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Chris Galippo trying to win back his place in the middle

USC won’t overhaul its embattled defense for Saturday night’s game against Arizona State, but the tweaking continued Wednesday.

Chris Galippo, supplanted by Devon Kennard at middle linebacker at the start of the season, worked with the first unit through most of practice and could reclaim the spot.

Galippo, a junior, started the last two games at weakside linebacker in place of the injured Malcolm Smith. But with Smith on track to return against the Sun Devils, Galippo is challenging to earn back the spot where he started every game in 2009.

“The coaches basically said the best guy is going to play,” Galippo said.

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Kennard moved from defensive end to outside linebacker late last season and began transitioning to the middle during spring practice. Coach Lane Kiffin said the sophomore has had “some ups and downs” and has played through injuries the last two weeks.

“It’s kind of been a work in progress,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin indicated that the competition for the position would have been reopened several weeks ago if not for Smith’s knee injury, which forced Galippo to move to the weak side.

Galippo, who also starts on all four special teams units, said he was ready to fill any role.

“I’ve just tried to keep myself disciplined this year, to just stay in the moment and embrace it,” he said, “because you don’t know how many you’re going to get.”

The possible change at middle linebacker could come with a switch at one of the safety spots, where junior Marshall Jones is challenging sophomore Jawanza Starling.

Safety precaution

In the aftermath of a fatal accident at Notre Dame, where a student filming practice was killed when a portable scissor-lift fell in extremely windy conditions, USC has suspended the use of one of three lifts.

Athletic Director Pat Haden said the portable lift, located on a campus street just outside the gate of the practice facility, would not be used pending a review of all safety processes and procedures campus-wide.

“It could be hit by a car or a bus or a truck, so until we can better secure it or move it we will not be using it,” Haden said.

The videographer is now stationed on the west side of the facility, atop the roof of the baseball offices at Dedeaux Field. USC continues to utilize similar lifts behind the end zones.

Quick hits

Starting cornerback Nickell Robey did not dress for practice because of a dental issue.… Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson, who has also coached in the Pacific 10 Conference at Washington State and Oregon State, is 1-7 against the Trojans. Erickson guided Oregon State to a 31-21 victory in 2000, ending the Beavers’ 26-game losing streak to USC.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein


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