Secondary Stepping Up

The Trojans continue to prepare to travel east this week to take on Syracuse. The Orange are lead by quarterback Ryan Nassib who put up 482 passing yards last week in their loss to Northwestern.

USC (1-0) opened its season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll. After defeating Hawaii by 39 points in their season opener, they dropped to No. 2. The Trojans travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on an unranked Syracuse (0-1) team this Saturday at MetLife Stadium. USC Coach Lane Kiffin has continued to emphasize throughout practice this week that Syracuse, despite dropping their season opener, is not a team to sleep on.

"(They've) got a quarterback who threw for more yards than anybody in the country," Kiffin said of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib's performance in their loss to Northwestern. Nassib threw for 482 yards and four touchdown passes in the 42-41 loss. "As you look at them, they weren't even full strength. They may have another lineman back, another receiver back. We're going to have our hands full."

Kiffin says Syracuse's season opening loss is not a reflection of what kind of team they are and what kind of football they are capable of. "If you really watched the game and looked at the stats, they dominated most of the game," he said. "They got beat on some calls, they got beat on special teams and turnovers. That's about the only perfect storm how you lose a game with that dominant of stats."

The focus at practice for the Trojans this week continues to be placed on their secondary, "We've got to play big," Kiffin said. Throughout fall camp, the group was liable to giving up explosive plays over their heads, something they must contain in order to be successful against Nassib. "There are good quarterbacks out there," USC safety T.J. McDonald said of the impressive numbers Nassib put up against Northwestern. "For us, we've just got to go out there and play our football, USC football, make sure that we are on all of our assignments, that we transfer everything that we're going through in the film room to the field."

USC could receive a boost to their secondary and linebacking core this week, with the possible return of cornerback Torin Harris and middle linebacker Lamar Dawson. Both players missed significant time during fall camp sidelined with injuries.

"I'm back," said Harris after Wednesday's practice. Harris went down during the Trojans' first scrimmage of fall camp, covering a tight end on a deep route to the end zone. It's been a challenge for Harris to stay healthy dating back to spring practice. "I've been battling, and then I got my injury in camp. I kept getting knocked down, but I just had to find a way to get back on the field."

"I expect to play," said Dawson, who has been out since the first week of fall camp. "I've been practicing, getting reps, and I'm just ready to get back on the field." Dawson said last week he would be ready to go in the Trojans' season opener. He was listed and announced as the starting middle linebacker versus Hawaii, though he did not play a single snap. "Just didn't want to rush things," Dawson said after practice Wednesday, "wanted to play it cool."

The Trojans will practice tomorrow morning on Howard Jones Field, then will fly to New Jersey a day early to acclimate to the east coast.

Notes:
Tailback D.J. Morgan started his day with the tweet, "Everyone pray for me please! Im going into a minor surgery today with my knee I'll be out for only 3-4 weeks!" Kiffin's new injury policy this season is to not disclose any information regarding injuries or the status of players. When asked after practice if Morgan's tweet was true, Kiffin said "Yeah, that's true." He did not provide any further details.

It's a battle for tickets between three Trojans. Silas Redd, Anthony Sarao, and Gerald Bowman all hail from the northeast. After practice Tuesday, Redd said he expects about 25 friends and family members to attend the game. Sarao followed that expectation on Wednesday, saying he think 30-40 friends and family members will make the short commute from New Jersey. Sarao, a New Jersey native, is also trying to twist Kiffin's arm into letting the team go on a tour of Manhattan. Asked what he thought the chances of that happening would be, Sarao said "Slim to none! Kiff don't do that."

The Trojans will, however, be taking a tour of MetLife Stadium. A week after announcing the Coliseum is closed to visiting team walk-throughs, Kiffin says the Trojans will hold a walk-through in New Jersey. "The only reason was we're there two days early and we're bored," Kiffin explained of the out-of-routine choice to take a walk-through. "We needed something to do."

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