USC: Brandon Carswell

Film study: Arizona

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
7:24
PM PT
Here’s the fourth post in our new ‘film study’ series started last week.

Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we’ll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.

We've already done USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota, 23-14 win over Utah, 38-17 win over Syracuse and 44-23 loss to Arizona State. Here, now, are our five notes — four big things and a bunch of little ones — from USC’s 48-41 win over Arizona on October 1, 2011.

Letting up

The Trojans led this game 17-0 at one point and 34-12 midway through the third quarter. It should never have gotten to the point that it did in the final minutes, when USC had to recover an onside kick to avoid possible overtime.

In particular, USC's defense on Arizona's final drive was just bad.

Even with a penalty, it only took the Wildcats six pass attempts (and five completions) to go 53 yards against the Trojans in those final minutes. On first-and-goal at the USC 4-yard line with 1:06 to go, Arizona's Nick Foles threads the needle with ease through Shane Horton, Chris Galippo and T.J. McDonald to complete a touchdown pass to Austin Hill at the back of the end zone.

And, earlier, the Wildcats ran 24 plays to the Trojans' 10 in the third quarter. A team entering a period with a 17-point advantage should not be giving up those kind of numbers.

Lee breaks out

This was Marqise Lee's official breakout game, and, as you might expect, it was helped in large part by the dominant play of Robert Woods, who had a ridiculous 255-yard day.

On Lee's 33-yard touchdown catch near the end of the first quarter, Arizona's defenders are drawn out of position by Woods to leave Lee literally wide open in the end zone. It was a masterful play call by Lane Kiffin considering how the game had gone to that point.

One mistake by Lee: He didn't fight for the ball well enough on a slant route he ran in the third quarter, when he was targeted by Barkley. Arizona's Shaquille Richardson jumped the route, but Lee could have done a better job of preventing the interception.

Still, a telling move from him came at the end of the third, when he broke a nice 14-yard gain off a short pass from Matt Barkley but was tackled by his shoestrings as he developed eyes for the end zone. He slammed his hands on the ground repeatedly after the play.

Lee nearly scored two plays later, when he leaped to catch a 45-yard pass from Barkley and hurt his left shoulder as he fell to the ground at the 1-yard line. He was back in the game two possessions later.

McDonald's two picks

T.J. McDonald got really, really lucky in this game.

It's not often you get two interceptions to fall into your hands in one quarter. The junior safety had three picks all season, and two of them came within a five-minute stretch of the first quarter against the Wildcats.

And, to make matters crazier, Foles hadn't thrown a single one on the year heading into the game.

Other than those, though, McDonald still had his best game yet, producing six tackles and breaking up a key deep pass in the fourth that could have changed the outcome.

Pass rush problems

USC had only one sack all game against the Wildcats, who had previously had a lot of trouble keeping Foles off the ground.

Guess who had the sack? The Trojans' only real pass-rusher, Nick Perry. He was really the only one producing pressure on Foles throughout the game, with a little bit of DaJohn Harris mixed in.

That's how Foles was able to complete 41 of 53 passes for 425 yards. The problem had plagued the Trojans in each of their games before this one, but it really came to a head here.

With both Perry and Harris gone in 2012, it's going to be interesting to see who -- if anyone -- gets to opposing signal-callers.

Final notes: Once again, Brandon Carswell was the lead blocker on Woods' 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the game. The senior receiver was by far the Trojans' best skill-position blocker. ... Anthony Brown had some really impressive open-field tackles, including one that was nullified by a personal-foul penalty on George Uko. ... Dion Bailey whiffed badly on an opportunity to quickly bring down Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey on his 27-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. ... Kiffin netted the Trojans three extra points with a smart decision to go for it on fourth down in no man's land at the end of the first half. ... This was not Kiffin's happiest day. He was irate at the officials on numerous occasions, including after one curious sideline interference call.

Film study: Syracuse

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
10:56
AM PT
Here’s the third post in our new ‘film study’ series started last week.

Every other day from now until Aug. 23, we’ll be putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes from each game, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, on Aug. 25, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.

We did USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota on Wednesday and the Trojans' 23-14 win over Utah on Friday. Here, now, are our five notes — four big things and a bunch of little ones — from USC's 38-17 win over Syracuse on Sept. 17, 2011.

Barkley's best

Matt Barkley picked through the opposing secondary with ease in this game.

