Thursday Practice Report

It's good news, bad news for the USC front four. Defensive end Nick Perry (shoulder) and tackle Armond Armstead (wrist) returned to practice Thursday, but Everson Griffen remains questionable for Saturday's game at Arizona State with turf toe.

Defensive line remains in flux

It's good news, bad news for the USC front four.

Defensive end Nick Perry (shoulder) and tackle Armond Armstead (wrist) returned to practice Thursday, but Everson Griffen remains questionable for Saturday's game at Arizona State with turf toe.

USC coach Pete Carroll was pleased with Griffen's work and indicated he would make the trip to Tempe, Ariz.

"He's going to go," Carroll said. "He made it through today's workout with trainers. Tomorrow he'll do some stuff with us, and we'll take him with us."

Griffen leads the Pac-10 with eight sacks and could be an important contributor against an Arizona State offense that has allowed just 13 sacks this season.

The Sun Devils surrendered 34 sacks last year, but have remedied that by changing to a shotgun-based attack that puts a greater emphasis on getting the ball out quickly.

"Turf toe, man, I just got to fight through it and rehab it and hopefully I can do something Saturday," Griffen said. "I just need to get it back healthy.

"I've got to be able to push off, but I can't like I want to right now."

Griffen has been through an intense week of work trying to get back on the field.

"Ice, whirl pool, mobilization, everything the docs told me to do," he said. "I've been hopping up and down on it. It's a little sore in places, but I want to make sure it's 100 percent healthy."

Freshman Devon Kennard and sophomore Malik Jackson would play if Griffen could not go.

Adding to the woes, defensive tackle Averell Spicer, who was working his way back from an ankle injury, hurt his calf Wednesday.

"I strained my calf muscle yesterday and it's pretty bad at this point," Spicer said. "I haven't been very healthy all year. This was the first week I was actually feeling pretty good, then this happens."

Williams ready to roll

Wide receiver Damian Williams almost single-handedly kept USC in its 47-20 loss at Oregon, posting seven receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

In the second half, however, Williams was rendered ineffective by a sore glute that had been an issue all week.

"I was OK in the beginning," Williams said. "Closer to halftime and in the second half, I wasn't feeling too good.

"The game takes a toll on you. I caught a ball on the sideline and somebody's knee or helmet or something landed right in the back of my leg. That didn't help any."

Carroll praised Williams' toughness against the Ducks.

"I thought it was a great performance by him under those circumstances to tough it out and make it through," Carroll said. "He's much better this week and ready to go. Last week, he was hurt and found a way to make himself available and make plays."

Coaches have limited Williams' work in practice this week, and the redshirt junior said it is making a difference in his recovery.

"I feel better than I did at this point last week."

By the numbers

USC is on pace for its worst defensive effort since 2005, when the Trojans allowed 22.8 points per game. That team, however, produced 22 interceptions and recovered 16 fumbles.

The 2009 defense has just 10 takeaways, with only three interceptions, while allowing 19.1 points per game.

"We just keep trying to go, keep doing the same things we have been doing," said corner Josh Pinkard, who started six games in 2005. "Balls haven't been coming out like they used to. I think teams are just aware now of how we're going harder for the ball and they have stepped up a little bit taking care of the ball."

Quick hits

- Wide receiver Brandon Carswell missed practice with a sprained toe, but is expected to play.

"My toe is a little sore, but that's about it," Carswell said. "I just twisted it the wrong way, but I am good to go."

- Malcolm Smith (shoulder) is out. Shane Horton will start at weakside linebacker, with Jordan Campbell also slated to see action.

- After practicing all week without any setbacks, Chris Galippo (neck) will start at middle linebacker.

- Tight end Anthony McCoy will miss his second straight game due to a sprained ankle.

"We worked out Anthony, but he's not quite there," Carroll said.

- New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez visited Heritage Hall on Thursday.


USC wide receiver Damian Williams will play Saturday against the Sun Devils. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)


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