Thursday Practice: Looking for Balance

Pete Carroll has always preached the importance of having a balanced offensive attack, and his USC teams have usually had great success in that regard, but after three games in '09 the Trojans are still searching for the right balance. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from Thursday's practice.

Balancing Act

Pete Carroll has always preached the importance of having a balanced offensive attack, and his USC teams have usually had great success in that regard, but after three games in '09 the Trojans are still searching for the right balance.

"What I'm hoping happens this week is I want to make sure we return to a balanced attack offensively," Carroll said. "We were out of whack last week, rushing for 250 yards and throwing for 100 something.

"That's not the way we want to play. It's not the style or philosophy that we live by."

While USC averages 237 yards per game on the ground, the lack of a consistent passing game has made the Trojans' offense predictable and one-dimensional at times this season.

"The running game is in good order. We're running the ball very well right now," Carroll said. "But that's not the way we have formulated our plan offensively over the years, so we want to get back to that.

"We've got to make sure and emphasize what's going on with the throwing game, the protection game, protection wise to keep the quarterback clean and compliment what we're doing with the running game."

Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates also acknowledged the need to be more aggressive in the passing game this week, adding: "We've got to open it up. We've got to get into more three-wides and four-wides and do some seven-step drops and all that good stuff that USC's done in the past," Bates said. "And spread it around a little bit. We've got some playmakers, and we've got to get the ball in their hands."

Carroll said the Trojans' conservative play-calling this season is due in large part because of their inexperience at the quarterback spot.

"We've been playing the way we played because we feel like we have to through the development of our quarterbacks," he explained. "We have to make sure they can play the game in a manner that doesn't put us in really bad situations."

Coming off a loss in which they mustered just 110 passing yards, the Trojans return home this week with an opportunity to get the passing game on track.

Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and the USC offense face a Washington State defense that has allowed 369 passing yards per game.

"I think for us to be effective, we have to be balanced as we always have aspired to," Carroll said. "That's what we're hoping to recreate here in this week and going into the next couple of weeks to get our game on track."

Whether the passing game gets on track this Saturday remains to be seen, but with an emphasis on being more aggressive, the Trojans appear to be headed in the right direction.

Hot Reads

- Malcolm Smith, Luthur Brown, Marc Tyler, Ronald Johnson and Armond Armstead were among the players that didn't participate in Thursday's practice.

- All-American safety Taylor Mays practiced on Thursday and said he would likely be a game time decision.

"I think I am going to play unless something goes wrong," Mays said. "It's kind of 50-50."

Pete Carroll was much more optimistic and said that Mays will start at safety.

"He's ready to play," Carroll said. "He's ready to play football."

- Jordan Campbell will start in place of the injured Malcolm Smith (sprained ankle) at weak-side linebacker this week. Shane Horton will also get playing time.

"Jordan has had a really good week," Carroll said. "A really solid week of hitting and tackling and he has really waited a long time for this opportunity. When it opened up for him he went for it."

Luthur Brown (back) was held out of practice on Thursday and Carroll didn't know if the senior linebacker would be available on Saturday.

- Jacob Harfman will handle the punting duties for the Trojans against Washington State, after putting together his most consistent week of practice.

"Jake is going to punt for us," Carroll said. "He had a very good week. He pounded the heck out of the ball and we feel solid about giving him a chance."

- Pete Carroll said he was pleased with what he saw from Matt Barkley during practice on Thursday.

"I think this was his best day by far," Carroll said. "He feels good about it and is excited. I think he did a nice job of being in charge. He's all pumped up about playing."

When asked if Barkley will be limited in the game because of his shoulder Carroll replied, "He's going to do what he has to do to make his plays. We tried to hold him back all week and try and gain everyday and not overdo anything.

"There was a lot of throws that we avoided for him, so he didn't have to take the extra shots in hopes that it will help him be stronger on game day."

- Redshirt freshman defensive end Nick Perry, who has a team-high four sacks in a limited role, is expected to receive more playing time this week.

- Wide receiver Damian Williams is one of the real veteran leaders of the team and he said he has noticed more focus on the details this week during practice.

"It has definitely been more focused. We slipped up last week and we definitely didn't plan for that to happen," Williams said. "We had to make sure we were more focused and go back to the details."


Jordan Campbell will start in place of Malcolm Smith at weak-side linebacker.


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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com



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