USC: D.J. Shoemate

Friday practice report

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
9:06
PM PT
Here are your usual notes, quotes and video from Friday's practice, the longest yet of fall camp at over three hours:
  • The latest on the Stanley Havili-T.J. Bryant situation is here. Havili was not allowed to practice Friday by coach Lane Kiffin and has been suspended indefinitely -- despite apparent "begging" from Bryant to allow Havili to escape punishment.
  • More news came when Kiffin said he had "great confidence" in what his regime did during his year at Tennessee in 2009. Of course, that comment came in response to the news that Tennessee is under NCAA investigation for a variety of alleged minor recruiting violations that occurred under Kiffin.
  • In Havili's absence, it appears redshirt freshman Simione Vehikite will be the latest Trojan to move over to fullback. Vehikite, previously a linebacker, spent all of Friday's practice at the position. On Wednesday, former tight end Rhett Ellison began practicing at the position, in a move Kiffin said was made to provide depth after the transfer of D.J. Shoemate. Kiffin has not committed to leaving either player at the spot in the long term.
  • On the subject of position changes, Kiffin said Friday he plans to try all three of the freshmen tight ends on the defensive side of the ball at some point in fall camp. Christian Thomas continued to impress during practice, while the physically imposing Xavier Grimble displayed an unusual combination of size and speed with a couple of post-catch runs. Randall Telfer has played solidly.
  • Injury report: left tackle Matt Kalil dressed but again sat out of practice because of a hamstring injury suffered last week. A trio of receivers -- freshman Kyle Prater (groin), sophomore De'Von Flournoy (shoulder) and junior Brandon Carswell (thigh) -- stayed on the sidelines during practice with injuries, although Carswell stayed a while after practice catching balls from walk-on quarterback John Manoogian.
  • Speaking of walk-on quarterbacks, the Trojans got another Friday when redshirt sophomore Emon Saee was officially announced as a new member of the team. Saee, a Calabasas native, has not played football since high school.
  • Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley was clearly off his game Friday after a sharp performance Thursday, but Kiffin said nothing was off physically with his starting signal-caller. Midway through practice, backup Mitch Mustain was tripped up by one of his own offensive linemen during a play and looked as if he was limping for a bit of time. His first pass after the incident was an ugly flutterer that missed its intended target by more than five yards in the end zone, but the senior soon rebounded and was back to his normal self shortly.
  • An on-field highlight: when senior Allen Bradford motored around left end for a touchdown on Brian Kennedy Field early on in practice, he celebrated by spiking the ball in the end zone. But new offensive coordinator and running backs coach Kennedy Pola quickly established order by ordering Bradford to pick up the ball, run a lap, and not do it again.
  • A few final notes: Newly-minted scholarship lineman Abe Markowitz was the subject of a complimentary post-practice comment from Kiffin, who attributed the early awarding of a scholarship -- scholarship earners are usually announced at the end of fall camp -- to Markowitz' financial situation. Markowitz' father, Barry, said late Thursday that his son worked six days a week on campus to help pay for tuition and expenses. ... USC donned half-pads Friday for the first time. The first padded practice of the fall, Sunday's, will also be treated as the Trojans' first of four "preseason games" during camp, Kiffin said. ... Two USC assistants -- offensive line coach James Cregg and defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza -- were on Kiffin's staff during his one-year tenure at Tennessee. Strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus also worked for the Volunteers.

***

Kiffin addressed the Havili-Bryant situation as soon as he began to speak to reporters Friday. His disappointment with Havili seemed to be a bit of a change in stance from Thursday, when he immediately defended the senior fullback. Hear all of Kiffin's comments on the altercation and its consequences in his post-practice meeting with reporters:



With Bryant being out for at least three weeks, Brian Baucham and Torin Harris are essentially embroiled in a one-on-one battle for the second starting cornerback spot. Friday, the engaging Baucham talked about that situation, addressed the 2009 motorcycle accident that limited him for much of last season and compared himself and Harris as corners:

