USC: Blake Ayles

Thursday practice report: Breakdown

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
4:31
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • Coach Lane Kiffin was again happy with his team's performance in a shorter morning session Thursday -- "another good day, three in a row," he said. He mentioned to his players, he said, how much USC fans care about the rivalry with Notre Dame and the importance in extending what is now an eight-game winning streak against the Irish. He reminded them of "all the hard work those players did before, over these last eight years in the offseason and everything to keep this streak alive, and now it's their turn."
  • Matt Barkley took another step in his recovery from the sprained left ankle he suffered last week against Oregon State on Thursday, taking some snaps and making throws, Kiffin said, but backup Mitch Mustain continues to prepare as the starter. Said Mustain, who said he has not yet been told "explicitly" that he'll be the starter against the Irish: "There's always that wish for a little bit more time to practice, but that's just the progression of it. I'm ready to go now." Barkley, who wore a jersey top and sweatpants at practice, said he plans to suit up Saturday.

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Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
11:20
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Tuesday and Wednesday's sessions were, in Lane Kiffin's eyes, probably the Trojans' two best combined practices of the season -- and Wednesday was the best practice of the year for quarterback Mitch Mustain as he prepares for a likely start against Notre Dame, Kiffin said. "It probably says a lot for a guy who’s had a chance to prepare now for two days," the coach said of Mustain. "He did almost all the number one snaps in there and you can see him taking advantage of it. And he seems to be doing his best off the field as well. He was up in there by himself extremely late last night, watching film."
  • As for the signal-caller Mustain is expected to replace on Saturday, quarterback Matt Barkley was out of the walking boot he had previously sported on his sprained left ankle and walking sans crutches at Wednesday's practice, but he continued to sit out in sweats and observe practice. By his estimation, he had rehabbed for a good four hours during the day Wednesday and was set to visit a trainer directly after practice. See what Barkley had to say about the chances of him actually playing against the Irish further down in this post.
  • Injury report: Cornerback Torin Harris (shoulder), guard Butch Lewis, right tackle Tyron Smith, center Abe Markowitz (foot) and Barkley did not practice. Safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), guard Michael Reardon, tight end Blake Ayles (concussion) and linebackers Chris Galippo (concussion)and Devon Kennard were limited. Reardon left practice early after apparently being hit in the mouth during scrimmage drills; O'Dowd also left the field for a stretch but returned and finished the session off appearing fine.
  • Kiffin talked for a little while about frshman Dillon Baxter, who was reinstated by the NCAA Wednesday. The coach took a step back and looked at the running back's season as a whole, evidently considering Baxter's suspension for the season opener against Hawaii and the turf toe injury that forced him to miss the Cal game: “It’s been an up and down season with him, in general," Kiffin said. "He obviously gives us some things that other guys don’t, and hopefully he can put it together. I go back to some of it is his fault and some of it is bad luck." Kiffin also said it was "disappointing" and said Baxter should consider it his fault, "even if some of it is bad luck."
  • Said Mustain, who started eight games during his freshman season in 2006 at Arkansas and won all eight of them but hasn't started since, of the opportunity to make his debut as a starter for USC in a big rivalry game against Notre Dame: "It's another game. The tradition doesn't really mean a whole lot to us in the moment. I'm sure when the years go by it'll be nice, but right now it's just another week. He continued: "It means a lot. It's something that we all play for, we all want that shot. It just happened to come up on this week and, like I said, I think as the years go by it'll mean a lot more but right now it's just a matter of getting that win. I'm happy it's against Notre Dame, happy it's on Thanksgiving weekend, but we still have to play."
  • Final notes: Receiver Robert Woods did his best Jesse Scroggins impression for a portion of scout-team drills, wearing the fellow freshman's No. 15 as teammates jokingly called him. Said Woods of Scroggins: "I'm guessing he was impressed a little bit."...Kiffin said senior cornerback Shareece Wright is hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner for a number of Trojans on Thursday. USC will practice at 11 a.m. in the hope of allowing local players to make it home in time for dinner. Wright hails from Colton, roughly 60 miles east of USC.

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Kiffin spoke to the media after Wednesday's practice and addressed the Baxter situation some more, whether playing a rivalry game changes the way he coaches and more.

