Thursday Practice Report

Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight is having his best season yet at USC. He has established himself as the Trojans' feature running back, posted four 100 rushing yard games, scored eight touchdowns and was responsible for the game-winning drive at Ohio State. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from Thursday's practice.

McKnight tries to balance personal success with team's struggles

Joe McKnight is having his best season yet at USC.

He has established himself as the Trojans' feature running back, posted four 100 rushing yard games, scored eight touchdowns and was responsible for the game-winning drive at Ohio State.

The team, however, has stumbled to three conference losses and is all but eliminated from the Rose Bowl race.

McKnight, who returned to practice Thursday after missing time because of migraine headaches, admits it has been difficult to balance the two.

"I just keep coming out here and working hard and taking it over to the game," said McKnight, who needs only 68 yards to become USC's first 1,000 yard rusher since Reggie Bush and LenDale White did so in 2005.

"I'm trying to give my team some inspiration to follow me or make their own footsteps and make some plays."

Quick Hits

-Wide receivers Damian Williams (ankle) and David Ausberry (calf), corner Byron Moore (ankle) and tight end Blake Ayles (ankle/knee) were among those who did not practice because of injuries.

-Center Kris O'Dowd could soon return to the starting lineup, Carroll said.

"It's the best he has been and really the healthiest he has been all year and it shows," he said. "He got worn down by the two injuries, not being able to get his shoulder just right and then his knee holding him back. He's really ready to play good football again and we'll see what happens with that."

O'Dowd started five consecutive games after missing the season-opener against San Jose State, before being replaced by Jeff Byers.

-With Michael Morgan still dealing with an injured shoulder and broken wrist, freshman Devon Kennard is likely to start next week.

After starting out the season at defensive end, Kennard had four tackles against Stanford working at strongside linebacker.

"I like him at the spot," Carroll said. "He's transitioning beautifully and the thing I like best about him is he is really physical. He's 255 pounds playing outside backer and you can see it too. He's brought a good presence that we need."

Carroll compared Kennard to former USC standouts Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, both of whom transitioned between linebacker and defensive end in their college careers.

"It's really similar in what's demanded of the job," he said.

-Linebacker Chris Galippo (neck) and defensive end Everson Griffen (toe) were limited to give them time to recuperate from injuries, along with the starting secondary.

"There's a couple of our guys that are just worn out and we're trying to give them a break," Carroll said.

-Tight end Anthony McCoy (ankle) has used the bye week as a chance to get healthy.

"I get this extra time to heal and the team gets to come out here and polish up some stuff," said McCoy, who had just one reception for 7 yards against Stanford. "I'm working on this ankle, I'm getting there."

McCoy said it was frustrating to miss games at Oregon and Arizona State, then be limited in the loss to the Cardinal.

"It's hard to watch something you can't control," he said.

-Weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith (shoulder) is on track to start against UCLA.

"He did some nice stuff today and I think he's back to full speed," Carroll said.

Smith did not start against Stanford, but was tied for the team-high with five solo tackles.

-Carroll praised freshman safety Jawanza Starling for a strong week of work.

-USC will practice Friday morning, allowing coaches to spend the weekend on the road recruiting.


Freshman safety Jawanza Starling has been impressive during the bye week.

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