Thursday practice report

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
8:39
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from the second of USC's 24 practices scheduled for fall camp, which was just as long as Wednesday's:
  • The big story coming from practice was the cheekbone injury suffered by cornerback T.J. Bryant in an altercation with fullback Stanley Havili that apparently occurred Friday night. Kiffin said Bryant is expected to be out for 3-4 weeks after undergoing surgery earlier Thursday. Havili apologized for the incident in a brief meeting with reporters and took full responsibility for his actions. "We're here to support him and to make sure that it doesn't happen again," new offensive coordinator and running backs coach Kennedy Pola said of the incident. "Because it can happen in a game and anything like that, but he's a good young man. We're gonna do what Coach Kiffin follows through with and see what happens from there."
  • Injury updates: Offensive lineman Matt Kalil, the projected starter at left tackle, was again relegated to sideline duty because of a hamstring injury suffered last week. His injury is not considered serious but it is not known when he will return. Defensive end Armond Armstead sat out for the second consecutive day, this time with a stomach ailment. He came off the field early Wednesday because of dehydration. Receiver De'Von Flournoy was helped off the field midway through practice and was looked at by the Trojans' training staff; Brandon Carswell and Kyle Prater were also unable to finish practice, as was Havili -- with a minor hamstring injury unrelated to the altercation.
  • On position battles, Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard will continue to rotate between first-team snaps at middle linebacker on a daily basis, just as they did during the spring. Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said any decision on the eventual starter at the middle linebacker position is nowhere near made. At safety, Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald have become fairly established as the first-teamers, but junior Drew McAllister is also an option as a potential starter or nickel package defensive back. McAllister missed all of spring practice because of a lingering hip injury and is still not 100%, but he practiced Wednesday and Thursday. He said he felt like he had fallen behind with the new coaching staff simply because he was unable to get on the field in the spring. "Yeah, that part was kinda tough," McAllister said after Thursday's practice. "Those guys are my friends too," he said. "We've always been fighting for spots, so with the new coaches we're just going to have to keep fighting for the spots along the way."
  • Junior Rhett Ellison, who began practicing at fullback Wednesday because of a shortage of depth at the position after D.J. Shoemate's transfer, did drills with the tight ends and fullbacks Thursday. He said after practice he felt he would be ready to step in immediately if Havili was suspended. Sticking with the tight ends, none of the three freshmen stood out like Christian Thomas did Wednesday, but senior Jordan Cameron did.
  • Quarterback Matt Barkley again did not throw an interception, and he continued to praise the trio of freshmen receivers he will throw to in the fall. On the receivers, Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods -- especially Woods -- showed immediate improvement from Wednesday, and both demonstrated superb athletic ability in early-practice drills among the other skill position players.
  • A few final notes: running back D.J. Morgan did not practice and has not been cleared by USC's medical staff. It looks like he will redshirt this fall as he recovers from a knee injury suffered last fall...After most estimates put the practice attendance at between 50-60 Wednesday, it was more than cut in half Thursday. It appeared there were between 20-30 people on the sidelines for the fall's second practice -- media members almost all of them...A list of preferred walk-ons is provided in a below post and linked here. Highlights include former University of San Diego punter Kyle Negrete and former Georgetown signee Conrad Tavarez.

***

Kiffin was visibly happier with his team's on-field performance but obviously unhappy about the Havili-Bryant situation. Hear all of his comments on the situation after Thursday's practice:



***

Pola's hiring at USC garnered plenty of fan and media attention from across the college and professional football world, but Pola actually stayed largely out of the spotlight through most of it. Thursday, he addressed how he feels returning to USC and also talked about handling the situation with Havili:

Examining the transfers

July, 12, 2010
7/12/10
4:10
PM PT
Just over four weeks have passed since the NCAA announced sanctions on the USC football program that included a two-year postseason ban and a loss of five scholarships a year. Shortly after they were handed down on June 10, perhaps the biggest sanction-related question turned to transfers.

