USC: Andrus Peat

Mailbag: USC can't again dominate?

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
5:30
PM PT
Welcome to the mailbag, the best gateway to Friday happy hour.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. We keep typing that because it's for your own good.

To the notes.

Ben from Los Angeles writes: Ted, I agree that parity has changed the Pac-12. The differences are negligible among the top recruiting schools. I think it's unlikely that the differences will account for the conference champion. When Pete Carroll coached at USC, it had a big talent advantage almost every week. No more, and I'm not sure it will return. USC couldn't fill 19 slots with top-150 players, so how will six more slots deliver superiority? Practice players, but not superiority. All the schools have money, all the CA schools are good schools (UW, too); the coaching has spiked. Who wants to be third team when you can start at another good school, with a good coach?

Ted Miller: The Pac-12 has reached a perhaps unprecedented state of quality depth, but parity probably isn't the right word. The last time a team other than Oregon or Stanford won the Pac-12/10 was USC in 2008, which at that time was riding a streak of six consecutive conference titles.

(Washington State fans: Which was the last team to win the conference not named USC, Oregon or Stanford? Anyone? Anyone?)

But I understand your general point, which concerns USC returning to the dominance of the Pete Carroll Era. Yet even there I don't completely agree.

Simple question: If Nick Saban were named USC's coach tomorrow, what would be the over-under for national titles over the next 10 years? Five? The potential for another USC dynasty is there, and it would be easier to build one at USC than any other Pac-12 school.

While the Pac-12 is unquestionably deeper than it has traditionally been, I do not think that guarantees that USC, the conference's biggest national brand, can't again become, at the very least, first among equals -- see Alabama in the SEC.

It certainly won't be easy, in large part because the conference has upgraded its coaching quality across the board. But the Trojans' late run in recruiting under Steve Sarkisian suggests the USC brand retains allure among young athletes, and not only in Southern California. UCLA coach Jim Mora said as much in an interview with Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

"We're still fighting the years and years of great teams that Southern Cal had," Mora said. "A lot of these kids in the area grew up watching Reggie Bush and the other greats. What we're trying to do is turn the tide as quickly as we can, but sometimes it's a little slower than you want, but it all starts with winning the game. I am so excited with the local kids that we signed."

(Notice how he said "Southern Cal." USC folks don't like to be called that, so much so that it's noted in the football media guide and weekly game notes).

How much difference would it have made for USC to have a full array of 25 scholarships, which it will next February? I think a lot -- as in top-five class a lot.

Sarkisian and his staff are relentless and enthusiastic recruiters. They have a chance to perennially sign classes that are in the battle for best in the nation, just like Carroll.

Of course, it's the job of the other 11 Pac-12 coaches, starting with Mora, to make sure that doesn't happen.

And, by the way, there's also the larger question of whether Sark and his staff can coach those Trojans players up as well as Carroll and his staff, which included Sarkisian, once did.


Josh from Lake Stevens, Wash., writes: Big IF here, but if Cyler Miles is suspended or dismissed, who is more likely to take over for him, Jeff Lindquist, Troy Williams (my vote) or KJ Carta-Samuels?

Ted Miller: I have no idea. No one does. New year. New coaching staff. New offense. And none of those guys has any significant experience.

Lindquist, a rising sophomore, would have a slight advantage just by being the most senior guy. I have heard good things about Williams. I think Carta-Samuels, an incoming freshman, would be a huge long shot.

But this is pure speculation. For one, we should wait and see how the investigation plays out. If I were a betting man, I'd wager Miles doesn't get kicked off the team.


Peter from Calgary, Alberta writes: Stanford has been a run-first, power running football team for a number of years now. They've lost 80 percent of their starting offensive line and don't have a proven running back going into the 2014 season. Discuss.

Ted Miller: Stanford loses RB Tyler Gaffney and four outstanding offensive linemen, but Stanford won't lose its identity in 2014. The Cardinal offense will be a run-first, smashmouth team.

For one, I expect LT Andrus Peat, a rising true junior, to develop into an All-American next year. So QB Kevin Hogan's blind side should be well-covered. Further, the offensive line won't be as inexperienced as it appears because the Cardinal's "jumbo" packages have allowed guys such as guards Josh Garnett and Johnny Caspers and OT Kyle Murphy to get plenty of experience the past two seasons.

There might be some growing pains, but this will be a good line. If it stays healthy, it probably will be as good as any Pac-12 line by season's end.