See all of what he had to say:



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Barkley talked to the media just before heading to visit the trainer and again spoke very positively about his injury -- saying he still had plans to play Saturday, even if others didn't expect him to.

See all of what the sophomore had to say:

Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
11:28
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • There was high praise thrown around on Howard Jones Field for a defense just three days removed from giving up 36 points to Oregon State, as Trojans coach Lane Kiffin called the defensive performance Tuesday the best he's seen since coming to USC in January and compared it to defenses of past years. “I don’t know what was said to them or got into them, but for the first time since I’ve been here they had a mentality in practice that was like the last time we were here, which was really neat to see,” Kiffin said. “You could see a different look in them. It’s what we’ve been trying to work for for a long time.” The thing is, the defense actually had one of its better games against the Beavers -- at least according to middle linebacker Chris Galippo, who noted that the Beavers had gained just over 200 yards more than halfway through the fourth quarter.
  • Quarterback Mitch Mustain is preparing to start in the place of the injured Matt Barkley, but Kiffin has not committed to either player yet. Mustain took roughly 90 percent of the snaps during practice, with walk-on John Manoogian taking the remaining 10 percent. See everything Mustain had to say about his day further down in this post. Said Barkley of starting: "As of now, I’m planning on it. That’s what I’m planning on, so we’ll see." Behind Mustain, Kiffin indicated that the next player to come into a game would likely be the currently ineligible Dillon Baxter. We'll have more on the quarterback situation tomorrow, too.

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Thursday practice report: Breakdown

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
10:30
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • Coach Lane Kiffin had preached to his team earlier in the week that the effort they were exerting in practice wasn't enough. Thursday, he felt his message got through to them. "They were great today," he said after linebacker Chris Galippo called it one of the best practices of the season. "Great focus. Backups were focused. We just had to really make sure they understood how critical this was and also show them the other side of it. It was really good to see them today and now we’re going to have to continue to focus for the next 48 hours.”
  • Running back Marc Tyler will start against the Beavers, Kiffin said, after the redshirt junior looked "really good" in practice Thursday, getting the majority of the first-team carries. It's a bit of an unusual move for Kiffin, who has in large part refused to name a starter at that position each week this season. But Tyler's performance Thursday, he said, made him realize that it was his job to lose. Senior Allen Bradford said that USC's frequent tendency to use multiple backs means that the reserve running backs could still get a chance to run it at Oregon State. "Whoever gets hot, that's who the coaches are gonna go with," Bradford said. "If a running back is getting nine yards a carry, then that's who is going to play."
  • Injury report: safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), center Abe Markowitz (foot), tight end Blake Ayles (concussion), cornerbacks T.J. Bryant (shoulder) and Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice, along with Dillon Baxter, who was ill and hospitalized. Bryant and Harris both had MRIs on labrums in their shoulder; both are fine and should play Saturday, Kiffin said. Speaking to the media Wednesday, Bryant seemed to indicate that his labrum injury -- an aggravation of what he originally suffered in high school -- would put him out of commission this week, but Kiffin said otherwise. Players hurt earlier in the week who were full participants Thursday included cornerback Brian Baucham and receiver Brice Butler.
  • On the topic of Baucham, Bryant and Harris, the Trojans are obviously very short on healthy players at the cornerback position this week. Kiffin said he was "very concerned" about depth at the spot, with only Nickell Robey and Shareece Wright healthy for a while now. USC is so thin at the position that freshman Anthony Brown, a prospective redshirt this season, was practicing with the first-team at times earlier this week. Said Kiffin: "Whoever is going to play is going to have to make plays for us against a very good passing offense.”
  • The topic of all-black uniforms was brought up to Kiffin, with Washington sporting them against UCLA on television Thursday night. While coaching at Tennessee last year, Kiffin famously had his Volunteers wear black jerseys -- albeit with their normal orange pants -- and saw his team respond with a big home victory over South Carolina on Halloween night. But he didn't seem enthused about the prospects of the black working for the Trojans."I don’t see that ever happening here at ‘SC," Kiffin said. "We tried to get black socks here for our players here and that didn’t happen.”
  • Final notes: Kiffin was asked if freshman receiver Robert Woods would ever be tried at cornerback again, as he was last month in the week before the Cal game. Said the coach: “That was going to be at one point, but when he got hurt in that Oregon game, that set us back. So now we’re just trying to get him back 100 percent on offense.”...USC will hold one last morning walk-through on Howard Jones Field before departing for Oregon at 2 p.m.

