USC: C.J. Gable

Position battles still unsolved

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
1:12
PM PT
Another day of practice passed Wednesday without answers at a number of key spots for the Trojans. Here's an overview of what still has to be determined over the next 72 or so hours, in order of most unresolved to nearly-resolved:

Running back

Any one of three players could start Saturday: Dillon Baxter, D.J. Morgan or Curtis McNeal. And Amir Carlisle could play too, unless he's still bothered by the hamstring injury that kept him out of Wednesday's practice.

This is the most unsettled position on the team, but it also has the potential for the best resolution, because it's easier to rotate players in and out here. It would be a surprise, at this point, if all three of the returners don't get at least five carries against the Gophers -- and closer to 10. It's very possible the coaching staff will not go into the game with a clear-cut choice to get primary carries and instead simply ride the hot hand.

The Trojans actually did that in the opener last year too, as C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford and Marc Tyler all ran the ball eight or more times. But that was more of a use-the-backups-when-the-game-opens-up situation.

This is a use-everyone-always situation.

Left guard

Jeremy Galten has been taking the first-team snaps here for several days now, but Lane Kiffin deliberately denied that Galten would be the starter on Wednesday, saying there is still hope that Abe Markowitz (foot) would be back by Saturday.

If he isn't, Galten will certainly be the choice. If he is, it's unclear what the Trojans would do. But one thing is clear about this spot: Whoever starts Game 1 is not necessarily the Game 2 starter. There will be plenty of opportunities for change here as the season goes on, and it wouldn't be a surprise if freshman Aundrey Walker eventually switched over here from the right side to pick up snaps.

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Pro Day tidbits plus some video

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
9:49
PM PT


As our coverage of Pro Day continues, we've already went over Tyron Smith and Jurrell Casey's workouts on USC's campus on Wednesday and Mitch Mustain's rebound from his February arrest.

Other things of note from the festivities: 31 of the 32 NFL teams were represented, including three general managers and two head coaches, Oakland's Hue Jackson and Dallas' Jason Garrett. Former Trojans who aren't exiting college this year weren't allowed to participate because of the NFL lockout, putting guys like Keary Colbert out of commission, but former USC receiver Travon Patterson did return to campus after transferring to Colorado last summer. Discus thrower Aaron Dan, a graduating member of the Trojan track and field team, also participated.

And two last tidbits: most USC assistants were there for at least part of the day, but head coach Lane Kiffin was nowhere to be found. The 40-yard dash and bench-press leaders on the day were both players with very small chances to be drafted, receiver David Ausberry (4.46 40) and offensive guard Zack Heberer (38 reps of 225 pounds).

Now here's the key info on the other former Trojans who participated Wednesday who have legitimate shots to be drafted, player-by-player in alphabetical order:

- Running back Allen Bradford

Bradford was timed as fast as 4.54 seconds on some stopwatches but the general consensus had him somewhere in the 4.6 range, not a positive development for the back, who needed a better time to convince NFL teams of his viability as a feature back. He did prove himself, though, as a capable pass-catcher in drills with Mustain and seemed to be proud of that afterward.

"I think that was kinda my downside -- a lot of people didn't think I could catch the ball out of the backfield because I didn't get it thrown to me, but I didn't drop the ball and I finished well on my runs," he said Wednesday.

- Tight end Jordan Cameron

Cameron looked very good, if not great, in position drills, catching most everything thrown his way by Mustain. He chose not to participate in the 40-yard dash or the bench press because of his positive numbers in the combine in those.

We'll have more on Cameron tomorrow.

- Receiver Ronald Johnson

Johnson's 40 time wasn't great -- only 4.49 -- but he was solid in position drills and looked very agile in shuttle and three-cone drills.

"I didn't feel good about it, but it is what it is and I can't do it over," he said of the 40 time. "They can see my speed out on the field in my routes and in my breaks, so that should make up for the 40 I ran."

We'll have more on Johnson's performance tomorrow.

- Offensive guard Butch Lewis

Lewis did 31 repetitions of 225 pounds and was timed in the 40 as fast as 5.09 seconds, but he didn't look too crisp in offensive line drills.