It starts the first drive, using Robert Woods the perfect amount while still mixing in other receivers, as Lane Kiffin and the Trojans started to effectively use Woods as a decoy for the first time. Spreading the ball out, Barkley completed a combined 10 passes to Brandon Carswell and Rhett Ellison -- neither player had more than three receptions in any game the rest of the year.

In total, Barkley threw seven near-touchdown passes against the Orange and five actual touchdown passes, with one to Marqise Lee getting called back because of a facemask and one to Woods being ruled out of bounds.

But Kiffin did try to get Barkley his sixth on the final drive, when he called an ill-advised pass play on first-and-goal at the five-yard line and got the quarterback sacked for a loss of 10.

Robey and Pullard

So Syracuse started out the game moving the ball with ease on the USC defense, needing nine plays to get from its own 23-yard line to the Trojans' five. Then two of USC's top three tacklers thus far stepped up and made plays.

First, Hayes Pullard snuffed out a screen pass to Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey and stopped it for a loss. Then, on third and five, Nickell Robey pounced on an out-route and holds the Orange to a one-yard gain.

Syracuse didn't score again until the second half.

Through three games, it's been clear that the Trojans' top three tacklers are T.J. McDonald, Pullard and Robey, not necessarily in that order, with Dion Bailey probably the fourth. Bailey made a nice fumble-forcing tackle on Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib in the fourth quarter.

(Read full post)

USC's undrafted players pick teams

April, 29, 2012
4/29/12
11:42
AM PT
Six 2011 USC Trojans have latched on to NFL teams via the undrafted free-agent wire as of Sunday morning.

Those include defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, who signed with the Tennessee Titans, and linebacker Chris Galippo, who agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts. Harris had been projected as a potential mid-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft but slipped because of health concerns, and Galippo had an outside shot of being selected entering the weekend.

The four others: receiver Brandon Carswell, who signed with the Oakland Raiders, long snapper Chris Pousson (Tampa Bay), defensive tackle Christian Tupou (San Diego) and running back Marc Tyler (Green Bay).

Nine players from the 2011 USC squad will have the opportunity to play in the NFL next season, with the six undrafted signees plus first-round draft selections Matt Kalil and Nick Perry and fourth-round pick Nick Perry.

The Trojans could have close to that many drafted next season, led by potential first-round selections Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Robert Woods.

USC-centric NFL draft preview

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
6:35
AM PT

The 2012 NFL draft begins tomorrow, Thursday.

USC has two players expected to be taken in the first round, two more players who should definitely be picked at some point over the draft's three days and three other prospects who stand a chance of being selected.

We break down those seven players' draft stock here, in order of their projected selection:

LT Matt Kalil

The two-year USC starter was looked at as a virtual lock to go No. 3 overall to the Minnesota Vikings for quite some time, but there has been recent speculation that his stock is dropping. Still, an absolute worst-case scenario would have Kalil going sixth to St. Louis or seventh to Jacksonville. There's no way he falls out of the top eight, which would make him the highest USC selection since Mark Sanchez went fifth to the Jets in 2009.

DE Nick Perry

Scouts' and experts' opinions on Perry appear varied. Some have him scratching the top half of the first round and some have him falling near the end of the bottom half. The physical specimen still seems like a great bet to be picked at some point among the top 32 picks. One of the factors that will decide how he goes is whether teams will select him as a 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker, which are both possibilities considering his skill set.

DT DaJohn Harris

Harris has some work-ethic issues and medical concerns with sleep apnea and a patent foramen ovale, but he also has the potential to be a starting defensive tackle at the next level, and that should get him picked somewhere in the fourth or fifth rounds, which means he'll probably have to wait until Saturday to be selected with the draft's format. Harris never had a truly consistent long stretch with the Trojans, but he showed flashes on a number of occasions.

(Read full post)

De'Von Flournoy following Carswell's model

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
12:28
PM PT
In five years at USC from 2007-2011, Brandon Carswell caught 40 total balls for 386 yards and two touchdowns -- not exactly the type of numbers that make for an example for coaches to point to as examples of successes under their watch.

But that's exactly what Lane Kiffin's doing with Carswell's case this spring, using the since-graduated receiver's example to show redshirt junior De'Von Flournoy how he can be a valuable piece in his final two seasons with the Trojans.

Never mind that Flournoy didn't catch a single ball during his first three years at USC -- Carswell only caught six in the same span and then was on the field in most every big passing situation as a senior, a key cog to the Trojans' success.