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Kiffin spoke to the media after Thursday's practice and appeared to be pretty pleased with his team's practice, talking over Oregon State's offensive attack and Jacquizz Rodgers specifically, plus a variety of other topics.

See all of what he had to say:



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USC linebackers coach Joe Barry has a history with Oregon State coach Mike Riley, having played at USC while Riley was an assistant.

Barry has high praise for the 57-year-old Beavers coach, disregarding OSU's so-so season so far this year and stressing that the Trojans must come to play Saturday.

See all of what Barry had to say in a one-on-one video interview Thursday, including his comments on the continued progress of linebackers Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo:

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
10:58
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Trojans coach Lane Kiffin criticized his team after what he said was a lackluster session Wednesday, saying that a lack of intensity has been present in both practices preparing for Oregon State this week. Added Kiffin: "I don’t know whether it’s feeling good about themselves after a couple of wins, and they don't remember why we’ve played well lately is because we’ve practiced extremely well. Very disappointing, but there’s still enough time for us to get right and get ready to go up there.” Kiffin did say the usual leaders -- among them junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and fullback Stanley Havili -- continued to practice well, but the team as a whole didn't, he said. "Right now, our practicing isn't on par with where it should be," senior center Kristofer O'Dowd said. "The good thing is we have a couple days to narrow in on what we need to do and focus on that."
  • Injury report: cornerback T.J. Bryant (left shoulder) and Torin Harris, strong safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), tight end Blake Ayles (concussion), receiver Brice Butler and center Abe Markowitz (foot) did not practice; defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo (ankle) was limited. Starling could return later this week, Kiffin said; Ayles said after the Arizona game that he'd be back by now from a head injury but is obviously still out. Bryant visited with team doctors Wednesday and underwent an MRI but did not yet know results after Wednesday's practice. He said he would know more Thursday: "I might have to have another surgery; I might not. We'll see when I go get the results." Bryant couldn't clarify exactly what the injury was or what surgery would do to it, but he said it involved his labrum, it had happened in high school and it has continued to bother him while he has been at USC. "I re-injure it every year, every time we practice," he said. "It consistently gets injured."

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
10:59
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • It's a funny thing: Coach Lane Kiffin's USC squad has often appeared to play more complete games on the road than at home this season -- but that doesn't mean that this Saturday's 5 p.m. game at Oregon State won't be a challenge, for a variety of reasons that include expected weather, Oregon State's likelihood of rebounding after an embarrassing home loss to Washington State and Jacquizz Rodgers himself. But, still, the road aspect is worth mentioning. "It has been unique this season," Kiffin said after Tuesday's practice. "If you group all the games together, home and road, we’ve played more consistent on the road. Even as you look at the games themselves, I just think we’ve played better. Sometimes I think maybe your first year with a young team, there’s something about playing on the road and growing together."
  • Injury report: cornerback Brian Baucham, safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), tight end Blake Ayles (head), center Abe Markowitz (foot) did not practice. Defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo (ankle), cornerback Torin Harris, receiver Brice Butler and running back Marc Tyler (ankle) were limited. Kiffin said that even though the injury list was long, this week could very well end up being one of the Trojans' healthiest weeks of the season by the time Saturday rolls around. "That would be good to have, obviously," he said, "in going up to a place that has been extremely hard to play for a lot of people, including USC." Delving into injury specifics, Ayles revealed Saturday that he had suffered a concussion last month and said he hoped to return to practice this week; Fangupo said Tuesday that the ankle injury that has sidelined him in recent weeks is simply a re-aggravation of the injury that required surgery last season and forced him to miss spring practice this year. He re-injured it against Oregon and has missed the last two games; he said Tuesday he is "90 percent" healthy and plans to play Saturday against Oregon State.

