USC: Devian Shelton

USC spring battle spotlight: Cornerback

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
4:04
PM PT
There’s definite reason for optimism for first-year USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox heading into spring ball. After all, he inherits some key pieces from a unit that finished the 2013 campaign ranked No. 13 in the FBS in total defense (334.9 yards allowed per game) and No. 1 in red zone defense (63 percent scoring percentage).

Still, for the defense to really take off under Wilcox in 2014, there’s one position group that will need to elevate its level of play -- the cornerbacks. Plagued by injuries, the USC corners struggled at times in pass coverage, particularly in games against Arizona State, Arizona and Notre Dame. As such, expect Wilcox and defensive backs coach Keith Heyward to hold an open audition this spring as they look to find the most productive starting duo.

[+] EnlargeKevon Seymour, Taylor Kelly
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesUSC's Kevon Seymour, who was inconsistent in 2013, has challengers for his starting cornerback spot.
Of course, with potential instant-impact freshmen Adoree' Jackson, Jonathan Lockett, John Plattenburg and Lamont Simmons all set to arrive this summer, the upcoming slate of spring practice sessions will almost certainly serve as just the first phase of a lengthy competition at cornerback that will extend through fall camp. Without those blue-chippers around to steal valuable reps, the March and April workouts will be crucial for the candidates currently on the roster to make a lasting impression on the new staff.

Josh Shaw, who started 11 games at cornerback in 2013, stands out as a virtual lock at one of the spots, but with an influx of talent on the way, might we see him make the move back to his more natural free safety position? With Su’a Cravens, Leon McQuay III and Gerald Bowman -- who is coming off shoulder surgery -- serving as the only other scholarship safeties, there is certainly a lack of depth back there, so a potential switch for Shaw seems to make sense. Having proven himself as the team’s most dependable cover man last fall, however, the USC staff might not have the luxury of making that change unless other cornerbacks prove that they can be counted on.

The primary starter on the other side in 2013 was Kevon Seymour, now entering his junior season. The Pasadena (Calif.) Muir product had his ups and downs, but he did cap off his season with an outstanding performance in USC’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State. The big question now is, was that an anomaly or just the beginning of something special? The answer will likely determine whether or not he remains atop the depth chart in the long run.

Fifth-year senior Anthony Brown has flashed at times, but he has never been able to put it all together on a consistent basis. A veteran with six starts to his credit, it looked like 2013 was going to be his season to make a name for himself. But he suffered a knee injury in the team’s opener at Hawaii that would keep him on the sideline for almost the entire season. He actually returned to start against Notre Dame, but his injury hampered his outing, and he wouldn’t see the field again for the remainder of the season. Standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 180 pounds, he lacks the size of some of his counterparts, but he makes up for that with his speed and quickness. It hasn’t been announced whether or not he’ll be available to practice this spring, but if he is, he'll be in the mix.

Devian Shelton is another player whose status for the spring is still unknown after having foot surgery this past fall, but he too, could factor heavily into the discussion if healthy. Listed at 6-1, he gives the Trojans a taller look, but having redshirted as a freshman, and then missing almost all of 2013, he still lacks experience. Impressing at times last fall in camp with his size, he could even conceivably make the transition back to safety -- where he saw time in high school

One of the more interesting names to keep an eye on is Chris Hawkins. Could this be the time when he emerges from anonymity into a major contributor? A highly touted Class of 2013 prospect, he spent his first season on campus learning the tricks of the trade while redshirting. Although somewhat raw, he showed plenty of ability in practice, especially as the season wore on. If his development continues on its forward path, there’s reason to believe that he has the skills to push for playing time.

Ryan Henderson and Ryan Dillard are two more contenders who have seen limited action in the past in reserve roles. Henderson’s athleticism is undeniable -- he was the 2010 SPARQ Rating National Champion -- but so far that hasn’t translated over to the football field at USC. Dillard, meanwhile, is a walk-on who has certainly held his own, but he would still appear to be somewhat of a longshot. This spring will mark an important time for both players as they attempt to make a move up the depth chart for the first time.

