In addition to the competition at strong safety and left guard, it might be time to consider the middle linebacker position up for grabs.
Although starter Devon Kennard and backup Chris Galippo were both limited in practice Wednesday, Galippo saw a significant increase in reps with the first-team defense.
"We're looking at that position very closely," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "We were going to look at it that closely two weeks ago and last week, but with Malcolm (Smith) being out, Chris was the (weakside linebacker). Now that Malcolm's hopefully back, we're alternating those guys in there, and we're going to find out by Saturday who we think is going to play best for us."
Kennard led the team in tackles against Oregon with 13 and also had 1.5 tackles for loss, but has struggled to make big plays in his first full season at linebacker.
"It's kind of been a work in progress," Kiffin said. "That move is very difficult for anyone to do, going from, really, a down lineman his whole life till the fourth game of last season to going to middle linebacker (who is) on the field almost all the time. We look for him to continue to improve. He's still very young."
After a sensational spring practice, freshman running back Dillon Baxter has been largely invisible, touching the ball 42 times for 208 yards and scoring once. He was also suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules.
However, a fully healthy and committed Baxter seems set for a larger role against Arizona State, especially with the rest of the running back corps banged up.
"I think I'll be getting on the field a lot more this week," said Baxter, who carried the ball twice against Oregon in his first action since suffering a foot injury at Stanford. "When they put me on the field and get an opportunity, I'll take it."
Baxter admitted he has had to buckle down in the classroom to get that chance.
"Man, it's been school. I've been having to get my school stuff straight first," he said. "I've been working hard off the field with class and everything so I can finally get my playing time and help the team out."
With just five games left, Baxter is running out of time to live up to the hype this season.
"I know. I'll have a good one," he said.
-Running back Allen Bradford did not practice Wednesday because of a minor personal matter and corner Nickell Robey was out due to a toothache.
Defensive end Nick Perry, offensive tackle Tyron Smith and running backs C.J. Gable and Marc Tyler were limited.
-Wide receiver Robert Woods on Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict: "He's a great player, he flies around and I know he's a headhunter that likes that big hit."
-The Trojans held live tackling drills for linebackers and defensive backs Wednesday, the third time in three weeks after eschewing them at to start the season citing a lack of available players.
"As strange as it sounds giving up the points and yards we did, we actually missed less tackles last week than games before," Kiffin said. "We did see some improvement with the two weeks of working individual tackling drills, and so we'll continue to work on it."