After a layoff, Booty re-energizes his game

Times Staff Writer

USC quarterback John David Booty returned Friday from what amounted to a two-week layoff as the Trojans resumed preparations for their Rose Bowl game against Illinois.

Last week, Booty was ordered to mostly watch when the Trojans went through the first of 14 scheduled bowl-game workouts. He missed the team’s second practice to attend a class field trip that included stops at an aquarium and a bone-chilling afternoon on the coast.

“I needed snow gear,” Booty said. “It was freezing out there.”


Despite a head cold, the senior looked mostly sharp Friday in the first of three consecutive days of practice that will culminate with a scrimmage Sunday.

Last season, Booty starred in the Rose Bowl, completing 27 of 45 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns in a 32-18 victory over Michigan.

“I feel I’m where I need to be for this time of the year, going into this game, just like I did last year,” he said. “You get a couple weeks after that last [regular-season] game. You’re not sore anymore when you get up in the morning.”

Booty noticed a spring in teammates’ steps as well.

“It’s guys getting healthy, that’s the big thing,” he said. “You see guys who have been fighting through things just to play. . . . Now they’re smiling and they’re enjoying themselves again because they’re healthy.”

Linebacker Brian Cushing, the defensive most valuable player of last season’s Rose Bowl, was held out of part of the workout because of shoulder soreness.

Cushing had shoulder surgery after the 2005 season and arthroscopic knee surgery after the 2006 season.

Cushing said doctors told him he would not require surgery for the ankle fracture and sprain that forced him to sit out five games this season.

“I don’t want to have another one,” he said. “I’m only 20 years old. I’m just happy I don’t have to.”

Coach Pete Carroll said players would be presented with the game plan for Illinois next week.

Illinois was 2-9 and 2-10 in Coach Ron Zook’s first two seasons. The Fighting Illini are 9-3 going into the Rose Bowl.

“Their recruiting has been obviously right on the mark,” Carroll said. “They’ve hit it with some guys because they have young guys that are playing and playing really well. They’ve pulled in some national recruits.”

Freshman receiver Arrelious Benn is among the players who USC also recruited. Benn has caught 49 passes and rushed for 158 yards in 32 carries.

Carroll traced Zook’s recruiting prowess to his three seasons as head coach at Florida, which fired him after the 2004 season.

“When he was at Florida, he was a really diligent guy about getting around and giving up the effort on the road and that all pays off,” Carroll said. “Ron has a lot of energy toward recruiting, and it’s shown up.”

Senior running back Chauncey Washington and receiver Vidal Hazelton were absent because of illness, Carroll said. . . . Linebacker Keith Rivers (ankle) did not practice but is expected to play in the Rose Bowl. . . . Transfer quarterback Mitch Mustain, who is redshirting and not eligible to participate in the Rose Bowl, will practice through Sunday. Under NCAA rules, transfers cannot practice thereafter because the school semester will have ended, Carroll said.