Essentially, would USC experience a mass exodus of players taking advantage of the NCAA-instituted free-transfer policy for juniors and seniors, or would the Trojans stay Trojans and stick together as a team?

So far it's been somewhere in between, with five players choosing to transfer. Of course, none of the five — linebackers Jordan Campbell and Jarvis Jones, defensive end Malik Jackson, safety Byron Moore and now fullback D.J. Shoemate — were starters. But each of them, and Jackson and Shoemate especially, were key depth pieces for USC's present and future.

But how important were they?

Let's break them all down, player by player and in chronological order.

--

1. Campbell -- The first player to transfer, Campbell essentially used the sanctions as an opportunity to escape a situation where he had found himself in coach Lane Kiffin's doghouse. He even said so: "I decided to transfer because it was a blessing in disguise," he said last month. "The opportunity to go to any other school that I wanted to without sitting out a year -- that was awesome."

A reserve linebacker, Campbell was a solid special-teamer and provided depth on the defense, but was never a likely long-term starter.

2. Jones -- Another linebacker, Jones was also another special case. He was largely thought of by the USC coaching staff as a potential starter -- former linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. compared him directly to Brian Cushing -- but injuries got in the way when Jones sprained his neck on Halloween Night at Oregon last season. He missed the rest of the year and was never cleared by team doctors, so he chose to transfer to Georgia, where he will reportedly be cleared to play.

Jones must sit out the 2010-2011 season as the NCAA's free-transfer policy does not apply to him.

3. Jackson -- The reserve defensive end was USC's first true loss, as he was the first player likely to earn significant playing time in 2010 that decided to transfer. Jackson had been an obvious part of the Trojans' defense during his two seasons at USC but failed to break through at any point and earn a starting job at one of the end spots.

Instead, he was bound to spend the 2010 season spelling fellow junior Armond Armstead.

4. Moore -- A redshirt freshman, Moore last week decided to transfer to Los Angeles Harbor College, a junior college. He had the talent to stick at USC but sometimes appeared to lack a sense of confidence in practice, and he had been largely outshined by other defensive backs in his recruiting class. In fact, it's possible that three of USC's four starters in the secondary next season will be from the class of 2009 — safeties Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald and cornerback Torin Harris.

Moore found himself behind all three of those players as he shuffled between safety and cornerback during his one-year tenure at USC, but as a talented player the Trojans will still miss him for depth purposes.

5. Shoemate -- Although not a starter, Shoemate was clearly the planned successor to one of the nation's top fullbacks in senior Stanley Havili. The problem was, of course, Shoemate never wanted to play fullback. He committed to USC after his sophomore year at Servite High School (Anaheim, Calif.) as an athlete and was shoehorned into playing wide receiver in fall camp as a true freshman. Midway through that 2008 season, he was switched to fullback and he never moved away from that position for the next year-plus.

To fill his spot, the Trojans will likely need to utilize incoming freshman Soma Vainuku (Eureka, Calif./Eureka) to back up Havili and prepare to start in 2011. A three-star recruit, Vainuku doesn't possess the pure speed Shoemate had but appears to be a vicious blocker. Problem is, Vainuku

--

And then there's Seantrel Henderson. The nation's top-rated offensive tackle, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound behemoth committed to USC on Signing Day in February and signed the next month, only to never actually appear at USC for the start of the summer session with the rest of his classmates (except for Vainuku and linebacker Glen Stanley, of course, but we'll get to that on another occasion).

A controversy ensued, as many predicted, and Kiffin released Henderson from his letter of intent last week. Three days later, Henderson signed with Miami, leaving the Trojans with no incoming tackles and a gaping hole on the offensive line. What would have Henderson have meant for the 2010 Trojans?

Two things: a dominant lineman to compete with Matt Kalil for the starting spot at left tackle, and depth. Now, if either Kalil or right tackle Tyron Smith go down with an injury, the Trojans will be forced to resort to players who have never logged significant snaps in a game situation.