This spring, Flournoy is competing with two younger players to be the No. 3 receiver this year. But because of depth issues at the position, it's likely he'll at least get to see the field, even if he loses the battle to line up in the slot. Kiffin's just hoping his blocking and consistency will allow the Trojans to keep him there on a semi-regular basis and get him Carswell-caliber numbers.

"What we can hope is that we have a Carswell story," Kiffin said on Saturday of Flournoy after he starred in the scrimmage at the Coliseum. "The same type of deal -- a guy under the radar who kind of moves around and doesn't really do much his first couple years in the program, then be very productive."

(Read full post)

Pro Day notes, quotes and video

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
7:37
PM PT


Here are notes and quotes from USC's annual Pro Day event held on campus Wednesday that didn't fit into the rest of our coverage from the day:
  • The stars of the day were left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry, by far. Both players dominated the only thing in which they participated -- position-specific drills. Perry's agility showed up in his drills, when he looked twice as fast as the other defensive linemen in changing directions in small areas. Kalil went one-on-one against Rhett Ellison and Martin Coleman in line/tight end drills and consistently controlled each situation.
  • Ellison looked good in pass-catching drills, far more fluid than he did last season. With a respectable time of 4.83 in the 40 and height/weight of 6 feet 5 and 250 pounds, Ellison might be drafted higher than initially projected. Worst-case scenario, he could probably be a usable special-teamer in the NFL. And he has the bloodlines and work ethic to give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Christian Tupou again didn't test well, running 5.50 and 5.40 in the 40-yard dash and struggling some in the defensive-line drills. He's really not a workout-type player and this setting hurts his stock. Running back Marc Tyler said scouts had him in between a 4.64 and 4.70 40, but his official time was in the 4.8-range. He joked that he wasn't going to be running for any 70-yard touchdowns regardless, unless the defender chasing him slipped.
  • The fastest 40-yard dash time from a 2011 Trojan was Brandon Carswell's 4.56. Former USC defensive back Cary Harris ran the overall fastest time with a 4.53. The slowest went to Coleman who was timed at 5.95 and 6.03 (gulp). Of the prospects with a legitimate hope of being drafted, Carswell's time helped him the most.
  • A general theme from those who went to the NFL combine: It's a little bit scary. Tyler said the time change messed him up and an injured hamstring contributed to his poor running in the 40-yard dash. Linebacker Chris Galippo said he was happy with his performance, not only on the field but in the interview room, where he said he hoped he showed teams he was a "fast-twitch brain" kind of player.
  • Among the walk-ons who worked out for USC were tackle Peter Yobo and cornerbacks Boomer Roepke, James Harbin and Allen Noble. Former players included Cary Harris, safety Kevin Ellison, linebacker Nick Garratt and defensive back Josh Pinkard. 2011 Trojans who worked out but aren't expected to be drafted included linebacker Shane Horton, safety Marshall Jones and long-snapper Chris Pousson.

More NFL combine invites for ex-Trojans

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
10:30
AM PT
Last we wrote, running back Marc Tyler and defensive tackle DaJohn Harris were the only two 2011 Trojans to receive official invitations to the NFL Combine later this month.

Now, we know, there have been three other former USC players invited to participate in the Feb. 22-Feb. 28 event: defensive tackle Christian Tupou, linebacker Chris Galippo and tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison. The three were asked later in the process than Tyler and Harris.

Left tackle Matt Kalil, a sure top-10 pick in April's NFL draft, has not yet been officially invited but is just about a guarantee to end up in Indianapolis for the festivities. Defensive end Nick Perry's situation is the same way.

Last month in Florida, Tyler and Harris played in the East-West Shrine Game, considered the second best college All-Star game played each offseason after the Senior Bowl. No Trojans were invited to that game, although Galippo and receiver Brandon Carswell did play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game in Carson last month as well.

The 2012 NFL draft begins April 26.

Where USC's draft-eligible prospects stand

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
4:18
PM PT
USC has seven players who stand at least a decent chance of being selected in April's NFL draft. With none of them participating in this week's Senior Bowl and the four who played in all-star games already done with their commitments, we figured it's time to delve into where they could be selected and what kind of players they could be at the next level -- starting with the clear-cut top prospect.

LT Matt Kalil

Kalil is going to be a top-10 pick, no doubt about it. The only question with him is how high he'll go. Some draft prognosticators have him firmly entrenched in the No. 2 overall spot of the St. Louis Rams, where new coach and USC alum Jeff Fisher would use him to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, who is said to be the reason he picked the Rams job over other options.

