December 13, 2008

Practice Insider: Younger Trojans get a look

Back in August when the football season began, a lot of the Trojan regulars stood on the sidelines and watched the newest members on the team showcase their talents for the coaches.

Now, as the Trojans begin preparation for Penn State and the Rose Bowl, guys like Mark Sanchez, Kevin Ellison and Rey Maualuga are spending a lot of practice watching younger players get their chances again.

"We've gotten really good work done," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We've battled good, and we've had some young guys get chances."

Sanchez and Ellison were among a group of veteran players who sat on Saturday's practice at Howard Jones Field. And in addition to the injuries, Carroll and his staff are using this opportunity to look for the future.

"It's just an opportunity for some guys, and it's a chance for Coach Carroll to look at what the team can be next year," Maualuga said. "A lot of the other guys are getting reps."

And Carroll needs to see his young linebackers more than any other position on defense.

"The linebacker thing is so wide open with all of the guys leaving," Carroll said. "We're trying to get as much information on the guys that have been with us so when the other guys come in from this next class, we can throw them in and figure out where they fit in.

"That's the big transition position for us."

Carroll said linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. [db] has let his players know exactly what's been at stake.

"All of those guys are feeling it," Carroll said. "You can see Kenny has made it real clear to these guys that it's time for them to make some statements about where they fit in as we watch the other guys move on. They're battling like crazy out here."

Freshman tackle [db]Jurrell Casey said he's enjoyed the chance over the past two practices to show USC coaches what he can do.

"It's a lot of fun. It's like it was in the summertime. It's a chance for us to come out and show the coaches what we can do, a chance to show how we've improved since the summer.

"Everyone will come out and do their best. We know everyone else is working hard, and no one wants to lose their spot. You have to keep on moving because coach wants us to keep up."

And as the veterans watch, they've been pushing the younger guys to step up.

"I think we've noticed that. It's interesting to see the older guys root for them," Carroll said. "They're cheering for them when they make a play or do something. Guys are trying really hard too. It adds to the competitiveness at practice."

Casey said hearing from the older defensive lineman as given him more confidence in the spotlight.

"It's cool knowing that the older guys know you're good enough to maybe fill in their shoes," he said. "That feels good, having them cheer for you in their spots."

Heading to the Huskies?

USC secondary coach Rocky Seto has an offer on the table that might be too good to refuse. Steve Sarkisian has offered Seto the defensive coordinator position at Washington.

"That's something that's intriguing to me. I think (I'd make a good coordinator). I think I could teach. I have the ability to bring people together and organize it," Seto said. "There's more to it than the X's and O's. You have to be able to lead grown men, grown coaches, so they'll be able to lead the players.

"This is the probably the heaviest I've considered something."

Carroll said he wouldn't stand in the way or forbid Seto from leaving, but he would fight to keep his coach on staff.

"I've talked to him, and I'll continue to talk to him," Carroll said. "The battle is on."

Carroll said he will compete to keep Seto on staff, meaning he could offer Seto a raise or some sort of a promotion.

"We've talked. I'll leave it at that," Seto said. "I definitely feel my value here."

Seto said there's no timetable to make a final decision, but he said he doesn't want to drag the decision out over a number of weeks.

Extra Points

Joe McKnight joined a large group of Trojans sitting out practice after reaggravating a bruised tailbone.

• Carroll praised Aaron Corp's play, saying the quarterback has made good decisions over the past two days. Mitch Mustain, on the other hand, threw a couple of ugly, wobbly deep balls.

• The Trojans will begin to implement the early stages of their Penn State game plan next week when they return to the practice field on Thursday.

• Defensive line coach David Watson said he's not been offered a position at Tennessee or Washington.

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