It's Oregon week. And there's an open spot at right guard on offense and two slots on the inside at linebacker. Leading tackler, freshman Cameron Smith, and senior Lamar Dawson are lost for the season at linebacker and headed for surgery. And Viane Talamaivao is probably lost at least this week on offense.
"It happens," said Brown, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt freshman, "people get injured . . . I've had to always be prepared."
And now all that prep work, all those two and three series a game this year where he's gotten in can pay off, he said. "Coach [Bob] Connelly has done a great job preparing us," Brown said in his first group interview of the season after practice.
Uchenna didn't have to talk about his chance, Su'a Cravens, one of the nation's established top linebackers and the Lott Impact Player of the Week for the second straight week, had plenty to say about him.
"He's a monster," Su'a said of the 6-3, 220-pound sophomore. "He did a better job than me at inside linebacker at Cal, he had five or six tackles.
"It's next man up," Su'a said. "There was an article early in the year about us having 19 linebackers and the No. 1 position group in the country . . . well, it's time to show it."
Uchenna said he's ready. "I played inside a little at Cal," he said. "I'll be all right . . . I expect to have a bigger role." And the emphasis will be to "read my keys, especially on the RPO's [run pass options] featuring quarterback Vernon Adams. "We have to contain him."
"It's a whole different world down in the box," said Su'a, who like Uchenna at times has made the move from outside to inside. "They have that big running back [230-pound Royce Freeman] and we're not shying away from contact."
"We'll go through the week and see how this plays out," Clay Helton said of who will end up where at linebacker. He said that freshman Masina, whose playing time has dipped considerably in recent weeks, will "be out there . . . he's going to have to step up."
But there's no waiting on how USC will approach this game with the focus on another quarterback. "Our M.O. is to shut down the run and put it on the quarterback to win in the passing game," Helton said.
But it's not all defense," Helton said. "The key for us is to score touchdowns not field goals. This is going to be about points. It always is with Oregon. No three-and-outs in the red zone."
With his quarterback coach Steve Calhoun in from Anaheim, Cody Kessler seemed on top of his game Tuesday.
"His footwork," Calhoun said of what impressed him most in his once-a-month time to watch Cody work live at practice. "He was really good . . . maybe it's because I was here," Calhoun said with a laugh.
Or maybe it's the realization that now that USC is where it thought it might not be four weeks into the season -- "It's set up for us," Cody said, they can't misstep. Now USC has to come out and make it happen in the early going against a resurgent Ducks team whose 7-3 (5-2 in the Pac-12) record matches USC's.
"It's just execution," Cody said of the issues that have had USC down double digits right away against Arizona and Colorado the last two weeks. "We put up our list of the first 15 plays but those first three or four plays, we'll run them all week . . . we have to make some plays and take the crowd out of it."
Not about JuJu any more
Sure, the pain comes and goes. He thinks about it and then it's time to play and the pain goes away.
"No need to worry about me," JuJu said thinking of all the injuries, a number of season-ending ones, that have hit the Trojans in the three weeks since he fractured his right hand. "I'm fine."
Named one of the 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists as the nation's top receiver Tuesday, JuJu said all he's thinking about is the way USC practiced Tuesday. "Awesome . . . if we carry this through the rest of the week, we'll be fine."
They'll also be in Eugene, where JuJu said he's always wanted to play since he "almost" ended up there even though the Ducks wanted him as a defensive back. "All the guys who were up there as defensive backs, I'll be going against," he said. He's looking forward to it.
TUESDAY QUICK HITS: Another shorts, shoulder pads and helmets practice Tuesday to start Oregon week . . . probably no more full-pads work the rest of the regular season . . . Khaliel Rodgers spent some time getting his shoulder re-taped to start practice but got his pads on and practiced as if nothing was wrong, which it well might not have been . . . Talamaivao limped onto the practice field not in his football cleats with an elastic sleeve on his right knee for the problem with his meniscus . . . Safety Leon McQuay was in gear and doing loosening up and running in the end zone but not back yet after missing Saturday's Colorado game despite warming up . . . Tre Madden was out of pads and helmet today and just observing . . . In order to replicate the Autzen noise, there was a cart with two speakers following the offense on the field and blasting out serious sounds right next to the action . . . AD Pat Haden was here again for practice . . . that's three out of the last four.CHECK THIS OUT: For Tuesday's practice report, check out TUESDAY DUCKS WEEK GHOST NOTES.
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