NCAA sanctions hit home as depth issue reaches critical stage
It was fitting that on Tuesday, the same day the NCAA announced comparatively mild sanctions against Miami, the full breadth of penalties imposed on USC revealed itself on the practice field.
The Trojans continued preparations for Saturday’s game against Utah with no scholarship tight ends, only two hobbled scholarship receivers, nearly no reserve offensive linemen and a defense also becoming increasingly depleted by injuries.
Starting linebacker Lamar Dawson suffered an apparent knee injury during the workout and needed assistance to leave the facility. And paramedics arrived to transport walk-on running back Taylor Ross to the hospital because of a leg injury.
Quarterback Cody Kessler, still limping slightly because of a shin gash suffered against Notre Dame last Saturday, gathered walk-on receivers at the end of practice for extra work.
“I told them we’re going to do this every day,” Kessler said, “because they’re going to have to play.”
In 2010, the NCAA hit USC with sanctions that included the loss of 30 scholarships over three years and limited the roster to no more than 75 scholarship players, 10 fewer than the maximum. Miami, like USC, was cited for lack of institutional control but lost only nine scholarships over three years.
Kessler said interim Coach Ed Orgeron told players not to address questions about the topic.
“They gave us what they gave us, and they gave them what they gave them,” said injured All-American receiver Marqise Lee. “We’ve just got to agree with it and keep moving forward.”
According to the participation chart from the 14-10 loss at Notre Dame, USC played 48 scholarship players against the Fighting Irish. Tight ends Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick all suffered injuries that will probably sideline them against Utah.
Tailback Justin Davis will not play Saturday because of an ankle injury. Lee aggravated a knee injury against Notre Dame and receiver Nelson Agholor also sustained an undisclosed injury that has prevented him from practicing.
Freshman Darreus Rogers and sophomore Victor Blackwell are the only scholarship receivers practicing — and both are gutting it out despite ankle injuries.
Lee watched the end of the workout after undergoing therapy in the McKay Center.
“Team-wise, we don’t have many numbers anyway,” Lee said. “And to have so many injuries . . . it’s just rough when you’re trying to get your team going when you’ve got setbacks in every position.”
Trying to get back
Lee sat out the second half against Notre Dame and has not practiced this week. He said he would continue to rehabilitate his injured left knee with hopes of playing Saturday.
Lee caught two passes for 18 yards in the first half Saturday. He also dropped a pass in the end zone.
“Perfect pass, perfect D,” he said. “Lost concentration, that’s really about it. . Looked it in, thought I had it sealed and took my eyes off it. And as I took my eyes off it, it rolled right down my leg.”
Offensive lineman Jordan Simmons will undergo season-ending surgery for a knee injury suffered Monday, Orgeron said. Coaches had offensive and defensive linemen compete as receivers and defensive backs in a one-on-one pass-coverage drill. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Simmons leaped for a ball and landed hard on the turf. Orgeron described it as “an unfortunate accident” and said it was “kind of a freak deal.” . . . Competition between Andre Heidari and walk-ons Alex Wood and Craig McMahon to handle field goals against Utah will be determined by Friday, Orgeron said.
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