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Postgame thoughts: Arizona

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
11:45
PM PT
TUCSON -- Notes, quotes and video from USC's 24-21 win over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium:
  • Before the Trojans departed Los Angeles for southern Arizona on Friday afternoon, Lane Kiffin made sure to pound one phrase into his players' minds -- and it sure sunk in, as a number of players brought it up after the game Saturday. Per middle linebacker Chris Galippo, Kiffin told the team: " 'When you want to go win a big away game, you gotta pack your defense and you gotta pack your run game.' " Said Galippo: "I think that's what happened today -- both of those showed up." Added strongside linebacker Michael Morgan, who had five tackles: "It was a big win for the defense and a big win for the whole team. It was especially big for the defense because we haven't been playing too well lately."
  • Marc Tyler ran for a career-high 160 yards on 31 carries, running the ball 17 times in the second half as he wore down the Wildcat defense. Tyler said afterward that he felt "terrible," with the ankle that held him out of much of the week's practices flaring up during the game. Running backs coach Kennedy Pola, he said, kept yelling at him to get back in the game every time he felt like taking a breather. Said Tyler of the likelihood coming into the game that he would carry the ball as much as he did, and with as much success as he did: "I thought the chances of that happening for me were slim to none. I haven't seen anyone run the ball more than 30 times ever." Arizona coach Mike Stoops praised the junior runner postgame: "Marc Tyler was outstanding tonight," he said. "He was very physical and USC is a good blocking team and did a good job at giving him the space he needed." We'll have more from Tyler, including a video interview, further down in this post.
  • Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley started off red-hot, completing 14 of his first 15 pass attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown. From then on, though, he was a lot cooler -- completing just 7-of-20 for 48 yards and an interception. Kiffin called the third-quarter pick -- a solid throw that glanced directly off the body of normally sure-handed tight end Jordan Cameron -- "really tough to swallow," as it killed a good bit of momentum for the Trojans and put the ball back in Arizona's hands. Asked how he felt his day went, Barkley indicated that the Trojans parroted Arizona's bread-and-butter more than usual with quick throws. "A lot of those shorter routes were working, getting yards, getting first downs," Barkley said. "Most of that stuff was underneath, but it was just taking what the defense was giving us."
  • USC right tackle Tyron Smith said Arizona defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore were "really speedy," but added that the Trojan offensive linemen knew what to expect with the two of them. As such, Kiffin called for a lot of short drops for Barkley and didn't allow Reed and Elmore to penetrate into the backfield. "We treated them like any other defensive ends," Smith said. "Of course, they were faster than any other defensive ends that we've faced this season. But we were prepared for it."
  • Junior Marshall Jones made his first career start at strong safety in place of the injured Jawanza Starling, who hurt his hamstring last week against Arizona State. Kiffin had refused to name a starter this week, but Jones said the coaching staff told him after last week's game that he'd be making the start in Tucson. He had only three tackles, but one of them was a shoestring "touchdown-saving" tackle of Arizona's Juron Criner in the fourth quarter. "You have a different mindset when you come in and you know you're a starter," Jones said. "It's different, but I had a lot of fun. I love being out there, it felt great."
  • Shareece Wright had talked a lot this week about Criner, but he didn't end up defending much on Saturday, as Stoops and his staff devised ways to move the junior receiver around the line of scrimmage and prevent Wright from keying on him."They did a good job moving him around and working him in the slot, working him against our linebackers," Wright said. Why didn't USC's coaching staff, in turn, have Wright follow Criner along the line wherever he lined up? "We gotta have confidence in our other players, man. At the end, we were starting to do that. We were going to change the game plan and do that but he wasn't in as much."
  • USC allowed Arizona to convert seven of eight third-down opportunities in the first half. After an old-fashioned halftime talking-to, the Trojans held the Wildcats to three of eight in the second half. "Let me tell you something right now," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "You're doing a good job if you get them to third downs. That means you're doing something good on first and second down. But that doesn't do any good if you don't get off [the field] on third downs. It was really frustrating." Said Galippo about the differences between the halves: "We didn't even really change that much up, schematically. But we needed to get a better pass rush -- that was evident."
  • Final notes: Injury update: Monte Kiffin said freshman cornerback Nickell Robey was banged up in the second half and had to leave the game. Tight end Blake Ayles revealed that the injury that has kept him out of the last three games is a concussion suffered against Cal last month. It's still causing him headaches, he said. ...Freshman receiver Robert Woods very quietly made eight catches for 41 yards as the leading pass-catcher for the Trojans. Aside from Tyler, only backs Dillon Baxter and Stanley Havili carried the ball for USC, with six rushes for 34 yards...Said Kiffin of senior center Kristofer O'Dowd's final return home to the Tucson area in a sack-free performance for the USC offensive line: "Real special for him. Any time someone leaves their home and goes away, it's a pretty neat thing to be able to finish like this."