- Linebacker Michael Morgan

Morgan didn't look good in position drills or shuttle drills, but he did run a solid 40-time in the low 4.4's, ranging from 4.47-4.49. He tripped up on the three-cone drill.

- Center Kristofer O'Dowd

O'Dowd has been perhaps the most surprising workout warrior of the former Trojans, a guy who many expected to be more of a gamer type who would struggle in workouts. He looked good at the NFL Combine last month and he looked good again Wednesday in the limited drills he did do -- specifically offensive line-specific blocking drills.

"Coming into the combine, I had the focus and drive to show who I am, to show what school I’m from and to show who we are as offensive linemen," O'Dowd said. "I’m very happy. I exceeded what my goals were at the combine. So I wanted to come out here, do a little workout and kind of show in my last interview who Kris O’Dowd is."

- Linebacker Malcolm Smith

Smith may have helped himself the most of anybody Wednesday, beating the speedster Johnson with a 40-yard dash timed as fast as 4.45 seconds and also pushing out 28 repetitions in the bench press. His other numbers were reported at 39 inches in the vertical jump and 10 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump, solid figures both.

He tripped up in the shuttle drill but rebounded to finish strong.

- Cornerback Shareece Wright

Wright pulled up during defensive back drills near the end of the workout and didn't get up for a while, but the school announced his injury wasn't believed to be more serious than a pulled hamstring.

He didn't run a 40 after running it in 4.46 seconds at the combine.

NFL Combine recap

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
5:29
PM PT
The annual athletic workout headquarters that is the NFL Combine finished Tuesday in Indianapolis. Here's a recap of what the eight former Trojans participating in the festivities did over the five days of competition:

Allen Bradford, RB, 5-11, 242 pounds

Bradford weighed in at a fairly remarkable 242 pounds, which made him the 4th-heaviest running back out of 39 participants at the position, and the three guys in front of him -- Georgia's Shaun Chapas, Pittsburgh's Henry Hynoski and Stanford's Owen Marecic -- were all college fullbacks. His 40-yard dash time of 4.58 wasn't spectacular, but it was a respectable 15th out of the 39 prospects. His 28 bench-press repetitions at 225 pounds were third-best among all offensive players at the combine, and reports had him looking better than expected in the passing drills.

What'll he probably try to do is lower his 40-time a few hundredths of a second for USC's Pro Day later this month. If he can't do that, he runs the risk of being pigeonholed into the fullback spot at the next level.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 254 pounds

There were high expectations for Cameron in some circles, but the converted receiver came out and exceeded them over the weekend in Indy. He ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of any tight end (4.59) and recorded the second-highest vertical jump (37.5 inches) too. He won the 3-cone drill and also finished in the top five in the bench press and the broad jump and reportedly caught nearly everything thrown his way in pass-catching drills.

Cameron could have just played his way into a mid-round selection. At the very least, he'll be listed as a top sleeper pick on a ton of internet mock drafts over the next couple months.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey's 40 times had a wide variance, running as fast as 4.93 and as slow as 5.17. His overall time of 5.06 wasn't good enough to put him in the Top 15 in that category among defensive linemen, and none of his drill times were even close, either. For that, Casey probably goes down as someone who hurt himself a tad at the combine, although he wasn't really expected to wow anybody in the weight room to begin with. His stock is on the low end now, though, with most mock drafts sticking him around the second or third round.

Stanley Havili, FB, 6-0, 227 pounds

Havili did not work out at the combine, for reasons that are not currently clear. He did undergo shoulder surgery shortly after the end of the 2010 season and was sporting a sling on it in January, so he could be waiting until Pro Day to work out for NFL scouts. He did weigh in at 227 pounds, slightly more than the weight he played at while at USC but probably not enough to ease teams' doubts that he's too small to play fullback in the NFL.

Ronald Johnson, WR, 5-11, 199 pounds

Johnson finished with an official 40-time of 4.46, which tied for ninth-best among all receivers at the combine. He didn't participate in most of the other drills, but he did bench a respectable 16 repetitions. Johnson probably helped himself some with his measurements, though, as some scouts probably expected him to measure in smaller and lighter than those numbers.

He played at 185 in college, so the weight increase represents a significant improvement.

