Top-ranked USC’s offense is so powerful it probably knocked freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez off the roster for the Pacific 10 Conference opener at Oregon.
Pac-10 rules allow traveling teams a maximum of 64 players with the exception of games against traditional rivals.
Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that redshirt sophomore Michael McDonald would travel to Eugene, Ore., as the No. 3 quarterback, even though Sanchez is further along running the offense.
Roster juggling also was necessary because of a defense thinned by injury and illness.
“The roster spots are so critical right now,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to take guys we’re counting on playing.”
USC is averaging 66.5 points. If the Trojans were to blow out the No. 24 Ducks, USC would not want to risk injury to starter Matt Leinart or backup John David Booty by playing them late in the game.
Sanchez, regarded as the top prep player at his position last year at Mission Viejo High, would lose his opportunity to redshirt if he played.
“To take him as the third quarterback, we may have to play him in a situation where we don’t want to,” Carroll said.
Carroll usually refrains from telling players they will probably redshirt, fearing they might become less competitive in practice.
“It’s just too obvious here,” Carroll said. “I think in this situation you have to.”
If Leinart and Booty were injured or ineffective against Oregon, the Trojans would turn to McDonald, who was awarded a scholarship before the season and runs the opponent’s offense for the scout team during practice.
William Buchanon, switched from offense to defense because of injury and illness problems in the secondary, will be used as the third cornerback behind Justin Wyatt and John Walker, Carroll said.
Several walk-ons, including senior cornerback Alex Gomez and junior college transfer Jerry Williams, also made the travel roster because starting cornerback Terrell Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas and freshman Kevin Thomas was diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier this week.
Greig Carlson, a reserve receiver and punt returner, will not travel because of a groin injury. McDonald would take Carlson’s spot as the holder if Tom Malone were injured.
Freshman cornerback Will Harris, coming off an ankle injury, and freshman linebacker Luthur Brown, who has had back problems, will not make the trip, Carroll said.