For the past several weeks Trojan tailback LenDale White has played with a slighty tweaked ankle that caused him to miss some practice time but didn't hamper him too much on the field. He also suffered a bruised thigh last week against Washington. We've seen LenDale play through the injuries as he helped lead the power running game in critical victories but it appears as if the Trojans may have to go into the Palouse without the services of the Thunder in the running back duo of Thunder and Lightning.
White has not been able to practice much this week and Coach Carroll said for the first time today that we may not see LenDale in action on Saturday. White told the LA Times that he will play no matter what, "I don't have any doubt about it, I'll be prepared even if they just need me to block." To be without White as part of the regular rotation would be a blow to the offense although there are still plenty of weapons to choose from for Norm Chow including Hershel Dennis and Desmond Reed. One of the biggest things LenDale gives the offense is the ability to set the tone of a game by pounding the big back into the middle of the line and softening the opposing defense, a trait which could come in handy on a cold and chilly night in Pullman.
On top of that, it's still unclear how much starting guards John Drake (ankle) and Fred Matua (ankle and knee) will be available for the Trojans and that could be even more painful for the running game. It's been well documented how important Drake is to the line and we'll need him to be clearing holes no matter who is carrying the ball behind him. If Drake cannot go we will see true freshman Jeff Byers inserted into the starting line-up in his place but at this point it appears as if Drake will be ready to give it a go. Redshirt freshman Drew Radovich has been getting the reps with Matua out and Drew has been impressive on the practice field lately while waiting for his opportunity at playing time.
Does the potential loss of these players cause an overwhelming problem for the offense? No more so than it hurt to lose Mike Williams, Winston Justice, Whitney Lewis, Steve Smith, etc. What it means is that Norm Chow will simply reach a little deeper into his magic bag of play calling tricks and shuffle a few people around as he looks to create mismatches with the players available to him. Chow has done a masterful job to this point with a young offensive unit and there's no reason to think that he will come up short in planning for this game.
For the USC Trojans these days the possibility of being without some of their offensive stars qualifies as a problem as the program is rolling along at such a high level right now. If all these players can go, and if we show up at all ready to play, this is a game the Trojans should win handily.