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Kiffin talked to the media after the game and addressed the validity of a win over a top-20 opponent on the road, Tyler's bang-up performance and plenty of other topics.

See what he had to say:



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Tyler had a lot to say after his 160-yard day, including several funny remarks and praise for his pile-driving offensive line.

See all of what he said:

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
9:42
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Arizona's Nick Foles -- or, more specifically, Arizona's Nick Foles and the Wildcats' pass-quick offense -- will present some problems for the Trojans on Saturday. "They do a really good job. People think about them for their defensive play, but [they have] the No. 1 pass offense in the conference and a great receiver, someone that's very hard to handle. We're gonna have our hands full, and obviously the air has been a big issue for us on defense this year." The great receiver Kiffin's referring to is junior Juron Criner, who he later called an "NFL-type" guy. Foles has started seven games this year and completed better than 70 percent of his passes in five of those seven. Wednesday, Kiffin attributed that to Arizona designing short outside routes that allow him to distribute the ball quickly.
  • Injury report: defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, safety Jawanza Starling, left tackle Matt Kalil, center Abe Markowitz (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles did not practice. Cornerback Brian Baucham, receiver Robert Woods (back) and running back Marc Tyler (ankle) were limited. Right tackle Tyron Smith returned to action and played most of the snaps at his spot for the first time in nearly a month. Woods, Kiffin said, "didn't do everything, but did do a bunch of stuff." The coach also said it was "imperative" to have Woods back for the game, given that the squad obviously suffered with him limited against Arizona State.

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
11:24
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • No. 18 Arizona is the focus this week as a likely harbinger for the rest of the season, and the matchup -- a "really, really big game for us," coach Lane Kiffin said after Tuesday's practice -- presents an inherent challenge in facing a top 25 team on the road. USC's done that one other time this season, at Stanford, and lost, 37-35, on a last-second field goal. Said Kiffin: "Hopefully this time we'll finish it off, if we have a chance to."

  • Injury report: Defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, safety Jawanza Starling, left tackle Matt Kalil, center Abe Markowitz (foot), running back Marc Tyler (ankle) and tight end Blake Ayles did not practice. Cornerback Brian Baucham, right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle/foot) and receiver Robert Woods (back) were limited. Woods hardly did anything, but we'll get to that Wednesday on the blog with a video interview with him; Tyler did some light running on the side of Howard Jones Field during practice and says he fully expects to be ready for Saturday. The injury, suffered at the end of the Arizona State game, was originally thought to be more serious, but it turned out to be a minor sprain of the inside ligaments -- not the break he feared. Said Tyler on Tuesday: "I heard a pop, but I guess I was wrong."
  • The kicking situation is -- in Kiffin's words -- an "ongoing concern." Of course, starter Joe Houston is 6-of-12 on field-goal attempts so far this season, with two key misses against Arizona State. But both Houston and punter Jacob Harfman, who moonlights as a kicker, struggled mightily while kicking in practice Tuesday. "It's not going to be relieved until we start making a few in row," Kiffin said of his worrying about the spot. "It's disappointing at this point in the season to still be where we're at with that, but it is what it is."

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Thursday practice report: Breakdown

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
10:45
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • A shorter session for the Trojans on Thursday as Lane Kiffin attempted to conserve his players' energy for a Saturday night game against Arizona State. One unusual drill USC spent some time working on in practice had quarterback Matt Barkley drop back under heavy five- and six-man pass rushes and attempt to deliver on-target passes.
  • Injury report: Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, center Abe Markowitz (foot), guard John Martinez (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (knee/ankle) and running back C.J. Gable (knee) were limited. Markowitz, who broke his foot in August, was again sporting a boot on his injured foot Thursday. He had been practicing lightly earlier in the week.
  • Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey, who missed Wednesday's practice with an unusual injury we detail below, offered up some quality insight Thursday about Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet, who has thrown 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season: "He's a real confident guy, as I look on film. Once he makes something good happen, he just starts gunning it to the point where he throws a lot of interceptions. It shows up big-time on film how he gets real overwhelmed with his throwing and everything. He's a great quarterback, though." Robey also said he expects to be called upon for corner blitzes more this week.

