Although both players were recently held out of practice, starting linebackers Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper are expected to play when the Gophers open their football season at Southern California on Sept. 3, coach Jerry Kill said Thursday.
Rallis, who has been held out because of illness, and Cooper, who has worn a sling and a cast on his right arm because of a wrist injury, should return to practice next week, Kill said.
He said Cooper has a lingering wrist injury, and the team's doctor said it was best to treat the ailment this week so he'll have a chance to get back onto the field prior to game day. Kill said he's not concerned about Rallis missing additional time.
"We'll see how it goes ... But I expect [Cooper] to be ready at USC," Kill said. "Mike Rallis will be ready to go. Monday, we expect them to be ready to go."
• Sophomore linebacker Aaron Hill missed practice because of injury. Kill said Hill is a "question mark" going forward.
• Although Northern Illinois is in a non-BCS conference, Kill said his experience at the school helped him prepare for next week's game at USC. He recalled a game at Tennessee in 2008, when the Huskies lost 13-9 to the Volunteers in front of 100,000 people. Kill said that team was motivated when it traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., and he hopes the Gophers find similar inspiration leading up to their matchup against the Trojans.
"We had our fourth-team quarterback on the field and it was 13-9. We had a chance to win the game," he said. "Sometimes you play a little bit harder. You're going to go to USC, I'd like to think you [turn] it up."
• After a pregame simulation at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday, players will get to rest Saturday and Sunday. Kill said he sensed Thursday that his players needed the break after conversing with some of the squad's veterans.
"I think we've hit the wall a little bit," he said.