Byers to start ahead of O’Dowd
By the time USC center Kristofer O’Dowd arrived at training camp in August, he already had been selected to several preseason All-American teams.
But the junior suffered a knee injury in the Trojans’ second scrimmage and has struggled to regain his form while starting the last five games.
So when the Trojans resume their Pacific 10 Conference schedule on Saturday against Oregon State, O’Dowd will be on the bench.
“I haven’t played up to my capability or my standards as well as my coaches’ standards,” O’Dowd said Thursday.
Jeff Byers will move from left guard to start in O’Dowd’s spot against the Beavers. Butch Lewis will start at left guard.
“We’ll try that combination and see how it goes,” Coach Pete Carroll said.
The season has not gone as planned for the 6-foot-5, 300-pound O’Dowd, who had off-season shoulder surgery that caused him to miss spring practice and then suffered a dislocated kneecap for the second time in three seasons.
O’Dowd sat out the opener against San Jose State but returned to play against Ohio State.
“I tried to fight back and got back as quickly as I could, but it still wasn’t necessarily 100%,” he said. “I was hoping that by going out there and working on it, I would build it up to where it would get back to normal, but it just hasn’t been the case.”
Byers, who came to USC as a center in 2004, took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense during practice this week. He will start for the second time this season at center.
“I just do what the team needs me to,” he said.
Lewis is looking forward to his second start at left guard.
“It’s a great opportunity to be back out there,” he said. “I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m ready to go.”
In the meantime, O’Dowd plans to take advantage of whatever playing time he gets, the specter of another surgery probably awaiting at the end of the season.
He is not concerned about postseason recognition.
“I’m focusing on getting myself better,” he said. “Even if I don’t get merits, I’ll be helping myself to have a better end of this year and a great senior year.”
Receiver Ronald Johnson struggled to regain game speed against Notre Dame and acknowledged continued soreness early this week.
The junior, however, will start against Oregon State, Carroll said.
Johnson, who suffered a broken collarbone before the season, had one reception against Notre Dame.
Johnson replaces David Ausberry in the starting lineup. Ausberry, who has 10 receptions, has been slowed this week by a calf strain.
Redshirt freshman Brice Butler is expected to be the No. 3 receiver.
Sophomore D.J. Shoemate is expected to start at fullback in place of Stanley Havili (shoulder), who has not practiced this week. . . . Carroll said that junior nose guard Christian Tupou (knee) would probably play as a reserve as he did against Notre Dame. Armond Armstead is expected to start. . . . Tailback Stafon Johnson’s mother, Kim Mallory, attended practice and said her son is continuing to progress in his recovery from throat surgery.