With the physical work behind them, tonight's practice was more about fine tuning.
- Off the field, freshman WR Markeith Ambles was suspended from football activities, but will continue to benefit from tutoring and academic resources. "If you're not going to come here and be a student-athlete, you should go somewhere else," Lane Kiffin explained his reason for suspending Ambles. "Your hope is that it serves as a wake-up call and they understand that something as special as a scholarship to USC can be taken away."
- Earlier this season, DB Patrick Hall was suspended, but he earned his way back on to the team. LB Simione Vehikite is also out for academic reasons.
- On the injury front, Nick Perry was not at practice today. As I mentioned yesterday, he hobbled off the field, but Kiffin did not disclose any information about the injury, although he did say his absence was related to the health issue.
- OT Tyron Smith has not practiced a whole lot this month, but he has not missed any game time, so he is supposed to be available for Saturday.
- Dillon Baxter returned to live duty today and Kiffin said "he looked fine."
- On the field, Nickell Robey made a great play on a red zone interception. The Trojans' defense has struggled on third down this season, so it is hard to believe that they can win this game without forcing two or three turnovers.
- Overall, the defense dominated. "Coming into this game, we feel real good," Robey said about the gameplan. "We believe in [Monte Kiffin] and what he is doing."
- T.J. McDonald will be in the center of things. Against a typical option team, McDonald would play as an extra linebacker, but Oregon gives you a few more things to worry about. "They don't have that many route concepts. It's just that they throw them at you like this," McDonald gestured to explain the speed of the Ducks passing game.
- While coaches are loathe to give away any aspect of the gameplan, the defense continues to use the word "simplify" as an answer to the tempo and confusion that Oregon will try to create.
- Even if the Trojans are in the right position, they have to make the play against the Ducks speedy backs and receivers. "They like to throw a lot of short routes, the stuff that picks you apart, so we have to make sure we tackle," McDonald said. "We have to be able to eliminate one part of their game, so we can slow the game down for ourselves."
- While the spread-option is gaining in popularity, NFL teams do not run it because the franchise quarterback is vulnerable to too much punishment. If McDonald gets a chance, he'll act as USC's enforcer against Darren Thomas. "If I get a shot in the hole, I'm going to take it," said the physical young safety. "I'm not going to have good intentions. That's all I'm going to say on that."
- With two weeks of anticipation, McDonald is itching to hit somebody. "It doesn't get much better than this. I've been waiting for this for a long time."
- Blake Ayles missed some opportunities to make big plays in last year's Oregon game. Coming off his first catch of the season, is he thinking redemption? "The thought is always in the back of my mind," the junior tight end said.
- Last year, Ayles was given an opportunity after starter Anthony McCoy got hurt. This year, he has had to fight for everything. "It's definitely the competition," Ayles explained. "We're all fighting for that job, so you can't take a play off out here."
- Lane Kiffin in his own words...