With camp over, USC hopes health holds in Hawaii

After one last preseason workout at Southern California, the

Trojans headed to Hawaii on Tuesday night.

And it wasn’t for a restful vacation, no matter how much they

need it.

The Trojans realize reinforcements for their depleted program

aren’t arriving any time soon, so their fate rests in their ability

to stay on the field through every bump and bruise. Several of

coach Lane Kiffin’s players are nursing minor injuries, and a

handful are out – including their backup center and their most

talented freshman receiver.

But Kiffin finally has his preferred offensive line together

just a few days before the 14th-ranked Trojans open at Aloha

Stadium on Thursday night, and he’s cautiously optimistic he can

keep a healthy, competitive team on the field beyond the

opener.

USC has been careful to avoid using injuries and personnel

shortages as excuses this month, even if they might turn out to be

legitimate reasons for any struggles.

”We don’t make excuses, because we’ve got the ability to be

successful with whatever guys are out there,” starting tailback

Marc Tyler said.

Still, Kiffin says he ran a lighter camp after realizing he

couldn’t afford many injuries on a team fighting through

significant scholarship cuts and several transfers by reserve

players after crippling NCAA sanctions.

USC held full-contact drills only once, and it was back in the

opening week of camp. The scrimmages were about safety first, and

some units – such as the offensive line – have avoided full-speed

drills whenever possible.

”Once we realized where our numbers were at, this wasn’t like

what we put our kids through last year (at Tennessee),” Kiffin

said. ”We spent more time in the weight room, more time in the

film room.”

Yet several veteran players believe the camp was more physical

than anything they endured during the tenure of coach Pete Carroll,

who got remarkable results from practices packed with hundreds of

observers and featuring unorthdox drills built into high-intensity

workouts.

”This is probably the hardest camp we’ve all been through since

I got here,” said Tyler, named the first-string tailback just a

few days ago. ”The coaching staff is the best. When they came

here, everybody bought in, and we’ve been practicing for a long

time. Everybody is committed to showing that SC is still SC.”

With a little bit of NFL injury management thrown in, at least

when dealing with the media, Kiffin has been deliberately vague

about many injuries, usually just saying whether his players

participated in practice.

Sophomore offensive guard Khaled Holmes has been hobbled, but

Kiffin said he’ll attempt to start against the Warriors. So will

defensive lineman Nick Perry, while backup quarterback Mitch

Mustain plans to be available after being limited in practice

throughout the week.

The news wasn’t as good on backup center Abe Markowitz, who had

surgery Tuesday on a foot injury and will be out for several weeks.

USC also is planning to redshirt receiver Kyle Prater, one of the

top prospects in last season’s high school class, after lower-body

injuries hampered his development.

The Trojans tromped through LAX en masse Tuesday to make a

commercial flight they bought out in its entirety since they were

unable to use their usual charter company. They’re still staying at

a posh resort on Oahu’s west side, and they plan to hang out Friday

for a little relaxation before coming home to prepare for next

weekend’s home opener against Virginia.

”In our preparation and in guys’ mindsets, we’re ready,”

quarterback Matt Barkley said. ”When we’re in the locker room, I’m

hearing talk about how ready we are to play, and how we can’t wait

to get on the field. We know we’ve prapared hard and well.”