He could also go third, sixth, ninth or 10th -- the teams picking in those spots all need offensive tackles. And potential pick trades could leave him going at any of the other slots, too.

DE Nick Perry

All season long, Perry was projected as a second- or third-round selection. Now that draft analysts are seeing his film, though, Perry has moved right up into the thick of the first-round mix. It's gotten to the point now where it'd be a surprise if he wasn't selected in the first round -- especially after next month's NFL Combine.

Is there anyone who stands to benefit more from next month's festivities than Perry? It's doubtful. He could run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, based on what he's run in college testing. And he'll put up superb bench-press and weight-room numbers for his 6-3, 250-pound frame.

There are only two questions, then: (1) Can he play defensive end in the NFL or is he better suited to a 3-4 outside linebacker spot? (2) How come he didn't produce a bit more with the Trojans? He never had the monster year he and others predicted he would have.

DT DaJohn Harris

It looks like Harris is going to be taken fairly high, which is interesting, because the 6-4, 310-pounder never produced on a consistent basis until his senior season at USC -- and, even then, he wasn't all that consistent in 2011.

But he is exactly the type of player who could emerge into a starting-caliber defensive tackle in the league. And, based on what he did over the weekend in the East-West Shrine Game, it appears likely he'll be a third- or fourth-round selection in April's draft.

(Read full post)

Catching up with Chris Galippo, Brandon Carswell

January, 22, 2012
1/22/12
3:27
PM PT
CARSON -- On the same day former USC Trojans Marc Tyler and DaJohn Harris competed in the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando to mostly-positive reviews, two ex-teammates played in a similar but less-heralded game in Southern California.

Linebacker Chris Galippo and receiver Brandon Carswell were both members of the winning National team at the first NFL Players' Association Collegiate Bowl in L.A. on Saturday, held at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Known as the Texas vs. the Nation game until 2011, the NFLPA game allowed select underclassmen to participate and NFL scouts were not allowed to attend because of a rule preventing them from scouting such players at college All-Star games. But all teams are getting copies of the game film from the game, and, in past years, a number of the players who took part in this game ended up being late-round selections in the NFL draft.

Galippo, projected as a late-round selection, played much of the game at middle linebacker for the 20-14 winners. He talked after the game about his life since his USC football career ended in November and how he's been preparing for the draft, among other topics.



Carswell, considered unlikely to be selected in April's draft, recorded one reception for 22 yards and also showcased some of his trademark blocking. During the week of practices, he made noise with his willingness to go deep down the field to block for his teammates, and he did the same thing in Saturday's game.

Here he is on the field after the game, talking over his pre-draft regimen, the one class he has to finish in the spring semester to get his college degree and what he thought of the bowl-game experience.

Top 10 moments, No. 10: Woods' catch at Oregon

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
12:19
PM PT
Over the next two weeks, we'll be releasing our list of the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season -- one moment per day, each weekday. Our lists of the top 10 players of the season and the five biggest questions facing the Trojans in 2012 will follow.

We have judged our moments on three primary criteria: (1) overall impact on the season and the future, (2) impact on the game in which it occurred and (3) entertainment value. Here, then is moment No. 10:

The 10th-best moment of the Trojans' 2011 season was Robert Woods' four-yard touchdown catch from Matt Barkley with 2:27 to go in the second quarter of USC's 38-35 win over the then-No. 4 Oregon Ducks in Eugene.

Why so high for a short pass play that didn't feature an incredible throw or catch and didn't directly decide the outcome of a game? Two reasons.

It clearly demonstrated just how innovative of a play-caller Lane Kiffin can be. Faced with a crucial third-and-goal just before halftime, Kiffin didn't shy away from drawing up something original, putting Woods in motion to the right side with the goal of opening up some space for him. By the time the Ducks realized what he was doing, the ball had been snapped and Barkley's throw was probably halfway in the air to Woods. He caught it comfortably and stepped into the end zone, two Oregon defenders each four steps away from being able to make a play on the ball.

It also fostered by far the best celebratory moment of USC's season. When Woods got to the Trojans' sideline, television cameras caught receiver Brandon Carswell pretending to pour chalk onto Woods' gloved hands, and he proceeded to pull a LeBron James-esque chalk toss as James himself stood on the opposite sideline watching the game as a guest of Nike. Woods tweeted after the game, thanking LeBron for the "permission" to use his trademark move.

