Touted RB Dillon Baxter no longer with Trojans

By Greg Beacham

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 25 2011 2:13 p.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — Tailback Dillon Baxter is no longer part of Southern California's football team, likely ending the Trojans career of an elite recruit after less than two seasons.

USC coach Lane Kiffin wouldn't reveal the reasons for Baxter's separation from the 20th-ranked Trojans (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) on Tuesday, refusing to characterize it as a suspension or a dismissal. He said Baxter is still enrolled at USC, and will focus on academics for the rest of the year.

"There was no word in there (like) suspension," Kiffin said after Tuesday's practice, referring to the school's brief statement about Baxter. "We're done talking about it. ... This is all about no distractions, so it's why we're not answering questions. We don't want our players or our coaches dealing with it. Our team has had great focus over the last couple of weeks on the road, and the last thing we want to do is get distracted."

Baxter was among the nation's most coveted recruits two years ago out of high school in San Diego, with Florida, Oregon, Tennessee and other big schools pursuing the versatile athlete who also played quarterback and receiver at Mission Bay High.

Former coach Pete Carroll attracted Baxter to USC with high expectations he could emerge as an heir to Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush, another San Diego product. Baxter enrolled early at USC and became a YouTube sensation with a run during spring football that attracted nearly 2 million hits.

But Baxter's USC career has been rocky since his first training camp under Kiffin, when he was suspended for last year's season opener for undisclosed disciplinary problems. He landed in several spots of minor trouble last season while failing to earn consistent playing time, carrying the ball for just 252 yards and one touchdown.

Baxter publicly accepted responsibility for his minor missteps while acknowledging lapses in focus during practice, but he has continued to drop down the Trojans' depth chart this season, carrying the ball just nine times.

Baxter is listed among several backups behind Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal, but the Trojans demonstrated their lack of interest in Baxter earlier this month when they converted freshman receiver George Farmer into a tailback and pulled off his redshirt, using him in the last two games.

Baxter brought his parents to a meeting with Kiffin after last month's season opener to talk about his future with the program. He didn't accompany the Trojans to Notre Dame last weekend while dealing with a family matter.

USC is off to an outstanding start without Baxter, winning three straight games heading into Saturday's visit from No. 4 Stanford.

"We're focused on the guys that are here," Kiffin said. "We're focused on getting ready to play maybe the best team in the country."

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