In fact, depth is the real issue with all of these transfers. As we said, none of the five transfers were likely starters this season. But the interesting thing about football — and college football, especially — is that a backup in September can easily be a starter by November or December.

When players start to get hurt, Kiffin's squad will feel the hurt of the transfers, and, accordingly, the sanctions. Until then, the effects should be minimal.

Friday links and notes

July, 9, 2010
7/09/10
4:02
PM PT
A few things to pass along on this Friday:
  • First of all: junior fullback D.J. Shoemate is gone as of last night, heading to UConn with plans to play running back -- something he never had a chance to do at USC. Highly recruited out of Servite High School, the 6-foot, 220-pound Shoemate started his Trojan career at receiver but was moved mid-season to fullback. Injuries also limited his progression with the Trojans, as he missed a 2008 game due to a shoulder injury and missed the majority of 2010 spring practice. Now, the Trojans will be forced to use either walk-on Hunter Simmons or incoming freshman Soma Vainuku as the backup to likely All-Pac-10 fullback Stanley Havili.
  • A baseball update: junior-to-be first baseman Ricky Oropesa participated in the inaugural college home run derby this week that took place in famed Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. Oropesa, who hit 20 homers last season as the Trojans' lone marquee hitter, was one of seven competitors in the derby but couldn't advance past the first round after hitting only two out of the park. Featuring guest coaching from MLB Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Andre Dawson, the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby will air Sunday on CBS at 10 a.m. PST
  • More baseball: ex-Trojans lefthander Adam Dedeaux signed with the Dodgers last week and reported to the Arizona League Dodgers soon after. He has yet to appear in a game. Interestingly, Dedeaux's grandfather — and long-time USC baseball coach — Rod Dedeaux and Dodgers special advisor Tommy Lasorda were widely reported to be great friends before the elder Dedeaux passed in 2006. Grandson Adam pitched 26 career innings for the Trojans with an ERA higher than 6.
  • In basketball, fellow former Trojans Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson are matching up for the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns in the second game of NBA Summer League play in Las Vegas. At the time of this writing, it's halftime and the Rockets lead the Suns 43-42. Lewis has logged significant minutes on the perimeter for Houston and has seven points and an assist; Johnson hasn't gotten into the game.

Saturday scrimmage report

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
5:32
PM PT
Notes and quotes from Saturday's scrimmage, with video to follow:
  • Unlike the scrimmage from a week ago, the running game was the forefront of the USC offensive attack, with both Allen Bradford and Curtis McNeal running for at least 50 yards and and Matt Barkley struggling to find a rhythm. Bradford had 10 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns; Barkley completed just 11 of 20 passes for 73 yards and no touchdowns. "We did a better job of running with the backs up front," USC coach Lane Kiffin said after Saturday's scrimmage. "That was obviously an emphasis coming off of last week, where we didn't run the ball very well at all."
  • The loss of receiver Ronald Johnson to a wrist injury hindered the offense, Kiffin said: "Not having Ronald, who is our go-to receiver, obviously hurts Matt." Johnson, who could undergo minor surgery on his wrist this week, spent practice on a side field.
  • Injury updates: redshirt freshman cornerback Torin Harris played in his first scrimmage of the spring after missing practices because of a hamstring injury. Freshman running back Dillon Baxter (knee) went home to San Diego to be with his ailing grandmother and redshirt junior running back Marc Tyler tried to play through an injured toe but left early. Receiver Kyle Prater played despite a cast of sorts protecting his sprained left thumb. Receiver De'Von Flournoy continues to miss time and Brandon Carswell didn't play because of a hamstring injury. Fullback D.J. Shoemate's hamstring continues to limit him.
  • One last injury: defensive end Armond Armstead sat out because of an injured foot. Kiffin said Armstead's absence was one of the reasons the Trojans' running game was more effective.
  • The top play of practice was probably a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Mustain to running back C.J. Gable. Gable, who had split out wide on the play, made a remarkable catch in the corner of the end zone on a well-placed throw from Mustain in between two defenders.
  • Speaking of Mustain, Kiffin praised his performance (12 of 22, 167 yards, two touchdowns, a recovery of a David Ausberry fumble) Saturday: "I thought Mitch had a really good week. All three practices this week, he really performed well. He's getting a better grasp of the offense and really getting the ball out quicker."
  • Statistical leaders on offense: Ausberry had four catches for 77 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown pass from Mustain; fullback Stanley Havili caught five passes for 27 yards; tight end Jordan Cameron had three catches for 39 yards. Bradford's two touchdown runs were of 35 and 39 yards.
  • Defensively, middle linebacker Devon Kennard led USC with eight tackles and a sack. Defensive end Malik Jackson had five tackles, including two for a loss, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey had five tackles and a sack. Harris led all defensive backs with two deflections and safeties Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald each tallied four tackles.