Practice notes: Intensity without full pads

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
7:32
AM PT
As the Trojans begin the final week of practices prior to the spring game it was shoulder pads and shorts practice on Tuesday. The team has been hit with injuries during the physical spring and, even though the load was lightened a little, USC coach Lane Kiffin was happy with the intensity.

“We really wanted to focus on keeping guys staying up today and that usually happens when we don’t go full pads,” Kiffin said. “I thought we were still able to have a physical practice.”

Highlight plays
  • From deep in his own end, Cody Kessler stood in the pocket against strong pressure and fired late to Nelson Agholor for 12 yards and a first down.
  • Max Wittek had his chance with the ball near his goal line and he found Victor Blackwell with a quick strike, and Blackwell put on the jets to race for a long touchdown despite valiant pursuit from Leon McQuay III.
  • Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick made a nice catch of a low-thrown ball across the middle from Wittek.
  • McQuay popped the ball loose from Cope-Fitzpatrick after a short catch.
Goal-line intensity

One of the most fiery drills of any practice is when the ball is placed inside the 5-yard line and the offense takes its shots at the end zone.

(Read full post)

Injuries raise questions, provide chances

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
9:39
AM PT
The Trojans are navigating through their share of injuries this spring. But at this time of year, as long as the injuries are not serious, they can offer a mixed blessing of sorts.

When one player is forced to sit on the sideline, it gives another player the chance for extended reps with the hope of showing the coaches he is ready for a bigger role. For the injured player, there is still plenty of time to return either in spring or in fall camp before the season begins. As quarterback Max Wittek noted after a recent knee injury, “you never want this to happen, but if it’s going to happen, better to have it happen now.”

[+] EnlargeRedd_Silas
AP Photo/Grant HindsleySilas Redd's knee injury opens the door for other USC tailbacks to impress this spring.
Wittek is perhaps the most notable USC injury right now, primarily because he is engaged in a battle for the starting quarterback spot. Wittek suffered the knee sprain on March 9 prior to a scrimmage at the Coliseum and has been out ever since. He is expected to return when the Trojans practice on March 26. Cody Kessler has played well with Wittek out and any small gains by either player can end up meaning a lot in a competition that is so close.

On the same day that Wittek got hurt, Marqise Lee also went down with a “minor” knee injury and has been held out as well. There isn’t as much of an impact here as Lee certainly isn’t in any competition for his starting job. If anything, his absence gave the other receivers a chance to step up and the overall group is doing well from top to bottom. Right now, Nelson Agholor appears to be the clear leader for the starting spot opposite Lee.

A recent loss came with the news that Silas Redd would undergo surgery this week for a torn meniscus. Redd is the established senior starter at tailback, but he has only been on the USC campus for eight months, so any time spent on the field was beneficial. Instead, Redd will be out until fall camp and the Trojans are further limited at tailback with Tre Madden still not cleared for full contact due to his knee rehab. That means the remaining spring practices will be huge for guys like D.J. Morgan, Buck Allen and maybe even Justin Davis, although it remains to be seen how much a recent broken finger will hamper him.

The offensive line had been fairly healthy until the news that Chad Wheeler will miss the rest of spring with a knee injury. Wheeler had added bulk and was progressing nicely as the No. 2 left tackle.

On the defensive side of the ball, injuries are really impacting the interior depth on the line and the safety positions.

There are three linemen who have missed all of spring: J.R. Tavai, Greg Townsend and Cody Temple. All three figure to provide important depth at the three interior spots of the 5-2 defense, so it’s vital to get them back on the field. Right now, the Trojans have Kenny Bigelow as a legit reserve at nose tackle, but the other spots are being manned by players out of position such as Charles Burks. Scott Starr is also out of action until fall, and he is expected to be a key reserve behind Morgan Breslin.

