So, Michael Hutchings, how are you going to handle your two days off -- Thursday and Friday -- this bye week?
"Probably resting," the smart senior linebacker who was allowed to call some defenses on his own the other day at practice just to see how he did. "It's only two days."
And it's only a respite from on-field work that will be made up when Saturday and Sunday practices replace the normal Monday and Tuesday schedule with Cal coming up Thursday at the Coliseum (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
"We'll still go in and watch film," Hutchings said, "a bunch of guys are always in the film room, that's how you stay ahead next week and the rest of the season.""
For Michael who has been playing in a harness for a separated shoulder, that helps too. "It keeps me in line," he said of the strap and harness that held his right arm in place for the Arizona game after a non-contact week last week. "It just limits my range of motion," he says. He couldn't pitch for the Dodgers but he can still play linebacker.
"He's really excited about the progress he's made," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast of Hutchings, whose four tackles including a sack were second-best for USC Saturday in Arizona in his less than three quarters of playing time.
Serious time for the young guys
Senior Chris Hawkins was another serious voice in the bye week with some advice for the younger guys getting more of a chance to show what they can do. What they put on film in those minutes for the coaches is the key, Chris said. . . "Film doesn't lie . . . this is important."
And no, he's not heading out to Universal City with some of his teammates. "I don't have Universal money," Chris said. "I'm going to spend two days watching film. That Cal quarterback [Davis Webb] is really good. He gets the ball out really fast. We've been keeping time on him."
His time this week will be doing some mentoring for the young guys "the way Josh Shaw and Kevon Seymour did for me," He's got good things to say about the likes of Ykili Ross and Isaiah Langley, who have been getting close, and first-year guys like Pie Young and Jack Jones, just getting their first taste of it.
"Pie didn't get beat [at Arizona] when he was in there and Jack got a PBU [pass breakup]," Chris said. "When the plays come to you, you have to make them."
And you have to play fast. "I haven't been on a team that's played this fast," Chris said of the way the USC secondary is performing now. It was a matter of necessity and realization. "The losses helped us, losing three of the first four."
Baxter . . . on being back
After Wednesday's practice, special teams guru John Baxter looked around at the Cromwell Field surroundings in the middle of the USC campus. "This is why I'm here," he said. "Look at this environment to work in," after a year working for Jim Harbaugh's new staff at Michigan.
"One of the hardest calls I had to make," Clay Helton said of last year when after taking the USC job, he had to ask Harbaugh permission to take away one of his coaches on the staff he was trying to build at Michigan. And now Helton was trying to bring back his own good friend and very good coach to USC. He said Harbaugh could not have been more gracious.
Maybe he understood what Helton knew. "He loves California," Clay said of Baxter, who had been here as an assistant for Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Clay, "and he knows how special this place is."
It's pretty special for Baxter right now after the way his two kickers -- punter Chris Tilbey with four punts and kickoff specialist Matt Boermeester with eight kicks -- put the ball in play 12 times Saturday at Arizona and the result? "Zero return yards," Clay said.
"He was pretty happy," he said of Baxter, "after the amount of time he's put in with those two."
Indeed. But that's not the only time Baxter has put in. Last week, it was noted how much time USC spent getting ready for whatever Arizona might do only to have the Wildcats open with a pooch kickoff, then kick it deep, then punt it high and short, then long and far and even a 23-yard line drive rugby punt.
"We were ready for them, weren't we," Baxter said. When you have Adoree' Jackson deep now, you'd better be. Teams do not want to kick it to him. Clay Helton noted that with his comment after practice about what he'd just told Adoree'.
"I said if they won't kick it to you maybe we should hand it to you," Clay said. Although with a high-octane offense like Cal, that's run more than 100 plays in a game, you have to be a bit careful adding to the workload of your top defender, Clay said.
Players who stood out in the developmental work: Matt Fink, Velus Jones, Michael Pittman, Oluwole Betiku, Liam Jimmons, Jordan Iosefa were just those we could pick up from the sidelines . . . Justin Davis was walking better in his boot Wednesday than Tuesday so he's getting closer. Probably not back for the Cal game but we'll see . . . three players held out Wednesday: Jordan Simmons (knee tendinitis), Leon McQuay (groin) and Boodah Tucker (knee) were at practice but won't participate until this weekend when practice moves from Cromwell Field back to Howard Jones where the grass has undergone some midseason care and looks ready for the final half of the season . . . For more play-by-play on Wednesday's practice, check out WEDNESDAY BYE WEEK GHOST NOTES.
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