Mitch Mustain and Damian Williams were apart for two years, split up to attend different middle schools. Other than that, they have played together since fifth grade.
"You can just tell," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Mitch counts on Damian at times.
"They do have a sense for one another."
Williams returned from a pair of shoulder surgeries last month to join Mustain on the service team, helping his teammate of many years imitate each upcoming opponent's offense. Neither Williams nor Mustain can play this season because of transfer rules, as the Springdale High pair left Arkansas after their freshman seasons in 2006.
Returning midseason with fresh legs, Williams provided a boost to a service team that had drawn wide praise for the work of Mustain and true freshman wideout Brandon Carswell.
"A lot of people have hyped it up - Mitch this, and Mitch that," Williams said. "For me, that's an expectation. I've seen Mitch do great things for years."
With USC off until Thanksgiving, many regulars have taken it easy this week, allowing service teamers to work with the regular offense. Carroll singled out Williams and Carswell for praise. Mustain admitted to struggling at times.
Still, "It's been a lot of fun," the quarterback said. "It's kind of nice to go into the team meetings before practice and know you're gong to do the stuff that we're talking about."
Mustain said his arm has grown stronger with all the reps this season, adding that Williams is in the best shape he has seen.
Football-wise, "(Williams) is just now getting into it," Mustain said. "He's still got a long way to go and a lot to show. He's been doing great. I can't to wait to see him in the spring."
Williams worked for a couple of days during 2006 spring practice, before undergoing his first operation.
"It's kind of a long haul, when you have surgery in June," Williams said. "But it's finally here. I'm just blessed to be out here.
"I feel like I haven't missed a beat, but I also know that I have."
The Springdale pair has one more day with the offense, before Mustain becomes Rudy Carpenter, to help USC's defense prepare for Arizona State.
"It's been a nice opportunity before we get into the bowl practice," Mustain said. "We'll get reps there and into the real deal in the spring."
Sights and sounds from Wednesday's practice
Coaches will be recruiting in earnest this weekend.
"We've got a bunch of (high school) games Thursday, Friday and Saturday," Carroll said. "Playoffs are starting and are under way, so we've got some real good games to go to."
Offensive line coach Pat Ruel said that backup lineman Thomas Herring's fractured patella tendon is expected to sideline him until next season.
Several starters have sat out this week, to help them heal up for Arizona State. However, of all those players, Carroll said linebacker Keith Rivers probably is the only one who would sit out if the Trojans had a game Saturday.
Defensive end Kyle Moore has a bruised ulnar nerve in his right forearm. The injury causes discomfort in his right hand, which has been protected by a brace. Carroll said that Moore can clasp the hand but has some trouble opening it.
Moore played with the injury at California last weekend and will undergo tests Monday.
Freshman offensive lineman Martin Coleman, who is redshirting, has become an active practice participant for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery.
"His weight's down," Carroll said. "He looks solid, and he's much stronger than he was when he came in."
Coleman might have to take it easier Thursday, when the Trojans practice in pads for the first time this week.
Quarterback Aaron Corp is another service-team player working with the regular offense this week.
"He is much stronger than he was when he got here, throwing the ball more firmly," Carroll said.
Asked what how redshirting freshman Marc Tyler projects, Carroll said: "He looks like a classic tailback, more in the mold of Chauncey (Washington). He can do all of the stuff. I think he's going to be a good blocker; he can catch the football fine. I don't think he's going to be the kind of guy we're going to split out a lot."
Field-goal report: 2-for-4
David Buehler connected from 20 and 37 (left hash). He missed from 37 (right hash), off the left post, and 57.
Next up on "Ask a Trojan," junior linebacker Rey Maualuga will be answering your questions. If there is anything you would like to ask Rey - about playing in the middle, the NFL draft, his favorite tattoo, etc. - send your question to [email protected].