USC assistant Dennis Simmons has a slightly different role this week, serving as the program’s acting head coach during the absence of Lincoln Riley. The program announced Tuesday that Riley missed a second straight practice with an illness while  Kliff Kingsbury filled Riley’s role as an on-field coach.

On Tuesday, Simmons met with the media in place of Riley and was asked about the head coach. Simmons said he spoke to Riley and said the coach is “getting better.”

Simmons went on to detail the mindset of the team, saying the group is treating Riley’s absence like an injury to any other player.

“At the end of the day, first and foremost, this is Coach Riley’s team. We’re viewing this really as a player getting dinged up in a game or in practice and the next guy stepping up. You know, it’s not just myself, it’s everybody,” Simmons explained. “Our players, coaches and everybody on the staff. We’re holding it down until he’s able to resume his duties.”

Overall, Simmons credited the Trojans for handling the curveball well, though the assistant reiterated Riley is not “gone forever.” For now, USC is focused on Saturday’s task at hand.

“The guys have actually handled things in a pretty professional way. It’s not like he’s gone forever,” said Simmons. “It’s one of those deals where we have an objective that’s going to take place this Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock so that was our main focus… We work for an incredible man and a great leader. He set a great plan together and we’re just following it til he returns.”

As for any change to the coaching duties for Saturday, Simmons said the team would take things one day at a time. He also said Riley would be back as soon as the doctors clear the coach and allow him to return.