August 25, 2008

Practice Insider: Carroll's focused within

Since Virginia saw USC at the top of its 2008 schedule, it's safe to assume they were excited about the game.

By bringing in one the top programs in the country, Virginia has a big chance to make a big statement in front of a huge national audience.

For USC, though, it's a little different.

Head coach Pete Carroll said he's not so much worried about Virginia; he's concerned with his guys.

"I'm so focused on our guys and getting us ready," he said. "We have to get clean. We have to get our line scrimmage stuff on both sides of the ball really sharp, and we have to keep focusing on playing a precise game.

"We can't get in our own way."

As the Trojans got some extended work on Monday, they officially started game week. But with all of spring football, summer workouts and fall camp, the team's had plenty of time to think about Virginia.

But Carroll said it's his job to make sure they don't dwell on it too much.

"One of the hardest decisions for coaches is how much is enough," Carroll said. "That's the science of it. We've been pretty good about it over the years, and I can't see us changing how we focus.

"It's about us getting ready to play. It's not about the other team. We'll beat ourselves before they beat us. That's always our approach"

The decision hinges on the complexity of the game plan, how much the players can handle and the team's experience.

And there's comfort in knowing that if his team executes, things will be OK.

"We juts have to take care of ourselves," Carroll said.

Welcome back

A little over a week ago, C.J. Gable saw his year flash in front of his eyes. He saw more time on the sidelines, more time rehabbing, more time being examined, and, sadly, less time making plays.

After suffering a hip sprain and ankle sprain on the same play, Gable feared the worst.

"I thought it was going to take a long time. It's what I expected," Gable said. "I was praying that I'd be able to get out here quickly and not have anything bad."

After missing last season with an injury, Gable thought he'd have to go through with another tough, disappointing year.

"That was in my head," he said. "I didn't want to have to watch another season � ever again."

It appears after Monday, though, he won't have to.

Gable returned to practice and said he didn't feel any real pain while running. He even broke loose for a huge play that caught Carroll's eye.

"C.J. Gable had one of the best runs in camp here near the end of the day," Carroll said. "He mad a good run, and then he made two more moves.

"He says 'I'm playing.'"

Gable said his hip is still a little sore to the touch on the spot where he's suffered a bruise, and he expects to take hits to his side for the first time Tuesday.

"If I can take them, I'm good," Gable said.

Four Corners

Shareece Wright made his way back onto the practice field Monday, giving Carroll another chance to rave about the depth at the position.

"We have (Josh Pinkard) and (Kevin Thomas) ready to jump up," Carroll said. "I really feel like we have four starters. They're all going to play."

Carroll said he expects Wright to be ready for the opener at Virginia, and that's good news for the Trojans.

"He's really had a great camp, and he looks just like a tremendous player for us," Carroll said. "He's as equipped to be a cover guy, to make the big hits and be a turnover guy as we have ever had."

Extra Points

Mark Sanchez practiced with the first team Monday, working in cleats for the first time since injuring his left knee early in camp.

Sanchez continues to progress ahead of schedule, and he said he now needs to focus some on his conditioning.

The most positive sign continues to be Sanchez's natural feel on the football field, something the knee injury hasn't been able to impair.

"I felt relaxed and I didn't think about my knee at all. That's where I need to be," Sanchez said. "I felt upbeat. I just need to get my energy back and my endurance back. It's just something else. I haven't worried about it all day."

� Many freshmen spent their first day of game week wearing black jerseys as part of the scout team.

Blake Ayles, D.J. Shoemate, Matt Kalil, Brice Butler, Drew McAllister, Tyron Smith and Malik Jackson worked against the scout team with the rest of the Trojans.

� Chris Galippo ran around the field some in cleats, and he continues to progress after back surgery.

"I'm getting closer," Galippo said.

� Sanchez and Ronald Johnson hooked up on a deep ball, with Johnson beating Cary Harris for a score.

Stanley Havili unloaded on a service team outside linebacker with a crashing block � easily the day's biggest hit.

Michael Reardon returned to practice, working in pads.

Daniel Harper made one of the best plays of the day, stripping Patrick Turner from behind after being beaten downfield.

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