Tuesday Practice Report

The competition on the offensive line is heating up as the Trojans prepare to face the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson this Saturday. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from Tuesday's practice.

Competition Heats Up at Right Tackle

Competition has always been the cornerstone of the USC football program under head coach Pete Carroll.

Carroll preaches that no starting job is secure, and that appears to be the case at right tackle, where Nick Howell is making a run at the starting spot after his impressive showing against Washington State.

"He had a very good game," Carroll said. "It's the classic opportunity that we talk about. A guy elevating his game and playing up. He was just so effective."

Howell started in place of Butch Lewis, who missed Saturday's game due to illness, and made the most of his playing time by recording 22 knockdowns.

"With all the knockdowns that he had and all the dominant blocks he just jumped out on the film," Carroll said. "He made a real statement for playing time.

"The thing that Nick did really well is he played with a minimal amount of mistakes and errors that could plague a guy starting for the first time."

The redshirt offensive lineman received some special advice and support from someone who knows quite a bit about the position, his father, Pat Howell, who was an All-Amrican offensive lineman on the Trojans' 1978 national championship team.

"He said I did awesome. He didn't think I made any mistakes, he knew I could do it," Howell said. "Just hearing him say that kind of stuff was kind of emotional for me and my dad because we have been waiting for this for three years."

Pete Carroll has yet to announce which player will start at right tackle this Saturday at Arizona and the competition in practice is heating up.

"It's going to be a competition for the rest of the week," Carroll said. "I'm thrilled about the competition. I think it is the greatest thing that could happen for us. It helps everybody play better."

News and Notes

- Cornerback Cary Harris (strained hamstring) didn't participate in practice Tuesday but ran on the sidelines and did agility drills with the training staff.

- Gerald Washington (sprained ankle) missed his second straight day of practice.

- Ronald Johnson is one of the most improved players on the USC team this season and his success can be attributed to his tremendous work ethic. Ronald Johnson, Damian Williams and Mark Sanchez all stayed after practice to get extra work on Tuesday. As the three players left the field, Ronald Johnson paused at the gate to make sure he was the last player to leave and said, "I'm not going to let anyone outwork me."

- Freshman offensive tackle Tyron Smith is another player pushing for more playing time with his impressive performance against Washington State and at practice.

- Vidal Hazelton returned to practice and is expected to be available for Saturday's matchup against Arizona. Hazelton will meet with team doctors Tuesday night to get official clearance.

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