Breslin’s potential return could strengthen defense
USC recorded seven sacks in its season-opening victory over Hawaii, the most in major college football in the first week of the season.
And the Trojans did it without Morgan Breslin.
Breslin was USC’s most statistically dominant defensive player in 2012, recording a team-best 13 sacks as an end.
The senior sat out against Hawaii because of an apparent foot or ankle injury, but he could play Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener against Washington State at the Coliseum.
Unlike during the week before the opener, Breslin has not left practices for rehabilitation. Earlier this week, he was the last defensive player off the field.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Breslin is now a hybrid linebacker in defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s “52" scheme.
Redshirt freshman Jabari Ruffin started in Breslin’s place against Hawaii and made three tackles. But with the Trojans facing a Washington State team that passed 65 times last week against Auburn, Breslin’s pass-rushing experience would be a welcome addition.
“Whenever he gets back,” Coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday, “I’m sure he’ll fit in well.”
End Leonard Williams and tackle George Uko each had two sacks in the opener.
“I don’t want to downplay a team, but it was Hawaii,” Williams said. “I definitely expect a lot more from us this week. A lot of passes are going to be thrown. The D-line has to show we can get after it against a better offensive line.”
The Trojans practiced Thursday in turf or running shoes and did not wear helmets or shoulder pads.
Kiffin said players appeared tired after Wednesday’s workout, the result of a reduced roster and injuries that have “taken a toll on frontline guys because they’ve taken so many reps” since training camp.
“The last thing you want to do is run them into the ground, knowing that they’re going to play a lot of plays, especially our defense,” Kiffin said.
Washington State ran 88 plays in its 31-24 loss at Auburn. The Trojans ran 74 plays against Hawaii.
USC took over control of the Coliseum on Thursday. As part of its 98-year lease, the school is required to spend at least $70 million on stadium upgrades.
Mark Jackson, a senior associate athletic director and chief innovation officer for the athletic department, said it would be a gradual process, but fans attending Saturday’s game should see immediate improvements in stadium cleanliness and concessions service, including credit card processing.
“The bottom line is, we’re trying to improve the fan experience,” Jackson said.
Kiffin has not publicly announced a starting quarterback. But Cody Kessler, who is expected to be first up again on Saturday, was a featured guest on USC’s weekly “Trojans Live” radio show.