Kristofer O'Dowd, C, 6-4, 304 pounds

O’Dowd, a four-year starter who some scouts think has already reached his peak, finished tied for first among offensive linemen in the vertical jump (32.5) and tied for seventh in the 20-yard shuttle (4.59). He also ranked fifth in the bench press (31) and seventh in the 40-yard dash (5.16) and also finished in the top 10 in the broad jump.

So, yes, O'Dowd clearly helped himself.

Tyron Smith, RT, 6-5, 307 pounds

Smith didn't do anything besides the bench press -- and weigh in. But those two activities were plenty enough to create some buzz around him for Pro Day, as Smith weighed in at a hefty 307 pounds, 22 more than his listed playing weight during the 2010 season. He also did 29 bench-press reps.

Shareece Wright, CB, 5-11, 185 pounds

Wright ran a solid 4.46 40-yard dash time, which tied for seventh-best among cornerbacks, and recorded a 34.5 inch vertical jump and 9'5" broad jump. Reports had him looking polished during defensive back drills, which is a good sign for Wright, as one major criticism of him during his senior season was that he simply wasn't enough of a ballhawk for the next level.

USC's Pro Day is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on March 30, four weeks from today. A number of Trojans who didn't get combine invites are expected to work out for NFL scouts at USC's pro day, including linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, quarterback Mitch Mustain, running back C.J. Gable and receiver David Ausberry. Kicker Joe Houston, punter Jacob Harfman and offensive guards Butch Lewis and Zach Heberer are also possibilities.

NFL combine preview

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
5:12
PM PT
The NFL combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Eight USC prospects have earned invites to the festivities and will attempt to showcase their talents to the bevy of coaches and scouts in attendance.



Let's take a look at each prospect, with an eye on draft position and potential workouts where they could excel during this next week. They're sorted in alphabetical order, with listed height and weights from their USC biographies. Keep in mind that these measurements will probably be heavily adjusted in the next week after players are officially measured by the NFL:

Allen Bradford, RB, 6-0, 235 pounds

Bradford has the body type NFL teams like to see in a big, bruising runner, but his speed is questionable at best. His goal in Indianapolis, then, is simple: run a 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds or faster to show scouts and coaches he can be more than just an occasional ball carrier.

Another necessary task to prove that: perform well in catching drills. Bradford caught only eight passes in four years at USC and has serious questions attached to his pass-play skills.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 245 pounds

Cameron screams workout warrior in every sense of the phrase. He never produced much of anything while at USC -- he totaled 16 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD in two seasons, plus a redshirt year -- but always possessed the potential to start, the potential to be a great pass-catching weapon.

He still has that potential. Teams know he's quicker, more agile and in possession of better hands than the average tight end prospect. Where he needs to prove himself is in blocking, so he'll need to let loose on the weights and display that he has all of the necessary footwork down pat.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey has been criticized by scouts recently for not having an ideal body type. He's short and squatty, they say, and not a premiere athlete.

What's wrong with that? Casey is, regardless of natural athletic ability, one of the best run-stopping tackles in this draft, without a doubt. He won't be a 10-sack guy at the next level, but he's quick and smart enough to warrant selection as an early second-rounder. To do that, he's got to make a team fall in love with his motor and line-specific skills, so the defensive line drills will be big for him this week.

Showing up with a more chiseled upper body wouldn't hurt, either.

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Postgame thoughts: Notre Dame