Saturday practice report

April, 3, 2010
4/03/10
5:33
PM PT
The middle linebacker competition rages on in spring practice for USC, with Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo fighting to take over the top spot at what coaches are calling the most important position on USC's defense. Kennard, a sophomore, and Galippo, a redshirt junior, combined to start 17 games at linebacker last year — with Galippo earning all 13 at the middle position.

Kennard, who came to USC as a defensive end but moved to strongside linebacker near the end of the 2009 season, said he was "up for it" as soon as the new coaching staff told him they were planning to switch him to the middle spot. He said he has enjoyed working alongside and against Galippo so far. "We're definitely working together, helping each other out, correcting each other, pushing each other," Kennard said. "We want to have the best linebacking corps possible. We all want to be out there and we're going to push each other every day."

A few other notes from the full-pads practice:
  • It was a defense-dominated day in team drills. Included in the highlight plays of the scrimmage were a Shareece Wright interception of a Mitch Mustain pass that looked to be intended for receiver Travon Patterson, and a T.J. Bryant end-zone pick of an ill-advised throw from Matt Barkley. Wright had a fairly dynamic return of his pick, taking it back almost to the opposite end zone. The biggest hit of the day came from receiver/tight end David Ausberry, who lit up walk-on corner Omari Crittenden after catching the ball near the line of scrimmage.
  • The injuries just continue to rack up for the Trojans. In his post-practice meeting with the media, Kiffin read them off quickly, then finished by saying: "Beat all your questions, didn't I?" The injuries he listed were: running back Dillon Baxter (quad), fullbacks Stanley Havili (shoulder) and D.J. Shoemate (hamstring), offensive linemen Matt Kalil (hip), Zack Heberer (ankle) and Martin Coleman (ankle), defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo (ankle), linebacker Marquis Simmons (spine) and safeties Ryan McMahon (stinger) and Marshall Jones (cervical spine). Jones' injury might be the most serious, as he missed the final nine games of 2009 because of a similar injury. Jones entered Howard Jones Field toward the end of practice in a neck brace. When asked if it was a similar injury, Kiffin said, "I don't know that."
  • The quarterback position is leaning toward the incumbent Barkley over the reserve Mustain, Kiffin has determined. Barkley, a sophomore to-be, has proved impressive in early play, appearing very calm in the pocket. "Matt would have an edge over Mitch right now, in what we've seen," Kiffin said Saturday. "But it's real early, and we'll continue to split the reps right down the middle like we have and let both guys alternate in there and see where it goes."
  • Two days after Kiffin called him the MVP of the first two spring practices, receiver Ronald Johnson struggled a bit in Saturday's drills. The senior dropped at least two passes, including a toe-tipper on the sidelines. Receiver Brice Butler had two touchdown grabs in team play, while running back Curtis "Moody" McNeal had both a drop and a solid grab while splitting out as a receiver.
  • The quote of the day, from Kennard on the new coaching staff's focus on toughness and discipline: "We're trying to go out there and bang as a defense and rekindle something we didn't have last year."

Here's more of what Kiffin had to say in his media congregation afterward:

More reaction from players

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
10:06
PM PT
Numerous current Trojans crowded the Heritage Hall Varsity Lounge to hear new USC head coach Lane Kiffin's introductory press conference.