[+] EnlargeDion Bailey
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAs Dion Bailey recovers from shoulder surgery, the question of whether he'll play safety or linebacker in 2013 remains unanswered.
In the secondary, the Trojans have a lot of talent but not much is going to be settled until the coaches figure out where to put Dion Bailey. Most speculation centers around Bailey ending up at safety rather than linebacker, but he won’t be available for spring after recent shoulder surgery. So Josh Shaw, Demetrius Wright and Su’a Cravens are auditioning for starting spots. Gerald Bowman could also be in that mix, but he is also out this spring. This means it’s likely the safety rotation won’t be determined until well into fall camp.

At corner, the top player through the early part of spring was Kevon Seymour, but he has missed the last couple of days with an ankle injury. Devian Shelton is also out with a foot injury. That means extended reps for Torin Harris, Anthony Brown and Ryan Henderson, as well as the freshman Chris Hawkins.

USC coach Lane Kiffin said after Saturday’s scrimmage that the time off for spring break this week was coming at a good time for a team looking to get a few bodies back. The Trojans return to the practice field next Tuesday and having some of those injured players on the field will go a long way toward helping to determine starting spots.

Kiffin also acknowledged that the extra hitting in practices so far this spring -- done to achieve his goal of returning to a more physical style of play -- has played a part in having so many injuries. He said the team will continue to practice with full hitting for the rest of spring but gave no word on if there will be any changes in philosophy beyond that point.

USC spring practice report: March 12

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
7:33
AM PT
As the Trojans begin the second week of spring ball sessions, they held a full pads practice on Tuesday without quarterback Max Wittek and wide receiver Marqise Lee.

Both players suffered knee injuries last Saturday prior to the Coliseum scrimmage that USC coach Lane Kiffin described as “not serious.”

[+] EnlargeSu'a Cravens
Erik McKinney/WeAreSC.comTrue freshman Su'a Cravens is already impressing during spring practice.
“It wasn’t one of our better practices,” Kiffin said. “This can happen in the second week, everyone is fired up to get going so they start well the first week but they came out today in full pads and it was hot so they need to learn to get through that. It had nothing to do with Wittek and Lee not being out there.”

Lee was fully dressed but did not participate in drills while Wittek was not in pads and he wore a sleeve brace around his right knee.

“I’ve got a sprained MCL,” Wittek said. “Nothing is torn, so that’s a positive, and it can’t get any worse so it’s just a matter of pain tolerance to when I can return. I’m rehabbing 2-3 times a day and if I can’t get back by the end of the week, I should be fine to go when we get back from spring break. You never want an injury but if it’s going to happen it’s good to happen now.

“The injury happened while I was holding for a placekick, kind of a silly way to happen. If there’s a bad snap again on a kick, if it’s not in a game I will probably get out of the way next time. But if the team needs me to be there, I’ll be there.”

MVP of the day: True freshman Su’a Cravens put together his best practice of spring with two interceptions and a key pass break-up, all against Max Browne. The first interception was an overthrown attempt by Browne to hit Xavier Grimble and Cravens simply played center field to get the pick. The second pick was an aggressive break on the ball by Cravens while the pass break-up came over the middle on a pass attempt for Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.

“Su’a is a very special player,” Kiffin said. “He prepares so well, always soaking things up, watching film. He’s similar to Robert Woods and Nickell Robey in that way and both of those guys started from day one.”

Kiffin said Cravens is already at 220 pounds.

(Read full post)

Cornerback battle taking shape

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
11:45
AM PT
Entering spring practice, there wasn’t a bigger question mark in the USC defense than at the cornerback spot, where the Trojans lost both of their primary starters from the 2012 season -– Nickell Robey to the NFL, and Josh Shaw to strong safety.

But with two workouts now under their belts playing under new USC defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Clancy Pendergast, the open battle for the two starting positions has led to a spirited atmosphere marked by more-than-solid play at times, particularly from Kevon Seymour and Anthony Brown – who found themselves running with the first-team defense on both Tuesday and Thursday.

“We’re all competing out here,” Seymour said. “We’re all great athletes and we can all play. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re gaining confidence.”