November, 28, 2010
11/28/10
9:25
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from USC's 20-16 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday night at the Coliseum:
  • One Ronald Johnson catch and the Trojans are 8-4, Notre Dame is 6-6 and we're talking about USC rebounding from a tough loss to Oregon State to tough one out against a big rival. But Johnson didn't catch the ball in the open from Mitch Mustain -- then Mustain forced a second-down throw from the Notre Dame 23-yard line with 36 seconds left and was intercepted by Irish safety Harrison Smith. Now Notre Dame is 7-5, USC is 7-5 -- worse than last year -- and the Trojans have another losing streak on the books.
  • A couple of solid-insight quotes, one from each side: USC middle linebacker Chris Galippo, who had six tackles, an interception and a fumble forced in one of his best games for USC, on the loss: "As a competitor, you want to win every game. We all want to win every game. It is tough to fight that hard and come out on the losing end, but sometimes you learn more when you lose than when you win." And Smith, a senior leader for Notre Dame who has played linebacker and safety in his career, about his game-sealing pick: "When I saw it I knew I was in good position. I just thought to myself: 'I've got to come down with this and the game is over.'"
  • The Trojans' offense has failed them twice in a row now, a week ago putting up only seven points at Oregon State and this week putting up 16. You could argue, too, that none of the 16 points were of the offense's doing -- all came directly off turnovers produced by the defense. USC had a plus-three turnover differential on Saturday, a margin that rarely leads to a loss. Said Coach Lane Kiffin postgame: "If you had told me before we would be [plus-three] on turnovers, I would have expected a different result."
  • Making his starting debut for USC, Mustain (20-of-37, 177 yards, no touchdowns) wasn't great. But it wasn't like he was consistently failing at executing what he was asked to do; it was more like USC didn't try to do much because of his presence in the game and the failure of the run game. Said Kiffin: "We didn't ask him to do much today, but we didn't support him with the running game at all."

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Postgame extras: Oregon State

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
8:20
PM PT
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Video interviews with USC coach Lane Kiffin and defensive end Wes Horton, plus several quotes that stood out from after USC's 36-7 loss to Oregon State on Saturday at Reser Stadium:

USC safety T.J. McDonald, on the performance of the defense in relation to the score of the game: "The score says it all. It was just a different kind of game, and we needed to make sure that we played our best on our side of the ball. I felt like we did OK, but a loss is a loss and we can't blame the offense, we can't blame the defense. It was a team loss, so we have to go back and get on the chalkboard and go back to work.

Oregon State coach Mike Riley, on his team's offensive game: “They battled those guys from 'SC, and it wasn’t easy. It was hard to have consistency. We had some series where we didn’t really do much. But for the most part we took care of the football, and then we had some timely drives and made some timely plays. The team played hard and got the lead and finished. In the end, we won that game finishing strong.”

USC quarterback Matt Barkley, on what he saw from the Beavers while he was in the game in the first half: "They were a good team. Their defensive line was getting after it and it seemed like on a lot of those apsses their guys were just right there to make stops. I don't really know about the run game right now. We'll see on tape but we did not play well on offense at all; not nearly close to how we needed to play to win. It just wasn't a good day for us."

Oregon State center Alex Linnenkohl, on the difference in the game: “You can break it down to just five or six plays where there’s either an inch of daylight or it’s just not there and you have to go to the pass. Today our defense did great. They were just unbelievable in stopping them and I give them all the credit for letting us open up the playbook a little bit. We got to run the ball, do some sweeps and screens, we got some passes in and you know that’s fun to get going like that."

USC running back C.J. Gable, the Trojans' leading rusher, on the play of reserve quarterback Mitch Mustain: "He played good. He had to step up in a crucial situation and he tried his best. I'm not gonna be mad at him. He did what he had to do, and I'm happy that he came in with his head up."

***

Kiffin made his feelings clear in the news conference, calling his offense "horrible" and spending significant time lamenting what was that unit's worst performance of the season.

It wasn't defensive or special teams issues that caused the Trojans to lose, Kiffin said. It was the defense.

See all of what he had to say in the news conference room following Saturday's game:



***

Horton was one of many Trojans who said after Saturday's game they had no idea why USC continued to struggle so much in the state of Oregon.

It wasn't the Reser Stadium crowd, he said. Neither the hovering-around-40-degrees weather. But he couldn't put his finger on any other reasons.

See all of what the redshirt sophomore defensive end had to say:

USC-Oregon State grades

November, 20, 2010
11/20/10
8:29
PM PT
FPASSING ATTACK

A flat-out nightmare of a day for USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who passed for only 75 yards on 19 attempts, threw an interception and hurt his ankle on the penultimate play of the first half. Backup Mitch Mustain couldn't muster up much in his place.

DRUSHING ATTACK

Marc Tyler was named the starter this week in practice by Lane Kiffin, but he squandered the opportunity with a 3.1 yards-per-carry average before apparently re-injuring his ankle late in the first half. Reserve runner C.J Gable impressed some in the second half, gaining 57 yards.

