As Injuries Mount, It’s Safety First

Times Staff Writer

With one previously unbeaten Pacific 10 Conference opponent out of the way, and another undefeated Pac-10 team coming to the Coliseum this weekend, top-ranked USC began to confront pressing depth issues on Monday during a light practice that doubled as an open audition at safety and wide receiver.

Linebacker Matt Grootegoed and cornerbacks Kevin Arbet and Ronald Nunn were among the players who worked briefly at safety because of a foot injury suffered by Scott Ware during the Trojans’ 23-17 victory over then-No. 7 California.

Darnell Bing, who was sidelined against Cal because of a pinched nerve in his shoulder, practiced Monday and is expected to start at strong safety on Saturday against No. 15 Arizona State. But Coach Pete Carroll said linebacker Dallas Sartz also might work today at safety, “to make sure we have enough depth in case we get banged around a bit.”


Freshman Josh Pinkard, who played against Cal, will be the first player to rotate in with Bing and Jason Leach, Carroll said.

Ware made 12 tackles against Cal despite hurting his left foot in the first quarter. Ware, who was on crutches Monday, said he was fitted with a plate in his shoe and also took a painkilling injection to finish the game.

“It was one of those games where I just couldn’t go out,” said Ware, who is awaiting results of an MRI exam.

Meanwhile, freshman Fred Davis moved from tight end back to receiver to help offset the loss of flanker Steve Smith, who broke his left leg against Cal.

Chris McFoy will move into Smith’s spot and freshman Dwayne Jarrett will make his first start at wide receiver, but the Trojans are searching for someone to fill the third slot in their rotation.

Davis, Jason Mitchell, William Buchanon and Greig Carlson were among a group that stayed after practice for extra work.


The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Davis said he learned to use his body after switching from receiver to tight end during training camp. He expects the experience to pay off against smaller cornerbacks.

“I’m used to going against defensive ends, linebackers and safeties so it’s going to be a little more of an advantage for me because I have more strength and power,” he said.


Defensive lineman Jeff Schweiger, who missed the Cal game because of a bruised knee, practiced and is expected to play against Arizona State.... Offensive tackle Kyle Williams was held out of practice because of headaches, Carroll said.... About 2,000 tickets remain available for Saturday’s game against Arizona State, a USC athletic department official said.... USC’s game against Washington on Oct. 23 at the Coliseum will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by FSN.