It’s Seymour, in fact, who put in arguably the two top back-to-back performances of the week, highlighted by a couple of impressive pass deflections during the 7-on-7 and team session on day one.

Nothing is set in stone, however, as there are plenty of other players still in the mix. On the left side behind Seymour, it’s been early-entrant freshmen Chris Hawkins and Leon McQuay III who have received the most reps with the second unit. Two players whose arrival on campus was heavily anticipated, Hawkins, in particular, has shown flashes of standout play, while McQuay certainly has the raw talent, but is still adjusting to a new position after coming in as a safety.

(Read full post)

Sunday practice quick hits

August, 26, 2012
8/26/12
8:49
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes that won't make it into our other coverage from Sunday's practice on Howard Jones Field.

Backup quarterback coming

USC coach Lane Kiffin indicated he'll name a backup quarterback to Matt Barkley on Tuesday morning, a relatively big announcement because it'll designate who will play quite a bit during the Trojans' first few games.

Kiffin said, as usual, he was impressed with both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek's performances in the mock game the Trojans held on Saturday.

"They both played really, really well," Kiffin said.

Wittek added that he was comfortable with his play in the mock game, saying he "felt fantastic" and was looking forward to Kiffin's upcoming announcement of the No. 2 QB.

"I think anytime a depth chart comes out, it's meaningful, to see where you're at, a crisp 2 or 3 ... instead of a 2a or 2b," Wittek said. "Those mean a lot when you see them."

Pomee puts in some time

Kiffin said Saturday talented tight end Junior Pomee has been "extremely inconsistent" in his year with the USC Trojans.

Maybe the message got through to the redshirt freshman. Pomee stayed on the practice field after the conclusion of Sunday's practice and got extra work in with the walk-on quarterbacks.

If he can put together a few weeks of consistent production, he could overtake freshman Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick for the No. 3 tight end slot.

Likely redshirts

Kiffin also said Saturday he didn't expect very many freshmen to redshirt this season, "at all," but it does appears there will be at least a few.

Players expected to redshirt include fullback Jahleel Pinner, offensive linemen Jordan Simmons and Chad Wheeler and defensive linemen DeVante Wilson.

Offensive lineman Zach Banner, linebacker Jabari Ruffin and cornerback Devian Shelton could also redshirt, and it's conceivable another scholarship freshman of some sort will also sit out the season.

And sophomore running back Tre Madden will also be using his redshirt this year, although it won't be for the typical purpose. Madden tore his ACL in the spring and is out for the season.

Injury report

There will be no more injury reports until March. Kiffin announced a policy on Sunday preventing media members from reporting and/or commenting about any players' injuries off of practices.

Moving forward, it will be allowed during spring practice and fall camp, but not during the season.

Final notes: Kiffin said the Trojans are watching film from Norm Chow's previous stops to prepare for the offensive sets and plays they're going to see against Hawaii on Saturday. ... Redshirt freshman Anthony Sarao is looking more and more like he will be the opening-day starter at weakside linebacker, but strongside 'backer Dion Bailey said Sunday he is also learning how to play on the weak side. ... Kiffin indicated new defensive end Morgan Breslin will play often after impressing in the scrimmage, but he appears unlikely to start the first week. ... USC plans to release a depth chart later on Sunday night.

Saturday scrimmage quick hits

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
4:51
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are news and notes from Saturday's scrimmage -- or "mock game", as coach Lane Kiffin called it -- that won't make it into our other coverage off the day.

Trojans name captains

USC's players voted to name the team's 2012 captains on Saturday, and they came up with some familiar names.

As expected, Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will be a team captain for the third straight season, setting a school record. Safety T.J. McDonald will also serve in the role for his second season.

The newcomers will be senior center Khaled Holmes and junior cornerback Nickell Robey.

Kiffin said he agreed wholeheartedly with his players' choices.

(Read full post)

Fall camp practice No. 3 notes

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
2:10
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Here are more notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice coverage, which included stories on Curtis McNeal, George Farmer and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.

