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Runners Appear to Be Ahead of Quarterbacks

Times Staff Writer

USC’s second scrimmage confirmed that the Trojans’ freshman running backs will make immediate contributions this season.

But Sunday night’s 79-play scrimmage also showed that the passing game still has a way to go.

While Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable displayed their various talents running the ball, quarterbacks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez never really established a rhythm and neither passed for a touchdown.

Coach Pete Carroll rested All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett, flanker Steve Smith and receiver Patrick Turner, but he said that was not the problem.

“We had trouble protecting the quarterback and getting things clean,” Carroll said. “It was a little sloppy in the throwing game.”

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Booty’s first pass, a long throw off a rollout to his left, was intercepted by freshman safety Taylor Mays, who also intercepted a pass in the Trojans’ first scrimmage Wednesday. Booty finished six of 14 for 92 yards.

Sanchez was seven of 13 for 64 yards.

Carroll said he had been encouraged by the quarterbacks’ play in the days leading up to the scrimmage. But after Sunday’s performance, he said he could not tell whether the passing game was progressing or struggling.

“They had a few really good days and threw the ball really well, and tonight it just didn’t happen.”

Carroll was more encouraged by the defense, which caused six turnovers.

The rushing attack also looked good at times.

Johnson, who had rushed for 119 yards in the first scrimmage, scored on a 52-yard run and finished with 86 yards in seven carries. Gable gained 65 yards in five carries.

A day after he was switched from safety to tailback, Bradford provided a powerful presence, rushing for 64 yards in 14 carries and scoring on runs of three and one yards.

“That guy’s a beast,” Booty said.

Said Carroll: “He looks like he has a chance to be a dominant player.”

Asked if he saw himself specializing in a role near the goal line, Bradford said: “I can do that, but I probably want to do more than just be in the end zone. I probably want to get a couple more carries and run that rock harder for the team.”

Carroll moved Bradford to tailback because junior Chauncey Washington is trying to work through a hamstring injury and sophomore Michael Coleman’s durability is questionable after having hip surgery.

“I’m hoping Chauncey will be that effective as well, he always has been when he’s taken his shots out here,” Carroll said. “But if he isn’t, we really have a chance to come up with a great prospect at that spot.”

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After switching positions several times, Chris Barrett appears to have found a home at defensive tackle.

Barrett, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound junior from Tustin, started his USC career in 2003 as a defensive end. He switched to tight end and then back to defensive end during his first three seasons, which were marred by shoulder and calf injuries. Before spring practice, he moved to tackle and is on track to share time with sophomore Fili Moala.

“I have two more years to play, and I haven’t done anything yet,” Barrett said. “That’s my motivation: I have two years and I’ve got to do something.”

Carroll acknowledged “the absence of big playmaking” at the tackle spot since Shaun Cody and Manuel Wright left for the NFL after the 2004 season.

“I don’t know if we’ll reach that level, but we’re trying to get back and approach that,” Carroll said.

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All-American tackle Sam Baker sat out nearly all of the scrimmage because of dizziness. Teammates said it was brought on by riding a roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm on Saturday night.... Carroll said running back Desmond Reed, who is trying to come back from knee surgery, was cleared to participate in faster-paced drills but has not been cleared for contact.... Cornerback Kevin Thomas is scheduled to have further tests for a neck or shoulder injury today.... Mario Danelo kicked field goals of 34 and 39 yards.... Freshman David Ausberry caught three passes for 58 yards, senior Chris McFoy three for 53.... Linebacker Kaluka Maiava made a team-best five tackles.... Cary Harris returned a kickoff 98 yards against the scout team.... The Trojans attended the Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament on Sunday.


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