USC: Brian Cushing

Heisman candidate Te'o impresses Trojans

November, 22, 2012
11/22/12
8:08
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- T.J. McDonald understands how hard it is for a defensive player to still be in the Heisman race at this time of year.

So he appreciates what Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o is doing this season, with 96 tackles and six interceptions for the undefeated Fighting Irish, who the Trojans host Saturday at the Coliseum (5 p.m. PT, ABC).

"You gotta be making a lot of plays," McDonald said. "You gotta be doing a lot of good things. He's carrying his defense, and that's definitely something that you can respect."

USC linebacker Hayes Pullard lives with Trojans receiver Marqise Lee and supports his Heisman campaign. But he admits he'd cast any postseason ballots he received for Te'o because of the defensive connection.

"I'm still a Marqise fan because he's my friend and roommate," Pullard said this week. "But being a linebacker, I'd give (Te'o) every vote, just being a linebacker and knowing how hard it is to get in there."

Pullard said Te'o "does everything 100 percent."

"I've watched his film -- every play he goes all out," Pullard said. "He plays every single play hard and aggressively."

Te'o goes in the same club with former USC star Brian Cushing as linebackers that Pullard looks up to, the redshirt sophomore said.

"I love his character," Pullard said. "I still look up to him as a linebacker."

Of course, Te'o nearly went to USC, committing to Notre Dame only on the morning of national signing day and spending the last minutes before he actually signed on the phone with former Trojans coach Pete Carroll.

Reminded of that this week and asked if he remembered how close Te'o was to coming to USC, current Trojans coach Lane Kiffin smiled.

"I do," he said.

Anthony Sarao back at home in New Jersey

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
10:43
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC linebacker Anthony Sarao has exactly one college start to his name, but he's already somewhat of a local legend back home in suburban Atlantic City, N.J., because of where he went to school.

He's looking to add to that this weekend, when the Trojans take on Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., two hours north of Sarao's hometown in Egg Harbor Township.

"Where I'm from, nobody really makes it," Sarao said Wednesday.

"But now everybody saw me on the field Week 1, so everybody's a USC fan, supporting."

Sarao, a redshirt freshman at USC, arrived on campus last summer as a hyped four-star linebacker, then earned scout team defensive player of the year honors while redshirting the 2011 season. He started at weakside linebacker in his college debut Saturday against Hawaii and performed well, recording four tackles and an eight-yard sack.

He may or may not start against this Saturday -- depending on the health of middle linebacker Lamar Dawson -- but he figures to have a sizable role with this Trojans team this season.

And that's a big surprise to people from his hometown, he says. There isn't much of a football tradition in the South Jersey area, so his friends aren't used to Jersey natives having such immediate success in college football -- especially so far away from home.

(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)

USC's fall camp is only 13 days away, starting up Aug. 4 and continuing for roughly four weeks before the Trojans' first game at Hawaii on Sept. 2.

But before USC's camp begins, NFL training camps will get going first. The Dallas Cowboys will be the first team to open camp -- Saturday, before heading to Oxnard, Calif., in mid-August for the second half of the summer. The Houston Texans -- and former USC linebacker Brian Cushing -- will begin camp a week from today.

We caught up with Cushing this week to talk over his expectations for the 2010 season and to get his thoughts on recent USC football progress.

Cushing did not answer any questions about the four-game suspension he accrued for his much-publicized violation of the NFL's performing-enhancing drug policy, but he will sit out the Texans' first four games and expects to make his season debut Oct. 10 against the New York Giants.

Here's the Q&A:

Pedro Moura: First, talk about earning Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors last season and what they meant for you. Were either of them more important to you?

Brian Cushing: No, they were both pretty equally important. They both are the things you want to accomplish in your rookie year and some guys go their whole careers without going to the Pro Bowl and I was fortunate enough to do so in my rookie year and that was pretty amazing.

PM: You're in the midst of your first offseason as an NFL player. What kind of stuff have you been doing to continue improving?