As for running back, that's more a question mark. Remound Wright, Ricky Seale and Barry Sanders all have skills, but none of them had more than 20 carries last year. Heck, incoming freshman Christian McCaffrey might even get into the mix.

Still, even with Hogan and all his receivers coming back, I don't think you'll see the Cardinal throw the ball 40 times a game. They might throw more, but David Shaw isn't going to abandon a style that has paved the way for consecutive Pac-12 titles.


Gerald from Atlanta writes: SEC fan here. You might remember me. I am the SEC fan from Norcross, Ga., who has been harassing you for years on this SEC/Pac-10/Pac-12 debate. Watching this Super Bowl, I have no choice but to eat crow and recant. I was wrong. You West Coast guys were right. Pete Carroll is an outstanding coach and would have massacred any SEC team during their run, even one led by Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. It took a loaded Mack Brown (who I still say was somewhat underrated as a coach) Texas team led by Vince Young (whose NFL failure was due to a head coach and fan base in Nashville who didn't want him, long story) to just barely eke by Carroll and USC, and now I see why. So I apologize, mea culpa, sorry that USC was treated unfairly by the BCS, glad that the BCS is ending, so on and so forth. P.S. Go Auburn Tigers. And 2010 was awesome no matter what the rest of the country thinks. At the very least it was revenge for 2004.

Ted Miller: Someone needs to go down to hell and see if it's frozen over. Oh, never mind -- I'll just call Nick Saban and ask.

Kidding!

This might not mean much to many of you, but Gerald has been a longtime Pac-12 blog and mailbag gadfly. Not sure what to make of this note.

Perhaps someone has stolen his mailbag handle and the real Gerald will read this and his head will explode.

Perhaps Gerald has joined a 12-step program for trolling.

Perhaps Gerald had a good weekend in Vegas, which included taking the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Perhaps he's just trying to soften us up before launching a counterattack to our unguarded flank.

Or perhaps this will start a trend, and all of the Pac-12's blog myriad and often profane critics will suddenly see the error of their ways and profess only love for your kindly Pac-12 insiders.

Wait. That would be incredibly boring. Let's not let that happen.

More tidbits from signing day

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
7:21
PM PT
One of the benefits to getting USC coach Lane Kiffin in a room for 30 minutes where he's obligated to listen to a never-ending stream of questions and answer most of them is it equals an opportunity to get some long-standing questions answered. Here are notes going off of his most interesting answers:

Scholarship count

By now, it's well-known that the Trojans have to be at 75 total scholarships or fewer by the time fall camp comes around in August. Kiffin has said it over and over in recent months as a reminder that his USC team is still very much under sanctions.

But he refuses to reveal where his squad is at right now, after taking on 12 more signees this week and five as January enrollees. The only hint he would give to the team's roster status was telling a reporter who asked about it Wednesday that it's not quite as grim as he might imagine.

Luckily, we can do the math and get a tentative number for where the Trojans stand right now.

With the 17 new players added to the 60 scholarship returners, USC has 77 players on scholarship as of now, as far as we know. That number does not include players like Armond Armstead but does include the former walk-ons who were given scholarships, like linebacker Will Andrew.

We'll get into who else is no longer part of the program further down. But 77 is a manageable number.

Scroggins' future?

It might end up being 76 if Jesse Scroggins can't get his academics together. The redshirt sophomore quarterback from nearby Lakewood High has "fallen behind" in school, per Kiffin, and "has a lot of work to do" to become eligible for the 2012 season.

Of course, the Trojans also put on a huge late recruiting push for Colorado prep quarterback Cyler Miles, a similar signal-caller to Scroggins. So it's obvious that USC isn't exactly counting on Scroggins being a part of the team in the long term.

And, in front of him on the depth chart Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, who are both a year younger too. That could be an issue.

(Read full post)

Signing day observations

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
5:16
PM PT
Here are five more USC-centric observations from National Signing Day, focusing on what they will mean for the future of the Trojans. Later, we'll have a post on some news and notes Lane Kiffin revealed in his signing day press conference.

1. The star(s)

Most recruiting classes have one or two players who are recognizable names, often top-recruited quarterbacks or skill-position players from the area.

But the two most exciting players -- defensive end Leonard Williams and receiver Nelson Agholor, both from Florida -- in the Trojans' 2012 class don't fit either of those bills.

Williams' decision to choose USC didn't attract a ton of national attention, but it's clear the Trojans were both surprised and delighted at his choice. Kiffin credited defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron for sealing Williams' signature from out-of-state.