CIN THE TRENCHES

Not a memorably bad day for the defensive line, but the brutes on offense struggled mightily to create running holes against the Beavers' D-line. The sack that caused Barkley's injury looked like it could have been prevented with good protection from the line.

CDEFENSE

Jacquizz Rodgers was a workhorse once again, but USC actually limited him fairly well early on and forced beleaguered Beavers quarterback Ryan Katz to make several tough passes. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Katz was able to do that just fine and made very few mistakes.

DSPECIAL TEAMS

It may seem like a minor factor, but OSU punter Johnny Hekker outclassed USC's Jacob Harfman, giving the Beavers a 15-yard advantage in field position per punt. Gable did come close to taking a kickoff back for a score on the drive he later scored on.

CCOACHING

Curse or no curse, Kiffin's Trojans didn't appear to be completely prepared for everything Oregon State threw at them -- and some of that has to go on the head coach, who criticized his team twice this week for lackluster practices. Energy was largely absent.

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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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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Notes from Sunday's conference call

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
11:59
PM PT
Some items of note from coach Lane Kiffin's Sunday conference call, which looked back at Saturday's loss to Oregon and ahead to next week's Arizona State game:
  • Saturday's game was indubitably quarterback Matt Barkley's worst performance of the season. Kiffin touched on some of that in his call while also taking part of the blame for the offense's poor performance: “Matt didn’t play very well and I didn’t help him very much,” the coach said. “I didn't feel like I did a really good job of getting us in rhythm offensively.
  • There were no new injuries to speak of, but Kiffin did admit that his running back corps was very banged up. All five of his backs -- Marc Tyler, Stanley Havili, Allen Bradford, Dillon Baxter and C.J. Gable -- were less than 100 percent, and it showed. Malcolm Smith was the only Trojan on the bubble to play who did not get on the field; Kiffin has hopes for his participation against the Sun Devils. Smith is listed as a co-starter with Chris Galippo on this week's depth chart.
  • Kiffin lauded USC's announcement of plans for a new $70 million facility, calling it a "gigantic step" for USC and crediting new university president C.L. Max Nikias and athletic director Pat Haden for spearheading the movement to get the facility in the works. The project is set to start in January 2011 and finish in July 2012, at which time it will likely give the Trojans a big recruiting advantage. “The only negative we’ve ever dealt with here in recruiting has been our facilities compared to other people,” Kiffin said Sunday. “Now we won’t have that.”
  • A notable statistic from the game, provided by Kiffin: Oregon blitzed on over 80 percent of USC's 85 offensive snaps in the game -- a remarkable number. In retrospect, Kiffin said he should have called easier pass plays for Barkley to convert to get the offense going.

Game-time updates: Oregon

October, 30, 2010
10/30/10
5:28
PM PT
We're just about set to go at the Coliseum for USC-Oregon.

Here are a couple of last-minute things worthy of an update before the Trojans attempt to upset the No. 2-ranked Ducks in what promises to be an exciting game:
  • All five of the Trojans that were on the bubble of playing this week are suited up. That includes defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), running backs Dillon Baxter (toe) and C.J. Gable (knee), right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee). We'll see what that means come kickoff, but I don't expect Malcolm Smith to play at weakside linebacker. Chris Galippo has proved more than an adequate replacement at the spot.
  • For what it's worth, Tyron Smith was announced as the starter at right tackle, Galippo was announced as the starter at weakside linebacker and the now-healthy Wes Horton (back) at the open defensive end spot. Marc Tyler was announced at running back over Allen Bradford.
  • The so-called Red Out, an effort to get the entire Coliseum crowd dressed in Cardinal-colored clothing for the game that was spearheaded by some USC fans on social media, looks to have worked -- at least in the student section. The rest of the crowd has yet to file in en masse.

Be sure to follow Trojans Live! on ESPNLA.com as Arash Markazi, Mark Saxon and I keep you updated throughout the game.

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2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler413292350536
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen25013375.39
J. Davis1255504.44
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
N. Agholor97122312.611
J. Smith5165812.95
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense158.2294.6452.8
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring35.123.811.3