USC won't be playing with anything near a full deck of cards versus not only Colorado but Oregon and likely beyond. At least five of the six players who were injured in the win over Arizona will miss multiple weeks. So will a couple that already missed Saturday's game.
Coach Clay Helton confirmed the following Monday:
- Defensive end Drake Jackson has a high-ankle sprain and is not medically cleared. It's an injury that typically equates to a few weeks on the sideline.
- Safety Talanoa Hufanga suffered a dislocated right shoulder. Sources tell me he'll miss "a few weeks." Helton asserted his injury isn't related to the two breaks in his collarbone on that same side within the past 12 months. Hufanga had a steel plate inserted during his second surgery after not fully healing from the first one. But his latest injury will require some time to heal and regain strength.
- Running back Markese Stepp has a torn ligament in his left ankle that will require surgery. Rehab will last 3-5 weeks.
- Stephen Carr has a hamstring strain and isn't cleared. Helton said it's a Grade 2 strain and he's doubtful this weekend against the Buffaloes.
- Wide recover Munir McClain suffered a torn ACL and will obviously miss the rest of the season. It's not to the same knee in which he tore his ACL in high school.
- Linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain also has a dislocated shoulder and will be out multiple weeks.
Helton added that running back Vavae Malepeai, who was already out with a knee injury, will miss "multiple weeks." Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, who sat out Saturday with a high-ankle sprain, is also expected to be out multiple games. That leaves USC without at least five starters moving forward and a few key contributors.
"We believe in our kids," Helton said. "I've always believed, there's injuries that happen all through the country. As a coach, we're not paid to make excuses, we're paid to find answers. And we'll find those answers."
Some of those are clearer than others. True freshman running back Kenan Christon, who just made his debut this past weekend, will assume a much larger role in the coming weeks. He'll likely start, although running backs coach Mike Jinks intimated he's not going to put too much on his plate.
Former walk-on running back Quincy Jountti will also be in the mix. Senior Dominic Davis, who's switched positions multiple times, is back at running back and will be the No. 3 option. That happens to be where most of his game experience lies. Helton added USC has some wrinkles that he wouldn't disclose. Velus Jones, perhaps?
"I've never lost three backs in one week before in 25 years," Helton said.
Chase Williams steps into the starting lineup at safety in relief of Hufanga. The redshirt freshman has worked at outside corner and nickelback in the past, but safety is the position he's played his best ball while at USC. Junior C.J. Pollard is likely has experience there as well.
The Trojans figure to rely on a committee at defensive end. That might or might not involve senior Christian Rector (ankle), who is still not practicing. Helton said he could be available for limited snaps versus Colorado. Redshirt juniors Caleb Tremblay and Connor Murphy have been the primary reserves on the edge but have limited experience.
Abdul-Malik McClain was backing up Hunter Echols at strongside linebacker. Redshirt sophomore Juliano Falaniko has seen some action there and Eli'jah Winston has practiced at that spot in the past.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell paused when asked who would fill in for wide receiver Munir McClain, who's been reduced to cameos this season but is the primary backup to Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman. It's more than likely that Amon-Ra St. Brown would slide outside for stretches while Drake London, Jones and perhaps John Jackson claim more snaps inside.
Not all news was bad news Monday. Cornerback Olaijah Griffin (back) and nickel Greg Johnson (shoulder) returned to practice, and Helton said it's possible that they'll be available to play this week.
-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.