Optimism abounds on injury front

Starting defensive tackles DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou look good to go against Oregon, while wide receiver Robert Woods misses another practice.

LOS ANGELES – With several prominent players questionable because of injuries headed into the showdown Saturday night with fourth-ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium, there was one phrase coming from USC players after practice Thursday.

"I feel good."

That's what wide receiver Robert Woods and defensive tackle DaJohn Harris both said. But the reality might not be quite that simple.

Head coach Lane Kiffin said he did not know if the sophomore would be able to play after missing a second consecutive practice because of ankle and shoulder injuries.

Woods himself was far more optimistic.

"I feel great," he said. "I feel like I need to be there Saturday to help this team. We're got a great opportunity to get that win."

Asked what he would need Woods to demonstrate in pre-game warm-ups to feel comfortable using him, Kiffin said he is "going to have to see speed.

"He can go and get in and out of breaks and be able to play at a high level for us," he said.

And while many have scoffed at the idea that Woods, who leads the team with 92 receptions for 1,126 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, might miss such a critical game, Kiffin said the game tape tells the real story.

"If you watch as the game got going last week and Robert wasn't himself, they started moving the safety away from him. Even though he was locked up man-to-man, he still just wasn't himself," he said.

The picture looks clearer at both offensive and defensive tackle, after Matt Kalil (neck), Harris (ankle) and Christian Tupou (knee) were all able to practice.

"I'm ready to play on every down," said Harris, who had six tackles and a strip sack in a 53-32 loss to Oregon last season.

"It's been getting better day-by-day. I felt good, so I was able to practice and give it a test run. I'm going."

Bailey Back to Defensive Back?
After moving from safety to linebacker during spring practice, redshirt freshman Dion Bailey leads USC with 69 tackles despite missing the Colorado game with a concussion.

His speed will be on display against Oregon's spread option offense, which forces teams to cover sideline to sideline. The rise of the spread across the Pac-12 was one of the main reasons for the move in the first place.

"Me being a safety coming down and playing linebacker, I can go out there and cover some of these (slot receivers) that a normal linebacker couldn't do. It plays in my favor," he said.

But Bailey said he would be amenable if coaches wanted to move him back to safety in the offseason. If not, his focus will be on bulking up for the long term.

"I could definitely see me lining up at safety, but I could see my playing linebacker as well. I'm just going to do whatever I need to help this defense win," he said. "But if I am going to stick to this linebacker thing I definitely got to put on some weight. I can't be 205 playing linebacker for the rest of my career.

"I got to get to like 220-225 so I'll be able to handle it, but I got to put on a good 225 where I can run and don't lose my speed and agility."

Passive Aggressive
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday that the Pac-12 might move some rivalry games away from their traditional spots in late November to accommodate changes to the schedule, including the new conference championship game and an increase in Thursday night games.

Kiffin said he had no objections. However, he couldn't resist a jab at the league office, which fined and publicly reprimanded him for comments about the officiating in 56-48 triple overtime loss to Stanford.

"I don't have a say in that so wherever they put us, we'll be happy to play just like this week," he said.

"Just like our last two road games happen to be the coldest places in the conference."

The current forecast calls for a high of 43 degrees and low of 30 with a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday in Eugene.

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