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USC linebacker Cameron Smith has been cautious with his injury and is now ready to return to the field

USC linebacker Cameron Smith has been cautious with his injury and is now ready to return to the field
USC middle linebacker Cameron Smith, trying for an interception against Nevada Las Vegas in September, is expected to play at Oregon State on Saturday after sitting out three games because of a hamstring strain. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Senior middle linebacker Cameron Smith said Wednesday he could have played in USC’s loss to Arizona State on Saturday but wanted to be certain he was ready to return from the mild hamstring strain that has kept him out of the Trojans' last three games.

"I wanted a week of football movements," Smith said. "I think it was the right move, and I feel really good right now."

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Smith is taking plenty of precaution while preparing for his final games with the Trojans. He has been running extra in practice to make sure his conditioning is up to standard for Oregon State on Saturday.

Smith is expected to reclaim the starting spot from freshman Palaie Gaoteote.

Gaoteote "stepped up and played huge," Smith said. "But I've played in the defense for three years. It was good for him to get some reps. I think overall we were just getting out of our assignments. I think we resorted back to some of our old ways."

Coach Clay Helton was relieved to see Smith back at practice.

"He's the quarterback," Helton said, "and anytime that you have that quarterback of that defense leave you a couple weeks, it's different. [Gaoteote] is going to grow into the position. I think he's gonna be absolutely phenomenal. But obviously, it's a security blanket when you have a guy that has that many reps over four years."

JT Daniels looks ready

Helton said freshman quarterback JT Daniels is progressing well after sitting out last week's game while in concussion protocol.

"The arm is fresh for one," Helton said. "The week off has allowed him to get a bit fresher body-wise and arm-wise. He's brought a very serious mentality this week, very business-like."

Etc.

Helton said that graduate assistant Mike Goff, who played 12 years in the NFL as an offensive guard and was an All-Pro in 2005 with the Chargers, is working as the 10th assistant coach in the interim with the departure of offensive line coach Neil Callaway. Goff and running backs coach Tim Drevno are coaching the offensive line, Helton said. ... Helton said starting linebackers Jordan Iosefa (shoulder) and John Houston (ankle) are being limited this week but should play at Oregon State.

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