Injury updates

Left tackle Aundrey Walker and middle linebacker Lamar Dawson missed most of practice with unspecified injuries. Walk-on Nathan Guertler filled in for Walker and freshman Scott Starr replaced Dawson.

Kiffin indicated that weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard would move to the middle spot and redshirt freshman Anthony Sarao would step in for Pullard before Starr would replace Dawson in a game situation. He was unclear on the contingency plan at left tackle, saying Guertler would be the backup "as of right now."

Center Khaled Holmes and receiver Robert Woods (ankle) continued to be very limited in practice, and cornerback Brian Baucham continued to sit out. Receivers Victor Blackwell and Farmer both sat out all of practice.

Cornerback Isiah Wiley and linebacker Marquis Simmons are expected to be out another week while they await their summer-school grades and find out about their eligibility for the coming season.

Flournoy ahead of everybody else

With Blackwell and Farmer on the sideline and freshman Nelson Agholor still adjusting to the speed of the game, coach Lane Kiffin said fourth-year junior De'Von Flournoy is "way ahead" of his competition in the race to be the No. 3 receiver behind Woods and Marqise Lee.

"Nelson has worked hard but he's still just trying to learn it," Kiffin said. "Just like spring, Flournoy is doing really well and very consistent."

Wright standing out

Kiffin said junior safety Demetrius Wright has been the best non-starter on the defense through three practices.

"He's made a ton of plays and had a phenomenal attitude and great approach to the game," Kiffin said. "He's a guy going into his third year who seems to have turned the corner."

Wright is competing with senior Jawanza Starling for the opportunity to start at strong safety next to T.J. McDonald.

Ideally, Kiffin said, Wright and Starling would rotate on defense and on special teams this season to keep both players fresh. And even McDonald would do the same thing with Drew McAllister and/or Josh Shaw.

Final notes: Freshmen Max Tuerk and Leonard Williams earned praise from coach Lane Kiffin for their play thus far in camp. Kiffin said Tuerk has made "very few mental mistakes." ... Freshmen cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton, who have run some with the second-team defense, were also credited by Kiffin. ... Players had indicated earlier this week that practices would be shorter this camp than in past years, but Wednesday's session checked in at roughly three hours long. ... The Trojans will scrimmage at the Coliseum on Friday afternoon. Kiffin said he was unsure whether or not they would tackle during it.

Fall camp position preview: Defensive backs

August, 5, 2012
8/05/12
11:03
AM PT
To prepare for the start of the 2012 USC campaign, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster. We began Monday with quarterbacks and continued Tuesday with running backs, Wednesday with receivers and tight ends, Thursday with offensive linemen, Friday with defensive linemen and Saturday with linebackers.

Today, we look at the defensive backs.

For each position, we’re starting with a projected current depth chart, going off the end-of-spring depth chart as released by Lane Kiffin, and discussing what needs to be resolved by Sept. 1.

Cornerback

1. Nickell Robey, junior
2. Anthony Brown, redshirt sophomore
3. Ryan Henderson, redshirt freshman
4. Kevon Seymour, freshman

Free safety
1. T.J. McDonald, senior
2. Drew McAllister, redshirt senior
3. Josh Shaw, redshirt sophomore

Strong safety

1a. Jawanza Starling, senior
1b. Demetrius Wright, junior
3. Gerald Bowman, junior

Cornerback

1a. Isiah Wiley, senior
1b. Brian Baucham, redshirt senior
1c. Torin Harris, redshirt junior
4. Devian Shelton, freshman

This is USC's most stacked position group. And it's only to get deeper in the coming years.

But, for 2012, new defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders is going to have some interesting decisions to make in the next month. He has multiple guys vying for one strong safety slot and another four fighting for the No. 2 and No. 3 corner jobs.

Robey and McDonald are locked in. Everything else is up for grabs, and it's hard to even name a favorite at one of them.

At corner, Wiley finished off last season as the starter and got better each week. But Harris had held Wiley off before, until he got hurt, and is now healthy. Then Brown took over before he fractured his ankle, so all three of those guys can lay claim to the starting job.

