USC's safety, left guard jobs are up for grabs

After poor performances by the secondary and the offensive line against Oregon, two starting jobs are up for grabs at USC.

Marshall Jones is challenging Jawanza Starling at safety and Michael Reardon is being given a shot to displace left guard Butch Lewis as the Trojans prepare for Saturday night's Pacific 10 Conference game against Arizona State at the Coliseum.

Jones, a junior, took first-team reps Tuesday in place of T.J. McDonald, but only because the Trojans' interceptions leader was limited because of a hamstring strain. Coach Lane Kiffin made it clear that Jones was competing for Starling's position.

"I can interchange because I know both spots pretty well," said Jones, who intercepted a pass in seven-on-seven drills. "The coaches said to just keep working."

During a teleconference Tuesday morning, Kiffin told reporters that the Trojans' rushing attack was "very overrated" and that the offensive line's performance against Oregon was as bad as he had seen in his seven combined seasons at USC.

"We pull some film from earlier in the year and we don't even look the same," Kiffin said after practice, singling out the unit's lack of effort to cut block against the Ducks.

Left tackle Matt Kalil had no problem with the assessment.

"If all five of us aren't clicking it really screws things up," Kalil said. "He was right."

Lewis, a fifth-year senior, appears to be the fall guy.

"The production we're getting there is completely unacceptable," Kiffin said.

Lewis worked with the second unit at left guard and also worked some with the starters at right tackle because Tyron Smith was limited.

"Coach wants to put a little fire under [us] as a group and individually," Lewis said.

Barkley looks to bounce back

Quarterback Matt Barkley had his worst game of the 2009 season against Arizona State, completing seven of 12 passes for 112 yards with three interceptions.

But Barkley said he wouldn't be thinking about that game as he got ready for the Sun Devils.

Instead, Barkley hopes to get back on track after missing on several throws and having two passes intercepted against Oregon.

Barkley also was charged with a lost fumble after a second-quarter snap hit him in the chest.

Barkley called the fumble "a miscommunication" as the Trojans were attempting to draw Oregon offside. In the shotgun formation, he stamped his foot once, and then again before looking to Kiffin, who had whistled from the sideline to relay a play.

"If they were to jump, [center] Kristofer [O'Dowd] would hike it so they were offside and we'd get a free play," Barkley said. "No one jumped, so I looked to the sideline and … I saw the ball flying up."

"It was unfortunate timing because we were moving the ball and that was a crucial point in the game."

Quick hits

Linebacker Malcolm Smith practiced and appears on track to play against Arizona State…. USC and the L.A. Sports Council are accepting contributions for the annual "Touchdown for Youth" program that will enable economically disadvantaged children to attend Saturday's game. Each $30 tax-deductible contribution from an individual or corporation goes toward a ticket and game refreshments. Information: (213) 482-6333.

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