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Trojans Get Feet Wet in Practice

Times Staff Writer

The field was wet and the temperature fluctuated dramatically throughout USC’s practice Friday.

Perfect conditions, Coach Pete Carroll said, to prepare for the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl game against Iowa at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

“It’s good to get on a field like this because [the weather] can just turn in a heartbeat in Miami, and rain and wet everything down,” Carroll said.

USC played only a few quarters in drizzle this season. Running back Justin Fargas welcomed the opportunity to test his footing and other skills with the elements working against him.

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“You have to prepare for all situations, so we were getting our feet wet,” Fargas said. “I think everyone did a pretty good job keeping their feet and being able to handle a wet football.”

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Lee Webb, who moved from linebacker to fullback in the second half of the season, returned to defense and will back up middle linebacker Mike Pollard.

The Trojans are thin at the position because freshman Oscar Lua suffered a knee injury during practice a few weeks ago and will have surgery Tuesday.

Carroll said Webb would compete with Brandon Hancock for the starting fullback position in the spring.

“We haven’t focused real hard on our recruiting the fullback spot,” Carroll said. “We’re counting on those guys.”

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After appearing ragged at times Thursday, the Trojan offense executed with better precision.

But defensive lineman Omar Nazel turned in the play of the day when he intercepted a pass by quarterback Carson Palmer and returned it about 10 yards for a touchdown.

“That was cool,” Nazel said. “Trophy Man couldn’t catch me that time. He saw a blitz coming and tried to get the ball to one of his guys. I happened to be standing in the way.”

Nazel, however, said he tempered his celebration.

“Gotta respect that man,” he said of Palmer.

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USC convinced Florida native Mike Williams to come to Los Angeles, and the freshman proved he was big-time receiver this season. Over the next two days, the Trojans hope Williams proves an adept salesman as well.

Williams, from Tampa, will help entertain recruit Andre Caldwell, a wide receiver from Tampa Jefferson High who is the younger brother of former Florida receiver Reche Caldwell.

Also visiting this weekend is running back Reggie Bush from Helix High in La Mesa. The Trojans could face a tough sell, though, because new UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell is a Helix High graduate.

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Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said he has not heard from Kentucky in five days regarding the school’s head coaching position.


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