Mark Sanchez's left knee appears sound. So does his right arm.
But after his first full practice in 17 days, it was evident Monday that Sanchez's conditioning could be a factor when the Trojans play their opener at Virginia on Saturday.
"He's not way out of shape, but he's not in his best shape and so we have to just be careful with him," Coach Pete Carroll said. "I would tend more to underwork him than overwork him."
Sanchez reached another rehabilitation milestone, practicing in cleats for the first time since dislocating his left kneecap Aug. 8.
An examination by a team physician after tonight's practice is expected to be the final checkpoint for Sanchez on his way to the starting lineup against the Cavaliers.
"I can't see any reason why he wouldn't play," Carroll said.
However, he said it might take three to four weeks for Sanchez to "feel great again," in terms of conditioning.
Sanchez looked comfortable directing the offense as the Trojans began game-week preparations for Virginia.
"We've really narrowed down what we want to get accomplished in this game plan and that helps from a quarterback's standpoint," he said. "Less to study and less to remember."
Ready to go
Josh Pinkard missed nearly all of the last two seasons because of knee injuries, but he could start the opener for the second time in three years if Shareece Wright's condition does not improve.
Wright sat out most of practice again because of what he described as lingering abdominal pain. The condition had nearly prevented him from walking Sunday.
Asked if he would play against Virginia, Wright said, "It's up in the air -- it's up to how much they let me go. If I don't practice, I'm not going to play."
Pinkard is content to let the situation play out.
"You've got to be patient," he said. "That's what I've learned from the things I've been through. When you're patient, everything falls into place. When you try to rush things, that's when it falls apart."
Back to school
Freshmen who concentrated solely on surviving training camp and preparing for Virginia the last three weeks got a dose of reality as fall semester classes began.
Most of the first-year players took summer session classes to help with the transition, but the demands of blending school and football still can be overwhelming at times for newcomers.
"Obviously, the first couple weeks I'm going to be dead tired," freshman defensive end Wes Horton said.
Safety Drew McAllister said he was looking forward to the challenge.
"Sometimes I have school after practice too, so it's definitely going to be a big-time management thing to stay ahead," he said. "But you can't get caught behind."
Linebacker Brian Cushing wore a cast on his sprained left wrist but said he was fine and that he would remove the cast and replace it with a brace against Virginia. . . . Tailback C.J. Gable (hip) remained on track to play in the opener, breaking off perhaps the most impressive run of the day. . . . Linebacker Luthur Brown (back) practiced, providing the Trojans with hope of some depth at linebacker.