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USC Likely Down Several Starters Versus Oregon

The Trojans are still without a few of their top players on both sides of the ball as they prepare for Oregon.

LOS ANGELES -- USC was down multiple starters versus Washington and lost multiple starters while playing Notre Dame. The scenario will be similar Saturday versus Oregon, which might be the best team the Trojans face this season.

Defensive end Drake Jackson and linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, both of whom are recovering from high-ankle sprains, shed their walking boots but were limited to side work Tuesday. So were safety Talanoa Hufanga (shoulder) and tailback Stephen Carr (hamstring). Their participation in on-field rehab denotes progress, but none are expected to return this week.

Coach Clay Helton said they all technically remain "day to day."

The timetable is clearly longer for tailbacks Vavae Malepeai (knee) and Markese Stepp (ankle). Malepeai was merely watching practice, while Stepp was sporting a big brace and walking gingerly. Don't be surprised if both are out until a bowl game. 

That means another week with true freshman Kenan Christon carrying the load at running back.

Two positive developments heading into Saturday: Cornerback Chris Steele (knee) and defensive end Christian Rector (ankle) returned to practice. Barring any setbacks, both are expected to play versus Oregon. 

They also could make a notable difference in this game. USC's pass rush was markedly different without Jackson last week, so a healthy Rector would help that cause as USC leans on a three-man front more the rest of the season. Moreover, Justin Herbert is the best passer the Trojans will see, and Steele has been great in coverage this year. 

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You wonder if USC will consider using Steele, Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart at the same time this week. It would be as good a time as any.

Linebacker Jordan Iosefa, who'd begun practicing recently, was sidelined Tuesday. Helton said he isn't confident in his knee and still isn't medically cleared. He's returned to rehabbing.

Linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain (shoulder) was a limited participant.

Wide receiver Munir McClain had ACL surgery Tuesday morning. The timing of his injury (and procedure) makes it unclear whether he'll be cleared before next season.

Defensive lineman Jacob Lichtenstein, who's been sidelined all year, will undergo calf surgery and miss the rest of the season.

Freshman wide receiver Kyle Ford made his college debut on special teams against Colorado and the plan remains to use hm for four games and preserve his redshirt.

Helton confirmed Tuesday what's been apparent for months: Freshman wide receiver Bru McCoy will not play this season. Helton said he's been involved in team strength and conditioning and will be ready to practice in spring.

-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.