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Davis’ Return Fills Big Hole on Defense

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There is one returning first-team all-conference player on the USC defense, and he’s a big one: Ennis Davis, the Trojans’ 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior tackle.

His standout sophomore season ended in pain when he tore ligaments in his left knee during the Sun Bowl, but Davis had a season Coach Paul Hackett said “put him on the edge of stardom.”

Davis is practicing once a day during camp as a precaution, but his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and he is expected to be ready for the first game. There was no missing his enthusiasm Wednesday morning during the first practice in pads.

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“It was great,” Davis said. “My body feels better than ever. There are still a few little bumps, but I’m far ahead of what I expected. I think I’m ready to play. When I’m out there, it’s only once a day, and I’m all-out.”

Davis led the Trojans in tackles for losses last season with 13 and also deflected four passes, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal.

Now he’s one of the leaders of the defense, along with middle linebacker Zeke Moreno and strong safety David Gibson.

“I think a lot of people look at my leadership because I’m a big man, and probably if I’m playing hard, everyone else is going to play hard,” Davis said. “But we’ve got [Sultan Abdul-Malik], he’s an emotional player, and Aaron Williams, and [Gibson] and Zeke Moreno. We have a lot of leaders.”

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Hackett called Wednesday “a good first day in pads.”

“I’m very pleased, from the anticipation in the morning of simply running into each other to the afternoon team work,” he said. “I thought it went well.”

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Left tackle Brent McCaffrey practiced with the team for the first time after sitting out most of the first four days because of a foot injury. He is secure in his position, as is Travis Claridge at right tackle, Hackett said.

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The best battle on the offensive line is at Claridge’s vacated right guard spot between Zach Wilson and Jason Grain.

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John Fox, USC’s starting quarterback two seasons ago, has plenty of jobs for his senior season. Besides playing linebacker, he is the No. 3 quarterback--slated for emergency use only--and is also the holder for field goals and extra points and is on the kickoff return and punt teams.

As for having to know the offense on limited practice time, he says it’s no problem.

“I hadn’t thrown the ball since just tossing it around at the Sun Bowl, but the mental part, I remember it all,” he said.

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