It ended up being a key score come the end of the game. Had USC failed to convert and been forced to settle for a field goal, the fourth quarter would likely have been much different -- and the Trojans wouldn't have gone into the locker room with nearly as much momentum at the half.

Woods had several highlight-reel catches this season, including his 82-yard scoring catch-and-run early against Arizona, his 45-yard catch for a touchdown off an unexpected Barkley scramble against Colorado and even his 12-yard grab earlier in the Oregon game. But this one was so subtly good and so important in the Trojans' biggest win of the season, it deserved a spot on this list.

Check back Tuesday for our ninth-best moment of the 2011 season, which happened in the Washington game earlier this month.

Thanksgiving Day celebrations

November, 24, 2011
11/24/11
1:49
PM PT
USC coach Lane Kiffin had a smart, quick answer when he was asked after the Trojans' Thursday practice what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

"Our quarterback," Kiffin said.

True enough. But Kiffin also had some more insight to offer on his players' and his own Thanksgiving Day celebrations later Thursday. The 36-year-old Trojans coach didn't plan on going home until 6 or 7 p.m., but then he'd get a chance to eat, drink and be merry for a bit with wife Layla and the rest of the Kiffin clan.

And, most importantly, not talk any football for a few hours.

"Not at all," Kiffin said. "Really it's the last thing we want to do. We don't want to talk about football when we finally go away from here.

"But a lot of our family is here, on both sides, so it's good."

Kiffin and his staff checked with all of the players, too, and everybody's either going back home to spend time with family or congregating at certain players' homes for a makeshift Thanksgiving Day feast. A number of players' families -- including receiver Brandon Carswell and safety Jawanza Starling -- flew in to Los Angeles to celebrate out here.

The only challenge, then, is making sure some of the players don't come in a little, uh, overweight for Friday afternoon's walk-through.

"We talked to our big guys," Kiffin said. "It's going to be hard to monitor them. Unless we go from house to house.

"We just have to trust them, but I don't think that's going to go over very well."

Bringing back a tradition of old

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
2:10
PM PT

Pedro Moura/ESPNLA.com
Defensive tackle Christian Tupou wears his No. 44 jersey from Sacramento Grant High on his final day of padded practice at USC. He was one of four Trojans to take part in a long-standing school tradition.

Bringing back a tradition that has escaped the Trojans for quite some time now, four USC seniors wore their high-school jerseys to practice Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Christian Tupou, offensive lineman Martin Coleman and receiver Brandon Carswell sported their prep uniforms, and fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison took some scissors and tape to his current uniform to make it look like his old one.

"We're just trying to keep tradition alive at this school," said Tupou, adding that his blue-and-yellow No. 44 jersey from Sacramento Grant High fit him best 40 pounds ago. "It was kind of unusual, a little uncomfortable, just different.

"But if it's keeping tradition alive -- if that's what it means -- then I'm all for it."

Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu first brought the idea up to the players a while back, Tupou said, mentioning that it was all the rage in the 1980's, when he was in school. Then, Ellison got more information on it from his father, Riki Ellison, and told the rest of the seniors to participate.

There was some confusion as to whether it'd be done Wednesday, for the final padded practice, or Thursday, for the final practice overall. But Thursday has its own tradition as the seniors run off the practice field through a tunnel formed by their teammates, so the players decided to do it on its own.

"Rhett's been waiting for this a long time," said Carswell His dad told him about the tradition and he brought it to our attention. A lot of the seniors are kinda bummed out that they didn't get to wear theirs, but it was fun for today."

Ellison cut up an undershirt and taped up his helmet to create some similarities to the get-up he wore at St. Francis in the Bay Area. Coleman wore the green uniform he sported at Edison High in Orange County.

Carswell's jersey was a navy No. 1 jersey from Milpitas High, also in the Bay Area. He said he felt a lot tighter than he remembered it.

"I like the way it looks," Carswell said. "I felt fast out there today, felt young again, it was awesome."

USC coach Lane Kiffin said he supported the players' attempt to revive a bit of history.

"They mentioned it to me and I had no problem with that," Kiffin said. "That's got nothing to do with how we're preparing and how we're lining up and practicing.

"Anytime we have a chance to let the kids do something they like we usually favor that as long as we're still staying focused."

Robert Woods' example

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
4:47
PM PT
It was cold, it was early and it was rainy.

