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."
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."