The 6-5, 270-pounder spent high school on the East coast of Florida, but he hails from L.A. and attended a camp at USC last summer. That's where USC's interest stemmed from.

Agholor is an interesting combination as an elite athletic prospect and a superb character guy. His high-school highlight film is prodigious; his press-conference performance Wednesday morning when he picked the Trojans earned him some positive attention.

Kiffin said Agholor will primarily play receiver at USC but could occasionally log some time at running back.

2. Depth issues at two spots

We wrote about the offensive line on signing day and how USC wanted to get one more lineman in the fold, but the truth is there were two other positions where the Trojans needed players more desperately than they did on the O-line.

Those spots? Defensive tackle and running back. The Trojans have only four scholarship tackles on the roster, and two of them have never played in a college game. The other two, J.R. Tavai and George Uko, have played but started a combined one game.

At running back, USC has three scholarship players and only two with any experience in Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan.

Kiffin didn't shy away from saying Wednesday that the Trojans were worried about their depth in the backfield. But, he emphasized, they chose being worried about depth over taking a prospect of questionable character or talent.

(Read full post)

Kiffin: "Our bullpen got rocked"

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
6:20
PM PT
Lane Kiffin and USC's coaching staff were a pitching a shutout for the early part of National Signing Day on Wednesday, picking up two huge out-of-state signees in receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive end Leonard Williams early in the morning and sealing the deal on all but one of their longtime commits.

Things were looking good. Then slowly but surely over the next four hours, quarterback Cyler Miles, defensive tackle Aziz Shittu and tackles Kyle Dodson, Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, top prospects all of them, each turned the Trojans down. USC, limited to only 15 signees because of NCAA sanctions, finished by securing an important local kid in Carson receiver Darreus Rogers, but the damage had been done.

As Kiffin put it later Wednesday in his press conference at Heritage Hall, USC's "bullpen got rocked."

Kiffin resorted to a pitching analogy to explain how well he thought USC's "starting pitcher" was performing for the first six innings of Signing Day -- getting the Floridians Agholor and Williams, among others -- and how poorly the bullpen performed afterward.

In all, it's unclear if the Trojans actually won the nine-inning game -- that'll come in a year or two or three -- but it didn't go as well as Kiffin and his staff had hoped. It also didn't go nearly as badly as some had projected around the country.

"Obviously you want to focus on the positive, but there's a reality side to it," Kiffin said Wednesday evening. "We had a rough end to the day. But it was a great start, obviously."

The start included Agholor and Williams, which "shocked a lot of people," Kiffin said, and one other "touchdown maker," as Kiffin called him, in tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. The local kids -- including key offensive linemen Max Tuerk and Jordan Simmons -- all stayed true to their commitments, and the only recruit who defected away from USC was Northern California defensive end Pio Vatuvei, who the Trojans quickly replaced with Williams.

Together, Tuerk, Simmons and Zach Banner, the recruit from the state of Washington who announced he'd picked USC on Monday, add much-needed depth to the Trojans' offensive line, although Murphy, Peat or Dodson would have solidified it even further.

"Size is what sticks out about this class," Kiffin said, recounting the biggest positives from the day, in his eyes. "Really big guys and guys that can play a number of positions.

Kiffin also admitted that he fully expected Murphy, Peat or Dodson to sign, with the Trojans believing at one point last week they were leading in the chase of both Murphy and Peat and believing Wednesday they were first or second in the chase of all three prospects.

"To go 0-for-3 there, I thought we would have at least went 1-for-3," Kiffin said, continuing with the baseball analogy. "And I certainly didn't think two of them would go to the same school."

USC stayed three players below the 15-men limit, which Kiffin said wasn't entirely by design. But it makes sense. By taking only 12 players now, the Trojans save themselves from having to cut three more players to get under the 75-man overall limit come fall camp and allow three early enrollees to come in next January.

The only issue: Depth is at a premium. All 12 players need to pan out and stay in the program, or USC could be in for long-term issues.

"We can't afford attrition," Kiffin said. "So we had to look at everything, from academics to character to how well they play on the field and all the other stuff too.

"We tried to take all that into account."