Robert Woods, USC's star sophomore receiver, could have easily asked out of the Trojans' early-morning practice Wednesday. He has an injured ankle and elbow, nothing major but nagging injuries both, and no one would have faulted him.

But he didn't. Woods got out to the practice field early and stayed out there for the duration of the session, pleasing his coach, Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin himself thought of holding Woods out of practice and giving him a two-day sequence off combined with Thursday's upcoming off day, but he ultimately decided against it.

“He’ll get some rest time coming up here, but we just thought it was too important, especially as a message to the team," Kiffin said. "Here is arguably our best player and he’s out here going through everything -- in the rain -- trying to get better.

"I thought it was a great message.”

Woods had a solid practice, although he didn't have the standout performance his teammate Brandon Carswell did. Carswell caught a pass leaping left-handed in the end zone, prompting a celebration from the team's other receivers.

Marqise Lee also made an impressive bobbling grab, securing the ball with his feet after it passed through his hands.

Barkley's success becoming routine

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
11:36
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Two-thirds of his passes were completed for 324 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, but, for USC quarterback Matt Barkley, it really was another game.

These types of performances are starting to become routine for the junior signal-caller, who's averaging 297 yards and three touchdowns per game this season, with just one interception overall. His performance against Syracuse might have, in the past, been a big deal. But not anymore.

"It just seemed like another normal game for him," said running back Marc Tyler.

Barkley's bests have been upped. He nearly set the school record for touchdown passes Saturday and instead tied it for the third straight time, setting up an expectation for him to break it at some point later this season.

One thing that helped him Saturday: fewer drops from the receivers he was throwing to. Xavier Grimble had one big drop in the first half, but that was the only notable one. USC receivers and tight ends totaled roughly a dozen drops in the first two games. Eight receivers also caught passes, a season-high.

"It was a different experience tonight than the other five touchdown games I've had," Barkley said. "I didn't notice it until I looked up at the board late in the game and I think that was because of how we spread the ball around tonight.

"I think I just have better anticipation of what the defense is going to do this year. Having two years in the system helps a lot and our guys are really making me look good out there."

It's not just about the anticipation, although that clearly plays a significant role. Barkley's arm, truthfully, is better than it was last year. Something's changed with the way he throws a football. He's more in command of the ball, certainly, and he seems more capable of delivering deep balls on target than he was previously.

"His arm is definitely stronger than it was before," said senior receiver Brandon Carswell, who had a career-high five catches for 45 yards in the win over Syracuse. "I don't know what he was doing in the summer, but it's working and i like it."

(Read full post)

Building around Robert Woods

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
12:33
AM PT


That might have been the quietest 100-yard day from a receiver ever.

USC sophomore wideout Robert Woods caught eight passes for 102 yards in Saturday's 23-14 win over Utah, but nobody was talking about it afterward. Even during the game, Everybody seemed to be talking about other things, like the return of Marc Tyler or, later, Matt Kalil's field-goal block -- everybody except Utah, of course, who keyed in on Woods from the beginning of the game and barely let up until late.

"There were less chances," Woods said after Saturday's game. "They had the corner outside of me, the safety over the top and the linebacker flying under. After a point in time, they stopped doing that and let me play a little bit and I think that's where my catches came from."

Of course, all of this was expected. Woods caught a school-record 17 balls for 177 yards in the Trojans' season opener last week against Minnesota. The double-teams were going to be there since that game ended.

Woods said Saturday's game was "just a regular game," as opposed to last week's, which he said was "pretty amazing."

The question now is whether USC can continue to win without Woods being the entire focal point of its offense. The Trojans started to do some of that Saturday but couldn't complete the effort. Only one player other than Woods -- tight end Xavier Grimble -- caught more than two passes, and Grimble is probably in Lane Kiffin's doghouse after his third-quarter fumble led to a Utah touchdown.

"We knew it was coming," Woods said of the Utah defensive strategy. "We had the game plan for that.

"We knew it was going to be a big tight end game for Xavier Grimble and the ground game was there too."

They may have had the game plan for that, but the game plan clearly didn't work all that well. Marqise Lee, the other starter, caught only two passes. Brandon Carswell, the No. 3 guy, caught just one, and Rhett Ellison didn't even get one grab.

The Trojans need more production from more players, because the coverage Utah draped around Woods on Saturday isn't a one-time thing. It's going to be a weekly affair.

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