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January 22, 2008

North squad has strong USC flavor

More Senior Bowl coverage

MOBILE, Ala. No team has more players for this year's Senior Bowl than USC. There are nine Trojans on the North squad, and they're being coached by an Oakland Raiders staff headed by Lane Kiffin -- a former USC offensive coordinator.

Linebacker Keith Rivers said practice this week in Mobile definitely has a strong USC feel to it. "It definitely feels a lot like a USC practice," he said. "We have a heavy tempo with a light thud; it's a good deal.

"We are just keeping the Trojan experience going. It's good to have the friendly faces after practice to talk to just to see how everything went and how other guys did. It's good to compare how it is to Trojan practice, so it's a fun deal."

One highly touted USC player who didn't declare for the NFL draft was linebacker Rey Maualuga, a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder who decided staying another year under coach Pete Carroll was in his best interest.

Last year, Rivers faced the same decision, and he also decided to stay for his senior season.

"I was kind up surprised, but just from my own experience it's a great decision," Rivers said. "You have the opportunity to grow as a player as well as a person. Plus, you can't beat being a kid. This draft stuff going on right now is hectic. It's a lot of stuff to take in for a 20-year-old."

Rivers said he can't put into words how much his senior season did for him on and off the field.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to Rey that much, but I think he saw my deal and how it helped me grow as a player and as a person," Rivers said. "The extra year helped me mature more, and I think he realized it's a great deal and you get the opportunity to be coached by great coaches. The NFL is not going anywhere, and you get a chance to get your degree."

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