The consensus among them was that Kiffin's up-and-at-'em attitude could serve as a continuation of Carroll's.

"He's definitely got the youth," Galippo said. "I think Coach Kiffin is gonna be the coach running around with us at practice. He's got the energy. He understands our era and what we're like as 18-to-22-year-old college students, and I think that's the reason why he's such a good college recruiter.

"We're really just going to pick up right where we left off."

Teammates agreed.

Said freshman linebacker Devon Kennard: "He's exactly the kind of coach you want to play for."

Many qualities the young Kiffin possesses seem to be patterned off Carroll.

"It's basically the same thing," said sophomore fullback D.J. Shoemate, who committed to USC as a high school sophomore and was recruited then by Kiffin. "Pro-style and offense and all."

As for the riots that took place Tuesday night in Knoxville -- well, they're willing to move beyond that.

Freshman receiver De'Von Flournoy said he and his teammates were certainly "intrigued" by it, following it as it happened on Twitter and as soon as videos were posted on YouTube.

But that was yesterday. Today, Kiffin's their coach, with his Tennessee history seemingly erased.

"We can't really worry about what happened in the past," Shoemate said. "All we can control is what happens from now on."

Players respond to Carroll's departure

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
12:57
PM PT
Apparently, the "business decision" explanation former USC coach Pete Carroll gave at his Monday press conference resonated with players.

They took it hard, but they took it well.

Their head coach, the guy who recruited them to become Trojans, is gone.

For real this time.

“At first, I didn’t believe it, because it happens every year,” Devon Kennard said. “I was like ‘whatever.' And then it was on all day, and the next day, and the next day, and I was like ‘Alright, we might be in trouble now.’”

“Well, what can you do?" linebacker Kevin Greene said after Carroll's press conference Monday. "Sometimes life throws you a curveball and you don’t get to hear the type of things that you want to hear, but you just have to live with it. I didn’t think this was gonna happen, but it has, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

I asked Greene if he felt betrayed by the coaching staff.

No, he said. He'd heard stories of NBA players who were traded and heard about it on Sportscenter.

“That’s even worse,” he said.

Said middle linebacker Chris Galippo: “As much as people pour their passion into the games and play as they live their lives, at the end of the day, it’s his job. He’s getting paid to do it and he's gotta be a little selfish sometimes."

Galippo, always the mature one, has taken on a leadership role in the fracas following Carroll's departure. But some of his temmates haven't quite gotten over the whole ordeal yet.

“The bulk of the guys are ready to move forward with whoever comes in," Brice Butler said. "But some guys are still in that shock-and-awe state."

What makes it so tough, his ex-players say, is that Carroll was so distinct, so one-of-a-kind, so . . . USC.

“He had a unique sense of style,” fullback D.J. Shoemate said. “An image, a persona, he was so charismatic. Very genuine, very competitive. I highly appreciate all that.”

And so closely identified with USC, as well. Carroll told players while recruiting them he planned to stay a Trojan forever.

And they believed him.

"Back then, I didn't know him as well as I do know," Galippo said, recalling his recruitment, then moving on to the present. "But if you asked me a month ago if Coach Carroll was gonna leave I would've sworn that he would stay."

With Carroll go former quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. More departures from the coaching staff could follow.

Greene, who redshirted this season and developed a close relationship with Norton through the recruitment process and over the season, also talked extensively about losing his position coach to the NFL. Norton will work in the same capacity for the Seahawks.

“You’re with your position coach even more than you’re with your head coach, and you have a strong amount of respect for them," Greene said.
"And then you find that they’re leaving and you’re like, ‘Now what do I do?’ I know what I’m doing – which is staying – but it’s a lot to take.”

Many players said the coaching change was more motivation than ever to train hard for the time being. With a new coach, they hope, will come a new beginning.

And an improvement on last season's 9-4 finish.

“Hey, the only way to go from here,” Shoemate said, “is up.”

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