Rivers tries to be ready for Rose Bowl

Times Staff Writer

Looking for a change of scenery as it prepares for its fourth Rose Bowl appearance in five seasons, USC moved practices this week from campus to the Home Depot Center in Carson.

On Thursday, it did not take long for the Trojans to see something somewhat out of the ordinary: Senior linebacker Keith Rivers worked with the first-unit defense during an early portion of practice.

Rivers has been slowed by a left ankle sprain and bone bruise suffered Nov. 10 against California. The injuries kept him out of the Arizona State game, limited him against UCLA and have kept him sidelined since bowl practices began.


But Rivers, the Trojans’ second-leading tackler, intends to play on New Year’s Day against Illinois.

“I’m going to keep taking baby steps,” Rivers said. “Hopefully, I can get some significant reps in the next couple days and hopefully plunge into it full-go next week.”

Coach Pete Carroll was encouraged by Rivers’ work but is preparing for junior Kaluka Maiava to play in his spot. Maiava started against Arizona State and made 10 tackles.

“We don’t know if he’s going to make it back,” Carroll said of Rivers. “I’m counting on it, but I don’t know until he does it.

“He’s been through this and he feels pretty confident that it’s going to come back around.”


USC practiced on two auxiliary fields at the Home Depot Center, one natural grass, the other artificial turf. It practices there again today and Saturday.


“The cool thing is you have to find your focus no matter what’s going on around you,” Carroll said.

After practice, USC players took a bus to a Santa Monica beachfront hotel, where the Trojans will stay for a few nights.

Carroll said Santa Monica police would brief players and coaches and that the Trojans would have a curfew.

“We know it’s a focal point down there, that people know we’re around, and our guys have to be careful with the surroundings,” he said.


Tailback Marc Tyler is making strides but does not yet appear to be fully recovered from a broken leg suffered in 2006 while playing for Westlake Oaks Christian High.

Tyler, who is redshirting, has made several dynamic runs during bowl game workouts and is expected to compete for playing time next season. However, he has been unable to practice at full speed over extended workouts.

“When he works real hard and gets a couple days under his belt, he feels it and he needs to rest a little bit, so he’s not 100% yet,” Carroll said.


Tailback Chauncey Washington (hip) did not practice and said he had postponed an MRI exam. The senior said he would play in the Rose Bowl. . . . Receiver Patrick Turner (leg bruise) and offensive lineman Chilo Rachal (knee) sat out. . . . Running back Desmond Reed was absent to finish a school assignment, Carroll said. . . . Lynn Cain, who played fullback at USC in 1977-78, has been hired as the coach at East Los Angeles College. Cain, 52, helped lead East L.A. College to the 1974 state title.