Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daily Trojan: Cal's Hughes Ready for Showdown

It's not Champ Bailey going one-on-one with Marvin Harrison, but it is close: the nation's premier pair of wide receivers against a certain first-team All-American corner for whom the term "lockdown" was created.  California defensive back Daymeion Hughes has all but locked up the Pacific-10 Conference defensive player of the year honors with eight interceptions and two returns for touchdowns, best in the nation. "He has covered everybody in the country so far," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He's going to be a terrific pro." "He has great instincts," USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "You can tell he must really study film, he knows what routes are coming. "I was watching the Tampa game, and he reminds me of Ronde Barber, makes a ton of plays and always around the ball." But he faces his most difficult test of the year against Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith Saturday, with a guaranteed Rose Bowl bid on the line.

"That's what college football is all about: the matchups," said Hughes, who attended Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. "I just look forward to playing. Whoever lines up in front of me, that's who I'm going to play my best technique against, like I do every down." Hughes is likely to face off against Jarrett, whom he limited to five receptions for 69 yards in last season's 35-10 USC win. That means the senior, Smith, who leads the team with 49 catches for 786 yards and seven touchdowns, will be pitted against redshirt freshman Syd'Quan Thompson. After struggling memorably in the Golden Bears' season opening loss at Tennessee, Thompson has improved dramatically, something Hughes credits to experience.  "That was my biggest asset coming into this season," said the 6-foot-2 senior. "A team isn't going to be able to show me something I haven't seen before in my four years. "When I make a lot of plays, (Syd'Quan is) right there on the field next to me. He's learning how to become a great player. If he continues to work at it, he will."

Sophomore linebacker Rey Maualuga did not practice Tuesday, the result of a sore knee he injured against Oregon. "We want to make sure he's OK," Carroll said. Redshirt junior running back Chauncey Washington, who has a sprained knee, and nose tackle Sedrick Ellis were also held out.

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