"I was kind of freaked out last night. I was talking to Coach Carroll late last night after he left and I was just asking how (Stafon) was and he said he's stable and he's doing a lot better," USC quarterback Matt Barkley said. "That was good to hear last night."
Carroll and members of the team made a trip over to California Hospital late Monday night to get an update on their injured teammate and offer support and strength to Johnson's family.
"We were there last night," Carroll said. "It was kind of a vigil of family, friends and people that were there."
The Trojan Family received even more encouragement today from the news that Johnson was awake and nonverbally communicating with friends and family.
"I fortunately got a chance to go in there before our meetings today. He looks well. He's alert and all that stuff," Carroll said. "He's not terribly uncomfortable, other than he's wrapped up all around his neck. He's able to communicate, writing notes. They won't allow him to speak or say anything right now. He was in good spirits."
Carroll was also happy to report that Johnson's mother, Kim Mallory, was also in good spirits.
"Mom seemed much better today. To see him awake and alert and be able to communicate really uplifted her," Carroll said. "She hadn't slept since yesterday. She said she's not going to sleep. She's hanging in there like a real trooper."
Talking with the USC players today, you could sense that they had been put at ease after finding out that that their friend and teammate was expected to make a full recovery.
"We're holding him up in prayer and we are all wishing that he gets back as quickly as possible," Barkley said. "I am wishing him the best."
Johnson has received cards, calls and messages from across the country wishing him well and a speedy recovery. Among the well wishers were: Will Ferrell, Steve Sarkisian, Charlie Weis and Bill Withers.
"It's been really obvious that a lot of people know about the story and have stepped up to make a statement and help out in some way, prayers, good wishes and all that stuff," Carroll said.
The absence of Johnson on the field will likely mean that Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable will receive more carries. But as both players expressed, they would rather compete with a healthy Stafon Johnson for playing time than receive more carries because of his misfortune.
"I really didn't want to get it this way," CJ Gable said. "I wanted to get it by me working hard and moving my way up to the spot. I didn't want it to go like this."
Bradford added: "I'd rather have Stafon here than me playing more. That's how I feel about the situation."
Johnson, who is regarded as one of the most liked and respected players on the team, will certainly be on the minds of the USC players as they head up to Berkeley to face Cal this Saturday in an important Pac-10 road game.
"I think it's motivating us a little bit and we know that he wants us to do good on Saturday, so we are playing for him," Barkley said.
- Defensive lineman Nick Perry was sidelined with a bruised knee.
"He had a bruised knee last week. He got through it, and he got hit again in the game. It got a little worse," Carroll said. "He's really stiff today and not able to run around. His knee's stable, but it's a bruise that's bothered him even more than when he first did it.
Carroll said Perry couldn't bend his knee and was day to day "at best."
- Linebacker Malcolm Smith returned to practice in a limited role.
"He got some work done," Carroll said. "It was good to get him out here. He's not full speed yet."
"I'm not sure who we're going to go with yet," Carroll said.
- USC quarterback Matt Barkley was asked if he had ever faced a 3-4 defense like the Cal Bears employ, and Barkley said he remembers facing it once…way back in his high school days.
"Servite actually ran it back in the day ... a couple months ago," Barkley joked.
Defensive end Nick Perry was held out of practice with a bruised knee.
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