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Smith Relishes His Student, Teacher Role

Times Staff Writer

Steve Smith and his USC teammates were given Monday off so they could attend the first day of fall-semester classes without distraction.

Smith, a senior flanker, is back in the classroom because he is pursuing a higher grade on the field from NFL scouts and player personnel executives.

After USC’s Rose Bowl defeat against Texas in January, Smith requested an evaluation from the NFL as he contemplated making himself available for the draft. Smith said he was told that he probably would not be selected before the third round.

“My ego isn’t that big. I know I’ve got to work on stuff,” said Smith, who has caught 119 passes and scored 13 touchdowns in three seasons. “It just helped me become that much of a better player.”

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Smith had been slowed through much of training camp because of sore ribs. But on Sunday night, he caught five passes for 54 yards in a mock game at the Coliseum.

Smith’s health, coupled with the expected return of split end Dwayne Jarrett from a thigh injury, should put the receiving corps at near-full strength for the first time as the Trojans prepare for their Sept. 2 opener at Arkansas.

With a crop of talented freshmen receivers pushing for playing time, Smith is aware that young eyes are upon him. Vidal Hazelton, Travon Patterson and others are studying Smith much like he studied former Trojans flanker Keary Colbert, now in his third season with the Carolina Panthers.

“I just try to do the little things because I know they’re watching me,” Smith said. “When I talk they all listen so it’s just important really to do it how Keary did it to me to get them that knowledge that will help them.”

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While Smith’s playing time probably won’t be affected much by freshmen, Chris McFoy knows his could be.

McFoy, a fifth-year senior from Chino, arrived at USC in 2002 and redshirted while fellow freshman Mike Williams flourished. He caught two passes in 2003 as Williams achieved All-American status.

McFoy started USC’s first nine games in 2004, but Jarrett, then a freshman, emerged as Matt Leinart’s favorite target. Last season, while Jarrett became an All-American and Smith enjoyed his most productive season, McFoy caught 17 passes for 172 yards.

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McFoy said he was prepared for whatever role is required.

“There’s always times where frustration occurs but that doesn’t really get you anywhere,” McFoy said. “In the past, I’ve learned the hard way about how it can not really help you.

“You have to push through adversity and do what you do when you can and just ball out.”

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Arkansas running back Darren McFadden had a pin removed from his left big toe but remains doubtful for the USC game, a team trainer told the Associated Press. McFadden had surgery late last month on the toe, which he apparently dislocated in a fight outside a Little Rock nightclub.... USC returns to practice today.


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