LOS ANGELES — USC coach Clay Helton keeps the same meeting each morning.
Helton gathers with head trainer Russ Romano.
It was an addition to the front of his daily schedule for this season. He reasoned it would be necessary. The Trojans are going through the regular season without a bye for the first time since 1995. Helton knew he needed to be all the more mindful of injuries and the wear and tear on players.
Romano presents a report on each injured player.
“It means a little bit of extra meetings,” Helton said, “but in this arena that we’re in right now, going 12 games straight, you have to have a great feel for where each individual is.”
The list from Romano has grown lately.
As USC prepares to face Washington State on Friday, it has been without leading receiver Deontay Burnett in practice as he recovers from a shoulder injury, as well as other targets, including Steven Mitchell, who was out against Cal because of a groin injury, and Velus Jones with a leg injury. Jones wore a brace on his right knee while watching practice Tuesday.
“We’re a banged-up football team right now,” Helton said.
The Trojans have also not practiced in full pads this week due to a shortened six-day turnaround between games.
Through four weeks of the season, Burnett has caught 33 passes for 462 yards and five touchdowns. More than one-third of quarterback Sam Darnold’s completions have been to Burnett.
Mitchell, USC’s next leading receiver, has 14 receptions in three games.
Helton said he expected Burnett to return to practice on Thursday, intimating he was being held out as a precaution, and line up against Washington State.
“I think Deontay’s going to be able to go,” Helton said. “We’re being pretty cautious with him.”
While Mitchell, outside linebacker Porter Gustin and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe were among the starters missing at Cal and remain sidelined this week, running back Ronald Jones has practiced and “felt a little better” on Tuesday.
A day earlier, the Trojans’ junior said he expected to play against the Cougars.
For the second straight season, USC will play a Pac-12 road game on a Friday night.
Last season, the Trojans traveled to Utah for the final weekend of September, six days after facing Stanford in Palo Alto.
It continues this season with back-to-back road games, heading to Washington State six days after facing Cal in Berkeley.
Asked if he thought a weeknight game should only fall on the…