LOS ANGELES – Isiah Wiley is playing catch up, not a position cornerbacks are supposed to be in.
Wiley, a transfer from Arizona Western junior college, had intended to enroll in January and participate in spring practice, but delayed his arrival until the summer. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior might have been the opening day starter opposite sophomore Nickell Robey if he had.
Wiley has just three tackles in three appearances so far, but after getting a long look during the bye week, he could see his most significant action to date this week against Cal.
“It took me a little while to get used to the scheme and to the speed of the D-1 game and stuff, but now it’s like I’m coming into my own and getting used to everything,” said Wiley, who originally committed to Arkansas before going the junior college route.
“It definitely set me back. In the spring, I would have had time to learn the defense and get used to the speed. During the season I would have been ready to play. But because I wasn’t able to do that, it set me back a lot.”
USC head coach Lane Kiffin credited the open week with giving Wiley time to catch up. Regardless of circumstances, safety T.J McDonald is impressed with how Wiley has adjusted.
“Isiah has settled in good. He’s coming in and there’s no drop off for a guy that hasn’t been in the rotation very long,” McDonald said.
With lanky redshirt sophomore Torin Harris still out with a shoulder injury, Wiley offers a more physical presence that Robey and 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman Anthony Brown.
“I think I’m a physical corner, but at the same time have great speed so I can run with the fast receivers and play physical with the bigger receivers. I’m a balanced corner.”
That could be crucial against the Golden Bears’ tandem of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones.
“This duo, on the Oregon telecast, they called them the best duo of receivers in the conference,” Kiffin said.
“They have NFL size, NFL speed,” Wiley said. “They are just great athletes. They can make the big catches in crucial times of the game. We have to prepare for them.”
With 39 catches for 668 yards and four touchdowns, Allen ranks second in the Pac-12 in receptions per game and receiving yards. Jones is second on the team with 29 grabs for 441 yards and three touchdowns, but no other Cal receiver has more than 10 receptions.
“It’s a big drop off after those two guys,” McDonald said. “We got to make sure we eliminate those two guys out of their arsenal and make sure that we don’t give up the explosion play.”
The Trojans practiced Sunday afternoon ahead of their Thursday night game at Cal and will do so again next week before their game at Notre Dame.
But after a bye week that also included a Friday practice, not everyone actually knew it was a Sunday.
Said McDonald: “I’m all screwed up with these days right now. I don’t know what day it is.”
-Wide receiver Kyle Prater (foot), linebacker Lamar Dawson (ankle) and running back Amir Carlisle (ankle) practiced Sunday.
Prater said he had reaggravated the foot injury that kept him out of spring practice.