December 28, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojans preparing without Havili

Prior to facing UCLA in their season finale, the Trojans were faced with a bit of an obstacle.

Fullback Stanley Havili wasn't healthy, and the offense was going to have to compensate somehow.

Now, less than a week prior to facing Penn State in the Rose Bowl, the USC offense is in a similar predicament with Havili academically ineligible.

USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the USC game plan hasn't been altered despite the news on Havili.

"He's been hurt. To me, he's out," Sarkisian said. "The easiest way for us to deal with it is to treat it like he's not playing. That's where the focus has been. If a guy makes it back, that's a bonus. But our game plan is set as if he's not playing.

"This is how we've been on offense for over a month now."

USC head coach Pete Carroll said he expects to find out more about Havili's status Monday.

If Havili's academic woes aren't straightened out, the USC offense will be without one of its most versatile weapons.

"He's got a lot of experience, and he does a lot of stuff in our offense that we still want to do. But, he's the best we have at it," Carroll said. "We miss him when he's not out there. It's a unique position that calls for a wide range of talents, and he's the best one we have at it."

Instead of putting Havili's responsibilities on freshman D.J. Shoemate's or on converted tight end Rhett Ellison's shoulders, Sarkisian said the best way to compensate is by slicing the position up.

"We'll use a few different guys. We've done a good job using D.J., and we'll use Rhett. We could use some mystery guys in there," Sarkisian said. "We'll do a good job of taking Stanley's role and divvying it up among other guys.

"We're going to other options, but it's not like we're making that move this week. It's been that way for a while."

And Shoemate, who has already spent time at running back and wide receiver this season, said he's comfortable if the Trojans turn to him.

"Right now, I've been getting a lot of reps in there at practice at fullback," Shoemate said. "Stanley's not here and I don't know what his situation. But, right now, I'm doing the fullback stuff - blocking or whatever they tell me.

"I like to live my life with one motto: stay ready so you don't have to get ready. I just wanted to prepare myself for whatever. That's fair for me, and that's fair for my team."

Not the same ole', same ole'

Most of the Trojans have this Rose Bowl thing down pat at this time. They've done Disneyland, laughed at the Improv and stuffed themselves at Lawry's The Prime Rib.

This is what happens when your team goes to the same bowl game four years in a row.

But if the Trojans are bored with the process, they're not saying it or showing it.

"They're having a blast. Everything's been good. The practices have been good. The meetings have been up," Carroll said. "They've had plenty of time on their own and classy hotels to stay at and enjoy what it's like to be in a bowl atmosphere.

"I haven't seen any of (our guys looking bored). You've never heard people in the program say it. We don't feel that way."

Carroll said he did wish his team had won at Oregon State earlier this year, but other than that, he's totally satisfied,

"This is a tremendous reward," he said. "People that want to go somewhere else, where else do you want to go?

"This is a pretty great place, and it's awesome to play a game of this magnitude against such a great football team so close to home."

Extra Points

• The USC offense looked very shaky at the start of the final team period Sunday, but rebounded late with a pair of touchdown passes from Mark Sanchez to Travon Patterson and Anthony McCoy.

"I think more than anything it showed a lot of character on our part," Sarkisian said. "Earlier in the year, we might have just folded it in and gotten beat. But, our guys battled."

• Because of issues at Howard Jones Field, the Trojans practiced Sunday at Soni McAllister Field, where the Trojan soccer team plays.

Sarkisian said he preferred the workspace to the artificial turf at Cromwell Field, where USC has previously practiced in similar circumstances before.

"I loved it. We had a good field," Sarkisian said. "There's more room. We aren't squeezed when we're doing our team stuff."

• Carroll continued to praise the development of Clay Matthews, a former walk-on in the program.

Carroll said no one ever discounted what Matthews or any of the other walk-ons could become.

"We know that there are success stories in there. We just don't know which one it will be," Carroll said. "Clay's probably the most famous because of everything he's done."

Damian Williams and Stafon Johnson both practiced Sunday and look like they'll be able to play against Penn State. Kevin Ellison's status, though, looks more and more doubtful each day.

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