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Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 3, 2010
11/03/10
11:20
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Lane Kiffin said earlier in the week that two positions -- strong safety and left guard -- were up for grabs this week, but it appears that another spot, middle linebacker, is also a re-opened competition. Devon Kennard has started the first eight games of the season at the spot but has had "some ups and downs," in Kiffin's words. Thus, Chris Galippo, who started the last two games at weakside linebacker in Malcolm Smith's place, has been granted an opportunity to compete for the Mike spot this week. "He's played well at times," Kiffin said of Kennard, adding that the sophomore hasn't been fully healthy in a few weeks. "It’s kind of been a work in progress." More on this further down, including Kennard's comments on the decision.
  • At safety, incumbent Jawanza Starling continues to battle backup Marshall Jones for the right to start Saturday against Arizona State. Starling, a true sophomore who struggled mightily against the rampant play-action fakes Oregon used last week, said he has embraced the challenge: "Competition breeds the best in people, or the worst in people," he said after Wednesday's practice. "It's up to me now just to get better."
  • At guard, Michael Reardon, a converted center, is challenging Butch Lewis for the starting spot. Lewis, we noted Tuesday, has lost his starting spot at USC in each of the last four seasons -- truly a remarkable note. Reardon said Wednesday that offensive line coach James Cregg pulled him aside Tuesday and told him to seize his opportunity, as he would be playing with the starters in practice. "You always strive to be a [starter]," he said. "And if the opportunity comes, you can't look back." Meanwhile, Lewis, still rotating in at both right tackle and left guard, appeared to play a lot more spirited than he did against Oregon, when he was largely manhandled by a much-smaller Ducks defensive line.

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
10:27
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • The big news out of Howard Jones Field: two positions, strong safety and left guard, have officially been opened up for competition. Coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Marshall Jones and incumbent Jawanza Starling will split reps at safety for the rest of the week, adding that Starling's spot is "definitely" up for grabs. And at guard, redshirt junior Michael Reardon will get every chance this week to unseat Butch Lewis. Kiffin called Lewis' performance against Oregon "completely unacceptable."
  • Lewis, a senior, has started at least three games during each of his four seasons at USC. Interestingly, though, he has never kept his starting spot for an entire season and has twice lost it after starting the first several games of a season. Asked if he agreed with Kiffin's decision to re-open the battle at his spot, Lewis made his opinion clear. "Absolutely," he said. "There's been shades of good and bad and this last game was really bad, so it's time to really buckle down and get back to fundamentals." This is Reardon's first season as a guard. He spent portions of his first three years at USC working as an offensive tackle, center and tight end.
  • Jones, a redshirt junior, has never started a game at USC. In fact, the 25 or so snaps he earned Saturday against Oregon are likely the most he has played as a Trojan. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder spent the 2009 season at cornerback and played sparingly before seriously injuring his neck in late September against Washington State. He would go on to sit out the rest of the year and earn medical redshirt status. He missed 2010 spring practice because of complications from the injury. Now, he's healthy but will be playing a bit out of position, as he said he feels more comfortable at the opposite spot -- free safety, where T.J. McDonald appears entrenched. Still, he's glad to have the opportunity. "The best players will play," Jones said. "That's what the coaches always say." Starling had started the first eight games of this season after seeing limited time as a backup last year.

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Thursday practice report: Breakdown

