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USC FOOTBALL: Freshman Woods could start season opener

USC freshman wide receiver Robert Woods is poised to start the season opener against Hawaii despite only two weeks' worth of practices. Woods is getting more snaps with the first team and would start opposite senior Ronald Johnson.

"I feel comfortable with his knowledge," USC quarterback Matt Barkley said Friday. "(Woods) is more comfortable than ever."

Coach Lane Kiffin has not officially named a starter yet but complimented Woods for his ability to learn the playbook and compared him to former Trojans wide receivers Steve Smith and Keary Colbert.

"He very rarely makes a mistake," Kiffin said.

Woods' ascension also shows he's ahead of fellow freshmen Markeith Ambles and Kyle Prater and sophomore Brice Butler.

Freshmen ineligible

Three incoming freshmen - quarterback Jesse Scroggins, safety Demetrius Wright and fullback Soma Vainuku - were unable to practice because they're waiting to be academically cleared by the NCAA.

Vainuku, who was considered a long shot to qualify when he signed with the Trojans, will probably require extra classes or tests and need to try to enroll in January, according to Kiffin.

Scroggins and Wright could be cleared any day, Kiffin said. The players were forced to drop their fall classes, so if they're cleared, they'll be forced to re-enroll at USC.

Ellison promoted

Kiffin did make one emphatic statement Friday: He named Rhett Ellison the starting tight end.

"It's actually not even close (at tight end)," Kiffin said. "He's had a great camp."

The decision is surprising only because Kiffin raved about senior Jordan Cameron during spring practice and the start of training camp.

"Jordan's hit a little bit of a wall mentally with what we're doing," Kiffin said. "I hope he starts to play faster."

Robey ready

Freshman Nickell Robey is in the lead to start at cornerback, according to Kiffin, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and secondary coach Willie Mack Garza said Robey and freshman Torin Harris are rotating and no decision was made.

Lane Kiffin said Robey graded higher than senior cornerback Shareece Wright in practices. Who starts might not be too important against Hawaii, however, because Kiffin said he'll play a lot of nickel formations against the pass-happy Warriors.

Injury report

Starting tailback Allen Bradford (Colton High School) bruised his knee in practice but should be OK. Senior tailback C.J. Gable pulled a hamstring but said it wasn't serious. Fullback Stanley Havili suffered an upset stomach but was OK after practice. Wide receiver David Ausberry seems to have a recurrence of last year's stress fracture and is being held out. Kiffin said Ausberry wasn't held out long enough last year and is being cautious with his return.

Scrimmage today

USC holds its third scrimmage of training camp today at Howard Jones Field. Kiffin said he might only allow tackling in some parts of the scrimmage.

Read more at www.sbsun.com

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