Here's the full class of the 12 signees:

Nelson Agholor, WR, 6-1, 180, Tampa, FL (Berkeley Prep HS, Tampa, FL)
Zach Banner, OL, 6-9, 335, Puyallup, WA (Lakes HS, Lakewood, WA)
Gerald Bowman, S, 6-1, 215, Philadelphia, PA (Pierce J.C.)
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, TE, 6-5, 260, Rocklin, CA (Whitney HS, Rocklin, CA)
Jahleel Pinner, RB, 5-11, 225, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (Mission Viejo (CA) HS)
Darreus Rogers, WR, 6-2, 195, Compton, CA (Carson (CA) HS)
Jabari Ruffin, LB, 6-4, 230, Downey, CA (Downey (CA) HS)
Kevon Seymour, DB, 6-0, 170, Pasadena, CA (Muir HS, Pasadena, CA)
Devian Shelton, DB, 6-2, 185, Inglewood, CA (Inglewood (CA) HS)
Jordan Simmons, OL, 6-5, 335, Inglewood, CA (Crespi HS, Encino, CA)
Max Tuerk, OL, 6-6, 295, Trabuco Canyon, CA (Santa Margarita HS, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
Leonard Williams, DL, 6-5, 275, Daytona Beach, FL (Mainland HS, Daytona Beach, FL)

And the five players who have already enrolled for a total of 17

Scott Starr, LB, 6-3, 230, Norco, CA (Norco (CA) HS)
Chad Wheeler, OT, 6-6, 265, Santa Monica, CA (Santa Monica (CA) HS)
DeVante Wilson, DE, 6-4, 235, Corona, CA (Corona (CA) HS)
Morgan Breslin, DE, 6-3, 255, Walnut Creek, CA (Diablo Valley J.C.)
Josh Shaw, S, 6-2, 195 Palmdale, CA (Florida)

No Peat, No Murphy, No Miles, but Rogers?

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
2:58
PM PT
The latter half of USC's Signing Day took a turn for the worse in the 10 o'clock hour when four-star offensive tackle Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol) chose Stanford over the Trojans in a live announcement on ESPNU.

And it hasn't turned up since. Four-star quarterback Cyler Miles (Denver, Colo./Mullen) picked Washington over USC in a decision that clearly went down to the wire, and four-star offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) also picked Stanford, giving the Cardinal one of the best recruiting classes of offensive linemen in recent memory.

Where does this leave USC? In an interesting position, to be sure.

It's clear the Trojans did not count on losing out on Miles, Peat, Murphy and fellow offensive tackle Kyle Dodson (Cleveland, Oh./Cleveland Heights). Now, they have four open scholarship slots under their 15-man maximum and only one player expected to fill one in receiver Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson).

If Rogers does end up signing with the Trojans, that still leaves three more empty spots, which gives USC some freedom in the coming weeks. It could do one of two things or a combination of the two: (1) Save the slots and be a lot closer to the 75-man overall scholarship limit come the fall, then add on a few more early enrollees in January 2013, or (2) Offer them to recruits who have yet to pick a school and hope to seize on some last-second decisions.

As of right now, with 11 players signed and the current roster as projected, USC has exactly 75 players on scholarship. Rogers would push that one over the limit, but that's easily fixable.

10:30 a.m. signing day update

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
10:34
AM PT
As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, 11 players have officially signed their letters of intent to attend USC.

The 11, listed in alphabetical order, are receiver Nelson Agholor (Tampa, Fla./Berkeley Prep), offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wa./Lakes), safety Gerald Bowman (Philadelphia, Pa./Pierce College), tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney)running back/fullback Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo), defensive end Jabari Ruffin (Downey, Calif./Downey), cornerback Kevon Seymour (Pasadena, Calif./Muir), cornerback Devian Shelton (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood), offensive guard Jordan Simmons (Encino, Calif./Crespi), offensive tackle Max Tuerk (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) and defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fl./Mainland).

That is according to their respective announcements and Twitter accounts. USC has made only seven of the signings -- Banner, Cope-Fitzpatrick, Pinner, Ruffin, Seymour, Simmons and Tuerk -- official as of 10:30 a.m.

Cope-Fitzpatrick, Pinner, Ruffin, Seymour, Simmons and Tuerk had been longtime USC commits. Williams and Agholor were known to be interested in the Trojans but had never publicly committed and ended up both picking USC over Florida. Banner announced on Monday he'd be attending USC. Shelton was offered a scholarship only on Tuesday; Bowman was supposed to enroll in school in January but didn't qualify in time and pushed it back to the summer.

Two players who USC had been seriously recruiting ended up not picking USC: offensive tackle Kyle Dodson (Cleveland, Oh./Cleveland Heights) and defensive lineman Pio Vatuvei (Patterson, Calif./Patterson).

Receiver Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson) is still committed to USC but is known to be seriously considering Arizona State. He'll make his official announcement at 3 p.m. PT Wednesday.

