There’s just one regular season game left on the schedule for the Trojans, but coach Pete Carroll is still switching around his lineup.
This week’s order of business: the offensive line.
Carroll announced after practice Tuesday that junior Kristofer O’Dowd will be moving back into the starting lineup, replacing Jeff Byers at center.
Byers, a sixth-year senior, will move over to left guard in his final game at the Coliseum.
“We haven’t had a chance to get Kris playing much,” Carroll said. “He’s been playing really well in practice the last couple of weeks and we need to get him in a game. We’ll see how that works with that combination.”
Senior Charles Brown and sophomore Tyron Smith will continue to anchor the line at the tackle spots. Filling out the five-man line, redshirt junior Butch Lewis will slide over from left to right guard, pushing senior Alex Parsons out of the starting lineup.
“Butch has played really well wherever we put him,” Carroll said. “And we know Jeff is fine to play left guard for us.”
O’Dowd was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection last season and a preseason All-American this season. Earlier this year, he pulled himself out of the running for the center spot, saying his play was subpar.
Now, he’s ready to get back into the mix.
“It’s really a chance to get Kris back into the game and this is, we think, the best way to move it around,” Carroll said.
Hand-in-hand with the end of the season comes the end of home careers for a number of Trojan seniors.
Six USC players will likely be making their final career starts at home — including Byers and sixth-year senior safety Josh Pinkard.
“People like Jeff and Josh, those guys have been here for so long and they’ve done so much for us,” said redshirt junior receiver Damian Williams. “We’ll definitely miss them. This game’s more about going out and playing for those guys — the guys who have put in the most work and busted their butt for years.”
Williams could be suiting up at the Coliseum for the final time as well. Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley said that the significance of this game is clear to the non-seniors on the team.
“Especially with the seniors and this being their last game and us younger players realizing that,” Barkley said. “We’re trying to make it the best experience for them.”
On the injury front, Williams is still hurting.
The receiver played against UCLA and pulled down a team-leading five catches for 82 yards, but he said Tuesday that his injured right ankle hasn’t completely healed.
He practiced on Competition Tuesday, but afterwards, he estimated he was running at about 85 percent.
Junior running back Joe McKnight sat out practice to rest the bruised thigh he suffered against UCLA.
McKnight said he expects to suit up this Saturday against Arizona; Carroll agreed.
“I think he’s going to be okay for the weekend,” Carroll said. “But he might not get much work in this week.”
McKnight didn’t play in the fourth quarter against the Bruins after suffering the injury. Redshirt junior running back Allen Bradford took his place.
Bradford said Tuesday that he will be ready for whatever situation occurs against the Wildcats.
“You never know — he might go down in the game, he might not,” Bradford said. “So I’m just going to keep working and get what I get on Saturday.”
Bradford scored two touchdowns and ran for 62 yards last Saturday. Carroll also mentioned redshirt junior C.J. Gable as a possible replacement for McKnight in certain packages.
“He certainly does everything out of the backfield that Joe does,” Carroll said. “And all of the routes and all of the schemes and screens and all of the things that he’s done over the years — C.J. can do all of that.”
Gable, who started his first game as a true freshman, has carried the ball only 21 times this season for 93 yards. He ran just one time for two yards against UCLA.
The focus for USC has turned to Arizona’s offense, which has relied on two different quarterbacks this season.
Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops started the season with sophomore Matt Scott as his starting signal-caller, but pulled him after three quarters against Iowa.
Nick Foles took over and has put up an impressive 67.4 percent completion percentage in eight starts.
“He’s done a good job,” Carroll said. “He looks really confident and in control of the offense. He’s had an excellent year as a first-year starter.”
Arizona still utilizes Scott in running situations. He’s rushed for 305 yards on 40 carries this season, including a 10-carry, 91-yard performance against Washington State.
At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Scott brings more of a scrambling mentality to the quarterback spot.
“He’s much more anxious to run the football and do the quarterback running things that we’ve seen so common in the last couple of years,” Carroll said. “So they present a lot of problems for us.”