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
8:54
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • The mood at practice was clearly enthusiastic Thursday, especially in the final scrimmage drills that wrapped it up. On one particularly yell-inducing play, quarterback Matt Barkley dropped a Wildcat-formation pass from running back Marc Tyler when middle linebacker Devon Kennard closed in on him. If one key part was different than in past practices, it was a definite uptick in pressure from the defense line -- something the Trojans have been sorely lacking all season long. "The tempo was upbeat again," Barkley said afterward. "Guys were pumped up, guys were heated, and we need to continue that this weekend."
  • Injury report: defensive end Wes Horton (back), linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee), running back Dillon Baxter (toes) and Jordan Cameron (knee) did not practice. Defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), linebacker Shane Horton (groin) and right tackle Tyron Smith were listed as limited. Cameron, who suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in the first half of the Stanford game but finished out the game, said the swelling has gone down significantly since Tuesday and, accordingly, he hopes to play against Cal on Saturday. "I think I'll be good," Cameron said Thursday. "I think I'll be ready to go."
  • Baxter was still sporting crutches at practice, although he said afterward that all but one of the toes he originally sprained on his left foot have healed. The only one still hurting is his big toe, he said, which he hopes will be better within a few days. Baxter also talked about the throw to Stanley Havili from Tyler out of the Wildcat formation that missed by inches. As USC coach Lane Kiffin mentioned after the game, the play was designed to be thrown by Baxter -- but his injury just plays before it prevented him from being out there, and he wasn't happy about it. "Man, my crutches went everywhere," he said about the play. "I was hot. That was my play. But we're gonna come back. You'll see it again."
  • Kiffin was asked about Cal defensive leader and linebacker Mike Mohamed, who was out for the Bears' only bad performance this season, a 52-31 loss to Nevada on the road on a Friday night last month. The coach dismissed that game from Cal simply as an aberration on defense. "I think that's he a real good tackler," Kiffin said first on Mohamed before switching gears. "But I don't really count that game. You see those games happen all the time. You go on the road, play a conference that's not a major conference and it's a Thursday or Friday night game. You follow that for years, those things happen. All the sudden you see the upsets when those teams go on the road. ... I really discount that game, especially because their offense is so different [than ours.] I look at the other games and what they've done and they've basically completely shut down everyone else they've played."

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
11:53
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • The injury report was so long, we'll split it up into two sections. First, those unable to practice: defensive end Wes Horton (back), linebackers Shane Horton (groin) and Malcolm Smith (knee), running back Dillon Baxter (toes) and right tackle Tyron Smith (undisclosed) all sat out and were listed as "out" by coach Lane Kiffin; tight end Jordan Cameron (knee) also did not appear to do any work in practice but was not listed on the report. Baxter, who underwent X-rays on the toes of his left foot Sunday, said he was set to find out results just after practice. He was still sporting crutches and wearing a boot on the injured foot.
  • And the "limited" group, who participated to varying extents: defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), cornerback Shareece Wright (ankle), guards Khaled Holmes and Butch Lewis, left tackle Matt Kalil and receiver and Brice Butler.
  • In the first position change in quite a while, freshman Christian Thomas has been moved from defensive end to tight end. Thomas was considered a tight end coming out of high school and spent the first week of fall camp at that spot before switching over to end because of a need at the position. But with Cameron out of commission for the time being, the Trojans are in need of depth at tight end other than starter Rhett Ellison and backup Blake Ayles.
  • Quarterback Matt Barkley had high praise for Cal's defensive unit Tuesday, calling the Bears "probably the best defense" the Trojans will have faced to this point in the season. But there is an inherent advantage in playing them this week, he said: "It's an easy transition from last week, because, structurally on defense, they're really similar to Stanford." Both teams are able to switch from a particular 3-4 scheme to other arrangements just before the snap -- an aspect that can severely confuse inexperienced offenses and quarterbacks. Said Barkley: "We just have to be on point with knowing what front it is or what checks need to be made."
  • Freshman receiver Robert Woods, on the aftermath of viewing the film from his 12-catch, 224-yard, three-touchdown performance against Stanford: "I watched it and I was kinda impressed but then I noticed a lot of flaws in my catching. I noticed I was catching a lot with my body instead of my hands. And that resulted in a couple of my drops. I know for next week I gotta make sure I use my hands and practice it throughout this week." He's right; Kiffin corroborated that statement. Woods interestingly dropped the first pass he was thrown on the night in the exact fashion he described but rebounded within minutes to make two catches on USC's first drive.
  • With Smith out, redshirt junior Chris Galippo is filling his stead at weakside linebacker in practice. While Kiffin refused to address how the coaching staff would go about readying Galippo to start at that spot until later in the week, Galippo said Smith has already helped him with some of the differences in the two positions. Of course, Galippo lost his starting spot at middle linebacker to Devon Kennard this season, but he has recently begun to find his way onto the field for more playing time -- including last Saturday's game against Stanford, when he essentially split series with Kennard and earned the nod on Stanford's final series. Galippo takes the added responsibility in stride, and uses last year's failures as a way to "As an older guy who was here last year, I unfortunately had the experience of learning how to lose and how to deal with that as a competitor and as an athlete," he said Tuesday. "As someone who considers himself a veteran now, sometimes you gotta deal with that. It's a game -- it's not always gonna be perfect, but it's about how you deal with it and how you rebound that really shows your character."
  • Final notes: Cal coach Jeff Tedford had this to say about USC: "They're about five seconds from being 6-0 so they're still a great team."... This is now the third week of practice that Wes Horton has missed -- all because of an accidental kick to the back from fellow end Perry during the Washington State game.

