Southern California head coach Clay Helton looks on in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Time was not on Southern California’s side last week as positive tests for COVID-19 and contact tracing led to the cancellation of its game against Colorado.

An extra day this week might be just enough for the Trojans to return to competition.

No. 17 USC (3-0) resumed conditioning workouts Tuesday as coach Clay Helton expressed cautious optimism they will be able to play Washington State (1-1) on Sunday.

“By moving the game from Friday to Sunday, it allows us to garner the adequate number of players that we need at a certain position to be able to play this game,” Helton said.

Four players tested positive last week and another seven are in quarantine because of contact tracing. Those absences put USC under the minimum number of scholarship players established by the Pac-12, leading to its first cancellation of the abbreviated season.

All available players tested negative Tuesday, which allowed USC to resume team activities. Another round of negative tests Wednesday will lead to a return to practice in full pads, Helton said.

As long as there are no further positive tests Helton expects to have enough players available to host the Cougars, who have not played since Nov. 14 because of their own issues with player availability caused by the coronavirus.

Helton does not know how many of those 11 players will be cleared to return but “it’s an adequate enough number to be able to play ball,” he said.

Helton said practices will have to be adjusted to make up for the team’s limited numbers. There aren’t enough players to be on the scout team, so he expects the starting offense and defense to work together to simulate what Washington State does. There will be more walkthrough periods despite the need for live reps, as seven of the previous nine days featured no physical work.

Players in quarantine will be going through custom workouts on their own to stay in shape and be ready to go as soon as they are cleared.

Helton expects inexperienced players will have to be ready to contribute.

“Our anticipation is we won’t get some of the veteran players back until later this week so they’re going to get the reps, and based on how they’re handling things and where we’re at at the end of the week, you can anticipate a young kid or two having to be in there,” Helton said.

NOTES: LB Ralen Goforth will go through change of direction drills to test his sprained foot. … LB Palaie Gaoteote remains in concussion protocol.


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