Priority for USC is shutting down the run

Nick Perry will face off against Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin, regarded as a high first-round selection.

LOS ANGELES – For all the attention centered on the duel between quarterbacks Matt Barkley of USC and Andrew Luck of Stanford, there is a matchup of likely first-round draft picks that will actually have them facing off Saturday.

Defensive end Nick Perry will be lined up against Cardinal left tackle Jonathan Martin, regarded as one of the top two offensive line prospects in the 2012 NFL draft along with Trojans left tackle Matt Kalil.

"He's a great player," Perry said of Martin. "You know, as far as I can see, he's a great player and I just have to get after it."

Perry, a redshirt junior, leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles this season.

Martin leads a Stanford offensive line that has allowed just two sacks, best in college football, and paved the way for 219 rushing yards per game.

For all the adulation Luck receives, stopping the run is the first priority for USC.

"We really haven't faced a team like Stanford that is going to lineup and pound you," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said. "It's been this spread stuff. It's easier to stop what we've seen. This is going to be a tough challenge."

Stanford will use additional offensive linemen, along with massive tight ends Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, and Levine Toilolo, to punish defenses in the run game.

"I don't know how they have so many people," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. "Every snap there's new people in there. More linemen and more tight ends."

That in turns creates play-action opportunities for Luck down the field. Consider those three tight ends, often on the field together, are averaging 18.4 yards per catch and have 13 touchdowns.

But USC has allowed 76 yards rushing in its last two games thanks to an improving defensive line. Continuing that strong play will give Perry chances to display his pass rush skills against Martin, who rarely gets help in protection.

Perry, whose remarkable athleticism could push him into the first half of the first round if he forgoes his senior season, knows a host of scouts and executives will be in attendance to see how he fares.

"I take every game the same," Perry said. "Just attack their approach and just play ball."

Harris Hampered
Cornerback Torin Harris missed yet another practice Wednesday, and based on details Kiffin revealed for the first time, the redshirt sophomore might not return for the foreseeable future.

Harris hurt his shoulder at Arizona State and is dealing with a nerve issue.

"They cannot clear him until the nerves fire, and for whatever reason they're not," Kiffin said. "There's nothing he can do to help it. It either comes back or it doesn't."

Doctors are reevaluating Harris everyday, Kiffin said.

In four games this season, Harris had 17 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception.

Quick Hits
-Wide receiver Robert Woods (undisclosed) and kicker Andre Heidari (ankle) returned to practice, while running back George Farmer (ankle) did not participate.

-Less than 1,000 tickets remain for USC-Stanford, per USC Sports Information.


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