Farmer could become "nightmare matchup"

USC coach Lane Kiffin is impressed by freshman George Farmer's return to action Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES – Both standout USC players from Gardena (Calif.) Serra, wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, have impressed head coach Lane Kiffin with their ability to work through injury.

Lee jammed his hand last week against Arizona, but returned quickly. Woods kept practicing this week despite lingering elbow and ankle ailments that led Kiffin to consider sitting him down during this bye week.

"Here is arguably our best player and he's out here going through everything in the rain trying to get better," Kiffin said. "I thought it was a great message."

George Farmer got to show his toughness Wednesday, returning to practice one day after exiting early, as he transitions from wide receiver to running back.

"It really says a lot about him, to sprain his ankle yesterday and come back out today. I wish all our guys did that," Kiffin said. "Kind of the third Serra guy that's like that. Now we're getting to see they get hurt, they just come out and practice. They have been coached extremely well to play through injuries and also to obviously really love football."

While it is far too soon to call the move a smashing success, Farmer's return seemed to validate the decision to put him in the backfield. He showed the elusiveness and big-play ability that has been lacking from the running game this season, flashing his elite speed.

Farmer finished second in the state in the 100-meter dash as a junior.

That track mentality is helping him change his style of running to what is required of a running back, "a forward lean like you're pulling something," Farmer said.

After an outstanding senior season at Serra in which he caught 65 passes for 1,514 yards and 14 touchdowns, his initial transition to college was difficult as he was limited by injuries, while watching Lee work his way into the starting lineup, but Farmer said he is enjoying the move. He credits running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu with simplifying concepts to the most basic elements.

"I'm feeling pretty good ay the position, just have to learn the plays and the concepts," said Farmer, who will add 10 to 15 pounds to handle the additional pounding.

Kiffin was surprised how smooth the adjustment to running back has been for Farmer, seeing potential for him to become a truly special offensive weapon.

"There aren't many people like that ever that run 10.4 and you can put out there and play receiver, you know he can do that," Kiffin said.

"If you could do this at running back too, it would be a nightmare matchup issue for people."

Mixed Reviews for Pass Rush
Through five games, it's hard to call the USC pass rush anything but average. Averaging two sacks per game, they are ranked 59th nationally, eighth in the conference.

Defensive end Nick Perry went one step further.

"In my opinion, it's not good right now," said Perry, who has three of the team's 10 sacks.

But Kiffin saw encouraging signs against Arizona. The defensive line had quarterback Nick Foles in its grasp several, only for him to make a play, best exemplified by his absurd two-handed fling to running back Keola Antolin.

"I actually kind of took that as a positive as you watched the film," Kiffin said. "There are so many times that we almost have him and he makes really good out of rhythm plays."

Quick Hits
-Wide receiver Kyle Prater (left foot) did not practice for the second consecutive day, but is no longer in a walking boot.

-The Trojans practiced in steady rain on Cromwell Field, which could prove advantageous considering their final four road games – at California, Notre Dame, Colorado and Oregon – all offer the possibility for adverse weather.

"We haven't really dealt with bad weather much, so it was good especially for our skill guys to have to work in this," Kiffin said.

Players certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, tight end Rhett Ellison even celebrating a touchdown catch in 7-on-7 by making a snow angel.

-USC will be off Thursday, then return to practice Friday to begin preparations for Cal.


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