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Gable is protective of running back spot

Times Staff Writer

USC coaches and trainers had kept C.J. Gable out of practice because of a lingering abdominal and groin problem, but the sophomore tailback returned Saturday and made no apologies for sounding territorial.

“I’m a competitor, I don’t like people doing that, like trying to take my spot,” said Gable, who started five games last season. “Why would I just want to sit there like, ‘Oh yeah, come on, do good.’

“To me, I don’t want nobody to do good because I don’t want nobody to take the glory from me. So I want to do what I have to do to get back on the field.”

Gable started last season against Arkansas, becoming the first true freshman tailback in USC history to start an opener. He also started the last four games, including the Rose Bowl.

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Gable, however, was limited in the off-season and during most of training camp because of the abdominal injury.

In the meantime, sophomore Emmanuel Moody transferred, senior Chauncey Washington suffered a shoulder sprain, and sophomores Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford started climbing the depth chart.

Freshman Broderick Green also made a big impression and is on track to play in Saturday’s opener against Idaho.

Running backs coach Todd McNair said a tailback rotation had not yet been determined. Gable’s experience, however, could give him an edge.

“We have a guy who’s done it in front of 92,000 under pressure,” McNair said of Gable. “That says a lot for a guy who’s been on the field when we’re in a two-minute drill trying to win the game.”

USC has today off, allowing Gable to rest as he prepares for Monday’s practice and the start of game-week preparation.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” he said. “I’m ready to go and can’t wait for the first game.”

Josh Pinkard, who started last season’s opener at safety, will be in a rotation with cornerbacks Cary Harris, Terrell Thomas and Shareece Wright, Coach Pete Carroll said.

“He seems to be more dominant on our practice field at corner,” Carroll said. “He has more of a presence when he’s there.”

Pinkard, back from a season-ending knee injury suffered in the 2006 opener, also will rotate at safety with Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison.

A letter from USC President Steven Sample and Athletic Director Mike Garrett was e-mailed to boosters last week asking them to support the university in its compliance efforts.

“By assisting USC in rules compliance, you are helping preserve the integrity of Trojan Athletics, and protecting the athletic eligibility of our student-athletes. Indeed, if a well-meaning but misguided fan or booster commits a violation, USC will be held responsible, and the consequences can include bans on post-season competition and TV coverage,” the letter read.

The letter included a link to a rules guide titled, “Playing By the Rules. A Guide to NCAA Rules for Every Alumnus and Friend of USC Athletics.”

Washington did not practice but removed the sling from his sprained right shoulder. Harris was limited because of ankle swelling, Carroll said. . . . Offensive tackle Charles Brown sat out again because of a back problem. Receiver Patrick Turner was limited because of back spasms, according to Carroll.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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SEASON OPENER

* Saturday vs. Idaho

the Coliseum, 7:15, FSN West


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