Wednesday Practice Report

All the news, notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice.

O-line changes?

The USC front five might have a different look Saturday night, as center Kris O'Dowd and guard Nick Howell could see action. Both saw extensive action in practice, but offensive line coach Pat Ruel was cautious Wednesday about how to work them back into the lineup.

For O'Dowd, specifically, it would mean altering the exchange with quarterback Matt Barkley after senior Jeff Byers has started the last four games.

"It's hard with the center spot, changing snappers, so you have got to be careful with what you do but he really needs playing time," Ruel said. "For the last two weeks, I've wanted to get him some playing time. Jeff is playing well, so we're in a mode trying to pick and choose our spots trying to put (O'Dowd) in there."

USC coach Pete Carroll, however, pointed out O'Dowd's four starts with Barkley under center.

"In our situation, Kris has played so much with Matt, it's a little bit unique," Carroll said. "These guys have had so much work that they both can play and it shouldn't be any issue for us at all."

At right guard, Alex Parsons is likely to make his eleventh-consecutive start.

"Nick did some really good things this week, but I think Alex is going to end up starting," Ruel said.

Playcaller Jeremy Bates was impressed by the physicality the offensive line has displayed in practice this week.

"Pat and I, we talked about hearing some collisions this whole week. We're striking and it's an exciting sign. Guys are playing hard," Bates said.

Back at full strength

When Damian Williams left his feet for a juggling catch during 7-on-7's, there was no way to tell the junior wide receiver had spent the past two weeks dealing with a sprained right ankle.

Bates was among those in awe of Williams' return.

"He had the boot on all last week, but he kept saying, 'I'll be there. I'll be there.' He's out there and he looks 100 percent," Bates said.

"It's thrilling that he's gotten back like this," Carroll said. "There's no way he should have been able to. It was a big challenge and he's overcome it."

The Trojans' top weapon in the passing game with 45 receptions for 688 yards and five touchdowns, Williams was injured at Arizona State but had the key play in that 14-9 win, a 75-yard zigzagging screen pass he took for a touchdown.

"He is the biggest weapon we've got out there," Bates said. "Just take a look at what he can do with the ball in his hands, his route running ability and yards after the catch. We need him. It was amazing to have him back.

The last time Williams, tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili were healthy and on the field together, USC posted its third-highest scoring output of the season and quarterback Matt Barkley threw for a career-high 380 yards.

Bates on byes

In the NFL, there's only one week off in a season. The Trojans enjoyed their second off-week of the year following the Stanford loss, not that Bates was complaining.

"I'm not used to having two bye weeks in a season, so that's new for me, but it is nice to relax, take the weekend off and watch college sports and pro sports," he said.

"I think it's helped the whole team. This late in the season, guys have been working since early August and to get away for a weekend, clear your mind and you can see the whole team is fresh and healthy."

Quick hits

-The Trojans will practice Thursday morning at 11:30 am and are expected to work for about 90 minutes.

-Despite Williams' return, Joe McKnight will be the starting punt returner.

-Bates said he had spoken with his father, Jim Bates, since his dismissal as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator but did not elaborate as to whether the elder Bates would remain with the organization in a different role.


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