Thursday Practice Report

Joe McKnight (Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox)

Tailback Joe McKnight looked healthy and ready to contribute this Saturday when the Trojans face the No.21 California Golden Bears. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from Thursday's practice.

McKnight Ready

Sophomore tailback Joe McKnight has had a tough couple of weeks, with a nagging toe injury keeping him off the field, but on Thursday, the elusive running back looked to be at full speed.

"I made it through a Thursday practice, so I feel good," McKnight said with a grin. "It's hard to make it through a week of practice here."

"It was great to see Joe finish practice," Pete Carroll added. "He looked 100 percent out here practicing all week long. We had a very successful week getting him back out here."

The return of McKnight should give the Trojans' offense a boost on Saturday night and Carroll was eager to get him back in the rotation.

"We would love to get him involved in the game plan," Carroll said. "I have been holding my breath a little bit because I want to get him back out there."

McKnight is averaging a team-high 60.2 rushing yards per game.

Longshore or Riley?

The Trojans' defense has finished installing the vast majority of their game plan for Saturday's game against California, but they still don't know which player will line up under center for the Golden Bears.

"I don't know who is starting, but they have played both of their quarterbacks in seven of their games so there is a good chance we will see both guys," Pete Carroll replied when asked about Cal's quarterback situation. "I don't know who they are starting or what they are doing."

Carroll said both Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore present unique challenges for USC's defense.

"I have always said that the guys that can run the football make it harder on you," Carroll said. "If Riley is running around and making things happen with his legs then that is the unpredictable factor that an offense can present."

And what about Nate Lonshore?

"Experience is really on the side of Nate Longshore," Carroll said. "He has been in big games before and all of that.

"Their numbers are very similar and they use the same offense so none of that will change," Carroll added. "We can't have any say in that, so we are just going to see who it is just like you guys."

News and Notes

- Freshman tight end Blake Ayles didn't practice on Thursday and Coach Carroll said they will wait until game day to make a final decision on whether he will play.

- Clay Matthews, who Pete Carroll said was possibly the best special teams player to ever play at USC, blocked another punt on Thursday.

- Cornerback Josh Pinkard intercepted a Mitch Mustain pass during team drills.

- Vidal Hazelton and Travon Patterson both stayed after practice working on drills and catching passes.

- Defensive tackle Averell Spicer and safety Kevin Ellison won't be available to play this Saturday against Cal.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com

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