partial return, Sanchez forgot one piece of equipment he hasn't had use for since dislocating his left kneecap. He forgot his helmet.

"I didn't even think about it," he said, "but luckily, someone brought it out to me pretty quick."

Sanchez's day started during a morning walkthrough, when he ran the Trojan huddle, made calls and adjustments and shouted out a cadence.

"He's getting closer, and he's feeling a lot better," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He's got to find his way a little bit."

Carroll said Sanchez's work in the morning prepares the team for having Sanchez back sooner than later. Instead of starting fresh with him when he receives full clearance, the junior quarterback is putting in work now.

"It was good to get back in the team setting, to see guys in the huddle and call plays," Sanchez said. "It's a boost. It's a plus to be up on my feet, moving around this early."

Sanchez's teammates felt the boost, too.

Wide receiver Ronald Johnson and Sanchez hooked up for a long touchdown pass on a deep post against a soft defense.

Johnson said the ball was perfect.

"He's still got it. That one was right on the money," Johnson said. "I can't wait for him to get back."

Sanchez said he feels he needs to be back practicing by Monday or Tuesday of next week in order to play in the season opener at Virginia.

"If I'm making the starting lineup, of course (I'll be in it,)" Sanchez said. "I feel really good about it. It's a definite possibility.

"The way things are headed, it's looking good."

Tough luck

While Sanchez returned, the Trojans suffered a big loss Tuesday when C.J. Gable hit the turf hard at Howard Jones Field.

After taking a handoff, Wes Horton stuffed Gable near the line. Horton tackled Gable high, forcing the smaller running back to the ground in awkward manner.

After being examined by doctors, Gable was diagnosed with a sprained left hip and a sprained left ankle. He left the locker room on crutches.

The injury will keep him out indefinitely.

Extra Points

Aaron Corp appeared to take more first-team reps Tuesday than Mitch Mustain. Corp said he's feeling comfortable in the system, and he's enjoying the chance to work with the first unit.

"Hopefully, I can keep making big plays when I'm in there," Corp said. "You never know when they're going to switch it up.

"When you're in there, you have to take advantage of it. If you're making plays, you'll stay there. If you mess up, the other guy goes in."

• Allan Bradford and Kevin Ellison were among the players held out of practice Tuesday. Bradford has a minor hip injury, and Ellison received a day's rest.

Joe McKnight practiced, taking handoffs and receiving punts. He was catching the ball with his arms, not his hands.

• Corp and Rhett Ellison connected for the play of the day on a wheel route. Corp pump faked, causing Rey Maualuga to cheat up, Ellison kept running, catching the ball in the end zone.

Marc Tyler continued his solid fall camp by breaking off a pair of big runs on back-to-back plays.

Derek Simmons earned some praise from offensive line coach Pat Ruel after holding a block throughout an entire play.

• The team will practice tomorrow morning before going into game preparation for Thursday's simulated game in the Coliseum.

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