A few weeks ago, USC head coach Pete Carroll and senior wide receiver Patrick Turner had a talk about Turner's mindset.
Carroll wanted Turner to play more like a man playing with boys. He compared it to being an eighth-grader playing with fifth-graders or a senior in high school playing with freshman and sophomores.
He wanted the man with the man-sized beard to act like he'd been around the program for four years.
"'You have the right to feel like that now,'" Carroll told Turner. "'You're ahead of all these guys. You're the old guy on the block - recognize it, utilize it and think of it in that manner.'"
Turner's done just that in the practices since the Trojans' win over Ohio State, making plenty of big plays. It didn't stop as USC returned to Howard Jones Field Sunday, as Turner looked dominant on deep passes, short routes and anywhere else on the field.
"He's got great confidence now. It almost happened so fast," Carroll said. "Last year, he wasn't as confident as we would've liked to have had him. He's really ahead of the game. He knows what's going on and he makes all the adjustment.
"He knows the system so well - every bit of it."
Just as time in the system benefited Mark Sanchez, it's also helped Turner become a bigger factor in the Trojans' passing game.
Through three years, Turner had caught 89 passes for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. Good numbers, but not equal to Turner's enormous upside.
Sanchez said Turner's numbers would've been better if he'd not been hidden on the depth chart early in his career. Also, the emergence of Fred Davis certainly limited the balls thrown Turner's way, Sanchez said.
Now, though, none of those things are in the way.
"This year, there's no stopping him. He's a big-time threat, and defenses have to game plan for him. He can go up and get the ball, and he's unselfish," Sanchez said. "He knows that this is his last year and his last chance to make something happen, and he's excited about it.
"He's not holding back."
Back to work
After having Friday and Saturday off, USC's top-ranked football team returned to the field and showed no visible signs of rust.
"Having this opportunity to come out here Sunday was kind of cool," Carroll said. "It just seemed like we had really good focus today. The guys were well rested after a few days, and we practiced beautifully."
A host of players returned to practice, including Stanley Havili, Damian Williams, Shareece Wright and Kyle Moore.
Moore recently underwent an MRI on his back due to spasms. Wright, who missed last week with a neck injury, returned to practice but didn't participate in any hitting.
Carroll said Wright would play Thursday if he's physically able to.
Early in practice periods, two vastly different players battle along the Trojan sidelines. T.J. Bryant and Jordan Cameron are on opposite ends of the physical spectrum, yet the two have been working against each other almost every day.
"We talk mess to each other every day in the locker room just to keep the competition up every day in practice," Bryant said. "We don't want to get lulled to sleep. We want to be energetic for practice."
Secondary coach Rocky Seto said Trojan coaches didn't orchestrate the match up, but he likes to see Bryant step up to the challenge.
"I like the competition he gets to face. It kind of worked out," Seto said. "We have a lot of big receivers, and by facing them he gets better. He does need to get stronger."
Bryant said working against USC's diverse receiving crop has helped him adjust to the higher level of play.
"It's really important because that's the way they're going to be at this level. It gives me a variety of guys to work against," he said. "We have the 6-foot-5 guys and the 5-foot-9 speedy guys. I get to go against all those people, and in the games, it won't be a problem."
And like in all good competition, both players take turns getting the better of the other.
• Linebacker Chris Galippo has been cleared to participate in full-contact drills in practice, and he's awaiting clearance for Thursday's game at Oregon State.
Galippo could be used as a back up or on special teams, Carroll said.
"If he's made available to us, we'll use him," Carroll said.
• Sanchez said he spent lots of time this weekend watching football, including Georgia's win over Arizona State. The time off gave Sanchez a chance to hear what national experts have been saying about the Trojans.
"A lot of people are telling us that we're the best in the land," Sanchez said. "We can't listen; we can't succumb to that kind of complacency. We're not that good yet; that's how we have to feel."
• The competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot took a different turn Sunday, as Garrett Green handled snaps with the offense, while Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain swapped time leading the service team.
"We're giving Garrett a good look," Carroll said. "He's had good weeks. We're going to keep the competition wide open.
"Garrett's not out of it. He's done a nice job when he's had his chances."
While swapping service team quarterbacks could cause some problems with the service team's effectiveness in some weeks, Oregon State's offensive style is not too different from the Trojans', allowing for the arrangement.
•Carroll said the Trojans are looking for more ways to get freshman D.J. Shoemate involved on offense.
• Tuesday, the team will practice on field turf on Cromwell Field. It'll be the first time the Trojans have practiced there this fall.
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