Rain could become a factor
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Rain was falling Thursday night when USC’s team charter arrived here, a possible precursor to what the Trojans might have to deal with in their opener Saturday against Virginia.
The game-day forecast calls for a high of 82 degrees with scattered thunderstorms, the likelihood of precipitation increasing slightly as the day goes on.
How that might affect the Trojans, specifically quarterback Mark Sanchez’s passing accuracy and the stability of his left knee, will be measured today when the Trojans practice.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said upon arrival that the Trojans would probably mix in some wet-ball work regardless of the conditions.
But Coach Pete Carroll did not seem concerned about inclement weather.
“It’s going to rain on both sides of the field,” Carroll said before the Trojans departed Los Angeles. “It’s going to be wet for everybody.”
Later, after the players got settled at the team hotel, he said, “If it’s a factor, you just have to make sure you deal with it properly.”
Rain, however, isn’t the only potential atmospheric problem. The humidity could reach 90% compared with 51% during Thursday’s practice at USC.
The weather did not seem to concern players much.
“We’ve been beating up on ourselves the past month,” tailback Stafon Johnson said. “It’s time to take it somewhere else and beat up on someone else.”
The first weeks of training camp were not easy for an offensive line replacing four starters. There were injuries, missed assignments and sacks.
While Carroll insisted the line’s play has improved significantly over the last week, guard Jeff Byers said he won’t pass final judgment until after the Virginia game.
“We’ve made great strides since the beginning of camp, but . . . it’s test time on Saturday,” the senior said. “Can guys focus on every play? That’s everybody, including myself.”
Virginia has faced a similar predicament with inexperienced tackles on each side of a new interior line.
And, like Byers, Coach Al Groh believes there is only so much that can discerned from watching practice.
“I would say probably they’re about as far as they could come under these circumstances -- that is working against the same players and the same defenses,” Groh said of his new starters. “Now they need those other schemes and other players to continue to progress.”
With buses waiting to take players to the airport, Thursday’s practice ran short of two hours.
But if the players thought they were getting a break, the second-unit offense quickly discovered otherwise.
When quarterback Aaron Corp, the newly anointed No. 2, fumbled a snap in red zone drills, Sarkisian ordered him and his teammates off the field.
“Give me the ones,” he shouted.
After cornerback Shareece Wright (abdomen) had another strong practice, Carroll said he would start against Virginia. . . . USC brought 80 players on the trip, 16 more than are allowed for Pac-10 games. . . . Receiver Ronald Johnson woke up Thursday with a sore throat and dizziness but practiced. “I’m just going to take a nap on the plane and I’ll be all right,” he said.
Wharton reported from Los Angeles, Klein from Charlottesville, Va.