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Tailbacks will try to get a running start in Rose Bowl

Times Staff Writer

After rushing for a season-low 55 yards against UCLA in the regular-season finale, USC’s tailback corps is determined to produce a significantly better result in the Rose Bowl against Michigan.

Junior Chauncey Washington and Emmanuel Moody said Thursday that the injuries that slowed them in the latter part of the season are no longer issues.

“I feel as good as I’ve felt all year,” said Washington, the team’s top rusher, with 736 yards.

Washington had been bothered by hamstring problems since training camp and by a knee injury suffered against Oregon on Nov. 11. He was stopped on two key short-yardage plays against UCLA but appears to have benefited from the week off after the 13-9 upset loss and from two weeks of mostly limited participation in practice.

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Since Tuesday, however, Washington’s workload has increased.

“When I hurt my knee I didn’t have any time to take any breaks because I was constantly on it and I kept on trying to play,” he said. “It’s the best it’s felt since before the Oregon game.”

Moody, the Trojans’ second-leading rusher, with 459 yards, suffered a high ankle sprain against Oregon and did not play in the final three games.

“I feel like I’m 100%,” Moody said. “There’s nothing that’s really lingering anymore. I just have to get back to playing my game, get back into that groove of doing what I do best.”

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Freshman C.J. Gable, who started the season opener and the final three games, has looked impressive during practice and fellow freshman Allen Bradford also has received a lot of work.

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Although USC tailbacks are getting healthier, Trojans defensive backs cannot wait for a three-day break that will follow today’s workout.

Cornerbacks Terrell Thomas (shoulder) and Kevin Thomas (foot) did not practice Thursday, and safety Taylor Mays continued to work out with a cast on his right wrist.

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Mays said he was scheduled to have X-rays Thursday morning but overslept.

“It doesn’t really matter -- my hand works,” Mays said. “Guys play through a lot worse injuries than this.”

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Junior offensive lineman Matt Spanos was absent from practice, so senior Kyle Williams returned to working with the first unit at right tackle, where he started every game.

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Spanos, who did not play this season because of academic ineligibility, was hoping that his fall semester grades would be good enough to make him eligible for the Rose Bowl. But Coach Pete Carroll said Spanos was absent because he was “working on some academic stuff.”

Grades will be posted today. A source said Spanos was not expected to be eligible.

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Carroll said the Trojans would go through mock-game situations today, but the first-unit offenses and defenses will work against service teams.

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gary.klein@latimes.com


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