With 16 days to go before August practice opens, USC players are making sure they're going to be ready for fall.
Robert Woods is one. The sophomore wide receiver is making sure his right ankle, the one with the strained ligament from his freshman All-American season last year that has a lace-up protective brace on it, is ready to go.
"I'm playing it cool with my ankle," he said after Tuesday's early morning voluntary throwing session that attracted fewer players than normal after the hourlong mandatory session with the strength and conditioning coaches.
Nothing serious, Woods said of his ankle. "I'm rehabbing it and that's pretty much it."
He's also being careful, for example, not running the 40's when the team was timed last month. So it wasn't a problem when he was asked who's the fastest USC wide receiver right now.
"It has to be Brice (Butler), he has the fastest time," Woods said of the Georgian who decided to remain at USC for his redshirt junior season. But Butler's 4.46 time pretty much matches the number Woods ran a year ago.
Woods wasn't the only one focused on football and not putting up numbers in the 40. New defensive end Devon Kennard is also taking care after his January hip cartilage surgery.
"I feel great," he said and plans to play right around the 249 pounds he's carrying now. But he didn't run the recent 40's either. "My job is to get ready for football." And he will be, he assures.
ON LEARNING ABOUT TYLER
Redshirt freshman tailback D.J. Morgan, whose opportunity at tailback may be forever changed as the result of senior Marc Tyler's ill-timed TMZ interview Thursday night after some Hollywood clubbing, said the players were talking about it already by Friday's early morning throwing session.
"But I wasn't sure what it was all about," Morgan said. But "by the next day, when I saw it, I was shocked." (Ed. Note: Morgan's full reaction will be explored in a special feature here Wednesday morning).
He wasn't alone. Woods said when he saw the video, "I just said "awwwwww, man." Woods said he knew as soon as he saw it that this was trouble for Tyler.
Incoming freshman Junior Pomee, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end from Perris and Moreno Valley Rancho Verde H.S., after being reported at USC and in classes while working out with the USC team a week ago, is no longer with the team. And no longer working out, several players said.
"There are lots of rumors about him," was how one upperclassman put it, "that he's transferring, whatever. But we have no idea what's going on."
Another said: "I heard he didn't finish a couple of classes from high school and has to go back to finish them."
But as to the rumors that Pomee would or go elsewhere now, if there are issues about high school courses completed in order to enroll at USC with approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse, those issues would exist elsewhere as well.
Cromwell Field remains the focus of USC football for the next couple of weeks as a replanted Howard Jones Field is readied for the start of practice Aug. 4 . . . The early conditioning sessions are finishing up in less than an hour nowadays as the players round into practice shape . . . Again Tuesday, Matt Barkley was impressive throwing the ball, on top of everything, from deep balls to short, quick stuff to the touch passes -- all tight spirals . . . Really impressive again was senior tight end Rhett Ellison, whose hands have become so much surer than when he first lined up as a freshman receiver . . . Some weight-watching: Martin Coleman down to 318 from 345 a year ago; also down to his lightest weight since freshman year is 290-pound O-lineman Abe Markowitz; up to 262 is DE Kevin Greene while Woods says he's staying right at 188.
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.