Other expected announcements that could affect USC are those of offensive tackle Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol), quarterback Cyler Miles (Denver, Colo./Mullen), offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), defensive tackle Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach).

Peat will announce just after 10:30 a.m. PT. Miles has said he will announce at 1 p.m. Murphy will announce at 1:30 p.m. and Shittu is scheduled for a 2 p.m. announcement at his high school.

Signing day preview

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
10:56
PM PT


With the Monday commitment of four-star offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wa./Lakes), USC now has nine Class of 2012 prospects committed to sign with the school out of 14 available spots.

NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to 15 signees. They can actually only take 14 because safety Gerald Bowman (Philadelphia, Pa./Pierce College) signed as an early enrollee but didn't finish up his junior-college requirements in time to actually enroll early. So, with barely 36 hours remaining until the faxes will begin rolling in to Heritage Hall on Wednesday morning, let's take a look at which players could potentially fill those five spots.

The following 10 prospects are the candidates. They are listed in a rough order of the likelihood they will sign with the Trojans, from most likely to least. Then we'll go over some of the other things that could still affect the final formulation of the recruiting class, like current commits defecting to other schools and last-second, under-the-radar signees.

WR/RB Nelson Agholor (Tampa, Fla./Berkeley Prep)

Although not yet on campus, Agholor has quickly become Robert Woods' understudy at the receiver position, through social media and his official visit to the Trojans earlier this month.

He seems like a perfect fit as the next top-recruit receiver at USC after Woods and Lee. And he has gotten rave reviews on his character and attitude from all over the country. The only other school he could choose at this point is Florida, but he seems very likely to pick USC.

DE Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fl./Mainland)

Williams is also down to just USC and Florida, according to a recent interview with Rivals.com. An interesting aspect of his recruitment is that he is originally from Los Angeles, which would ease the cross-country transition.

One question: Is a third (or fourth) defensive end really the Trojans' biggest need in this limited class? One could make a convincing argument that a running back would be a better use of the scholarship offer. But Williams is also big enough to make a potential transition to defensive tackle possible, and depth is needed there.

OT Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol)

Peat is arguably the second most-important recruit remaining for USC, and he has the Trojans in his final three alongside Nebraska and Stanford. Now that he's gotten in at Stanford and with his brother heading into his second season at Nebraska, it's really an unknown how interested he is in USC.

But he has a ton of potential as a tall, room-to-grow player who could easily bookend USC's line with Banner for two or three seasons.

OT Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente)

Let's put it this way: If the Trojans don't get either Peat, Murphy or Kyle Dodson (more later) to go along with Banner, something went wrong in the final week of the 2012 recruiting season.

He has USC and Stanford as his final two schools, and many recruiting analysts have speculated that Peat and Murphy will pick different schools, which would obviously help USC's cause. But there's also the worst-case scenario of Murphy picking Stanford and Peat joining his brother as a Cornhusker.

An item of note on the 6-7 Murphy: His high school teammate and good friend, Christian Tober, announced over the weekend he'd be coming to USC as a preferred walk-on in the fall.

(Read full post)

Where USC's 2012 recruiting class stands (Offense)

January, 21, 2012
1/21/12
6:21
PM PT
USC can sign 15 players this year as part of its 2012 recruiting class. It's likely the Trojans will ink all 15 of those players on Signing Day, although there is a possibility they could hold off on a player or two to save space for a last-second top prospect.

Position by position, let's delve into who will make up that 15-man list, including the eight prospects already committed, with assistance from ESPN Recruiting, Rivals and Scout. We'll do the offense Saturday and the defense Sunday.

Quarterback

USC is not seriously recruiting any signal-callers. The Trojans have three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster with three or more years of eligibility remaining.

Running back

This is probably the Trojans' biggest position of need after Amir Carlisle left to Notre Dame and George Farmer switched back to receiver.

Curtis McNeal is the clear-cut No. 1 and D.J. Morgan will back him up, but Javorious Allen is the only other scholarship player on the roster. Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) is committed and expected to sign, but he's more of a fullback than a running back.

It's a near-guarantee USC will sign another running back in the 15. Arizona prep athlete D.J. Foster, who dropped USC during his senior season but is now reconsidering, could be the player the Trojans pick up.

Fullback

Pinner is likely to start his USC career as a fullback, so he'll fill the need here. Plus, the Trojans already have redshirt freshman Soma Vainuku and Simione Vehikite also available.

(Read full post)

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