***

Per usual, Kiffin spoke to the media after Tuesday's practice.

See what he had to say, including his comments on Cal's much-improved defense:



***

Smith spoke candidly Tuesday about the injury he suffered during the first series of the Stanford game after he made an impressive tackle, expressing some frustration with the irony that many of his injuries have come directly as a result of some of his bigger on-field successes.

See what the senior linebacker had to say about that, the possible steps to the transition Galippo would need to take to replace him this week and other topics:

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
10:18
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Coach Lane Kiffin called practice "sloppy" -- never a good word to be thrown around by a head coach, especially during game week. But that's exactly what the Trojans were Wednesday, with near-turnovers across the board from the offense and the defense appearing to lack discipline on a number of occasions.
  • Injury report: Defensive end Wes Horton (back) and cornerback T.J. Bryant (undisclosed) were listed as "limited" after practice and offensive lineman Michael Reardon was out. Bryant appeared fine as he participated in a good amount of defensive drills, but Horton spent most of practice on the sideline.
  • Two big practice plays: Walk-on linebacker Will Andrew lit up freshman running back Dillon Baxter after he caught the ball in first-team offense vs. second-team defense drills and tight end Blake Ayles viciously juked safety Marshall Jones on his way to scoring a touchdown. Andrew's hit was only one of several times that Baxter was hit -- hard -- by the defense Wednesday, prompting jokes on the sideline that USC's no-tackling mantra applied to everyone except the true freshman. After Jones was beaten by Ayles, safeties graduate assistant Sammy Knight gave all the members of the secondary a lecture on the sidelines, appearing to say that other players were out of position on the play and thus left Jones hung out to dry.
  • Backup quarterback Mitch Mustain has been the Trojans' holder so far this season, getting quite a few chances to make something out of the point-after attempt with Kiffin's many calls to go for two. But even though Baxter would seem to be a natural choice if USC wants a dynamic player at that spot, Kiffin said Wednesday that Baxter will stay away from the spot for the time being. "We’re just trying to get Dillon to go to class, line up right and not fumble,” Kiffin said. “The last thing we’re going to do is let him do all our field-goal plays. There’s a lot of audibles that go with that. That’s why Mitch is in there.”
  • The majority of the talk -- from players, coaches and the media alike -- in advance of this weekend's game has been centered on quarterback Jake Locker and coach Steve Sarkisian's ties to the USC program. But Kiffin tried to shift some of that over to rest of the Huskies squad Wednesday. Said Kiffin: "As we continue to watch film, we continue to see how dangerous these guys can be, obviously because of the quarterback, running back and receiver on offense but on defense because...they bring people from everywhere."
  • About Locker, freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins continues to portray the Washington senior in scout-team drills this week. Scroggins said Wednesday that he has learned through the process that the Washington senior is very competitive -- and very smart. "It's a privilege," Scroggins said of being chosen to play as Locker. "Basically, (the coaches) are giving you this role because they think you can play this role. To give it to a specific person, I think that's wonderful." We'll have more on Scroggins on Thursday.
  • Final notes: One more practice this week -- Thursday at 4 p.m. ... Neither Marc Tyler nor Allen Bradford have received word that they will start this week's game at running back, Kiffin said, and the players are still listed as co-starters on the depth chart. Last week, you may remember, the starting role at the position actually went to fullback Stanley Havili -- who took the game's first carry as a single back and rumbled 59 yards for a score.

***

Kiffin spoke to the media after practice, talking over the Trojans' jump in the rankings, that lack of discipline and how to fix it and a number of other topics.

See what he had to say:



***

Defensive end Armond Armstead missed the Washington State game because of a shoulder injury -- the same shoulder injury he played with against Minnesota the previous week.

Armstead said Wednesday that he would've played had it been a bigger game, and he also assessed the status of the defensive line at this point in the season.

See what he had to say:

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