BC: I am really trying to learn defense in general as much as possible. I am comfortable in my position in the Texan system and plan to return to the game as best as possible.

PM: Is your thought process any different now that you're established in the league, as opposed to last season when you were trying to find your way and your college years when you had an obvious goal in mind?

BC: My thought process is different because I now know what to expect but preparing and knowing what to do to stay the same.

PM: A variety of factors in your rookie season, like missing the preseason and practices during the season yet continuing to compete at a high level on Sundays, gave you the reputation as tough guy in the NFL — something I'd say is very similar to the reputation you had at USC. Is that quality of yours — playing hurt and all — something you're proud of in your career so far?

BC: Yes, no matter how you feel on Saturday or Sunday, regardless of any nicks or injuries you may have, when it’s time to represent for your team and for yourself you have to be ready to play.

PM: You, obviously, spent four years at USC and earned some pretty high accolades while you were there, like starting four Rose Bowls, being named a 2008 All-American...What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time as a Trojan?

BC: The fourth year winning the Pac-10 title was a huge accomplishment for a team. We got so much done in my years at USC and it’s something I’ll never forget.

PM: Is there something you wish you could have done?

BC: I would have liked to win a national championship our freshmen year, but we all learned from that experience and became better football players.

PM: Speaking of USC -- what thoughts do you have on the USC sanctions?

BC: I really think it’s unfortunate. A lot of kids are getting penalized for things they weren’t involved with and if it were any other school I don’t believe the punishment would have been so bad.

PM: How much do you keep up with relating to the Trojans?

BC: I am pretty current. I know what’s going on and pay attention to a lot of guys still there that I played with to see how everything is going. You never forget a place like that.

PM: Was an up-and-down 9-4 season in 2009 tough to swallow as a recent alumnus of the program?

BC: Yeah it was terrible. That wasn’t Trojan football. After leaving your mark on a program like USC’s and leaving the tradition behind it is going to be disappointing to see but I know they will be back where they need to be.

PM: Having played the Seahawks last year, you won't match up with your former coach Pete Carroll's team for a couple years barring a Super Bowl meeting between your two teams. Is playing them at some point in the future something you're looking forward to -- especially with all the former Trojans Carroll has signed to his squad since he became coach?

BC: Of course, not only that but also I always look forward to playing any team that passed me in the draft. Playing against coach will be a cool opportunity, he knows me and what kind of player I am and he’ll know what to expect, so that would be a great opportunity when I get to play in front of him.

Friday links and notes

January, 29, 2010
1/29/10
8:34
PM PT
With official visits occurring all weekend, the USC campus is abuzz with recruits. Here are a few links and notes on today's USC-related news:
  • The list of recruits visiting USC has been reported across the internet, with some variance between reports. I can confirm linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (Huntington Beach, Calif.) is visiting. A schedule for the visits is posted here, on USC's official site.
  • Matt Barkley's father Les, an ex-Trojan, is in Haiti this week, according to tweets from Brice Butler and Barkley. Matt Barkley was on campus with his mother this afternoon.
  • Former USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was arrested early Friday morning in northern Kentucky on drunk-driving charges. Maualuga pleaded not guilty and was released at approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Maualuga had a blood-alcohol level of .157, nearly twice the legal limit. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 25.
  • On that note, another former Trojans linebacker, NFL defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing, is attending classes this semester at USC to complete his degree.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers sent out news releases today about the Feb. 28 inaugural Dodgertown Classic. USC and UCLA baseball will match up at Dodger Stadium as part of a four-team mini tournament. The Dodgers are marketing the game with an April 29 USC Night at the stadium. More information can be found here.
  • USC basketball has an early game Saturday at 3 p.m. in Eugene, Ore. It will be the Trojans' last visit to Oregon's legendary MacArthur Court, in its 83rd year. "The Pit", as it is known, will be replaced by the new, $200-million Matthew Knight Arena by this time next year. The Ducks beat UCLA in overtime Thursday, 71-66.

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C. Kessler13295110710
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J. Allen804335.42
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N. Agholor262399.23
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