Baucham had a nice spring and Henderson has elite, useful speed that could make him a factor. The top three could be any combination of Robey, Wiley, Harris, Brown, Baucham and Henderson.

At safety, Starling would appear to have a jump on Wright by virtue of his experience -- Starling's USC bio does say he "will start for his third season at strong safety as a senior in 2012" -- but he didn't comfortably emerge over Wright in the spring. And Bowman is an athletic, instinctive and intriguing prospect who could become major-college ready in a couple of months, which could mix everything up.

McAllister's listed as McDonald's backup, which would block him in some, but it's likely he'll play noteworthy snaps on defense this season -- if he's healthy. He's still the best playmaker of any Trojan defender.

Shaw, technically the third-string free safety for now, played as a true freshman for Florida before he got hurt and was a valuable reserve for the Gators last season. It's hard to see where exactly he'll get time in this packed secondary, but it'd still be a surprise if he wasn't a contributor by midseason.

We'll conclude tomorrow with special teams.

Analyzing the 2012 depth chart

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
9:24
PM PT
USC released its annual end-of-spring depth chart last week, which we posted mostly without comment at the time. Here, now, is our position-by-position analysis of what Lane Kiffin and Co. released, with an eye on what it means for the 2012 Trojans.

Quarterback

This was exactly as expected, with Matt Barkley entrenched and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek continuing to compete behind him. It is noteworthy that Jesse Scroggins is listed a spot behind the two redshirt freshmen and not tied with them, but it'd be a little unfair for him to be anywhere else. He missed most of the spring with hip issues and is still in academic jeopardy.

Running back

Where would Tre Madden have been if he wasn't out for the 2012 season? That's the question this portion of the chart begs. Curtis McNeal would still be starting, but Madden could very well be vying with D.J. Morgan for that No. 2 spot. Javorious Allen will be the third-string back unless he gets beat out by an incoming freshman.

Fullback

Soma Vainuku is locked in as the starter with no pressing competition, but he had himself a nice conclusion to the spring anyway, giving the coaching staff more confidence in him going into the summer. Jahleel Pinner will be somewhat of an unknown.

Receiver

De'Von Flournoy jumped in front of Victor Blackwell with an impressive spring, and has now put himself into position to challenge George Farmer for third-receiver status in the fall. And if Farmer can't stay healthy (again), then Flournoy's suddenly the favorite to line up with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

(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)

Kiffin: "Our bullpen got rocked"

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
6:20
PM PT
Lane Kiffin and USC's coaching staff were a pitching a shutout for the early part of National Signing Day on Wednesday, picking up two huge out-of-state signees in receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive end Leonard Williams early in the morning and sealing the deal on all but one of their longtime commits.

Things were looking good. Then slowly but surely over the next four hours, quarterback Cyler Miles, defensive tackle Aziz Shittu and tackles Kyle Dodson, Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, top prospects all of them, each turned the Trojans down. USC, limited to only 15 signees because of NCAA sanctions, finished by securing an important local kid in Carson receiver Darreus Rogers, but the damage had been done.

As Kiffin put it later Wednesday in his press conference at Heritage Hall, USC's "bullpen got rocked."

Kiffin resorted to a pitching analogy to explain how well he thought USC's "starting pitcher" was performing for the first six innings of Signing Day -- getting the Floridians Agholor and Williams, among others -- and how poorly the bullpen performed afterward.

In all, it's unclear if the Trojans actually won the nine-inning game -- that'll come in a year or two or three -- but it didn't go as well as Kiffin and his staff had hoped. It also didn't go nearly as badly as some had projected around the country.

"Obviously you want to focus on the positive, but there's a reality side to it," Kiffin said Wednesday evening. "We had a rough end to the day. But it was a great start, obviously."

The start included Agholor and Williams, which "shocked a lot of people," Kiffin said, and one other "touchdown maker," as Kiffin called him, in tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. The local kids -- including key offensive linemen Max Tuerk and Jordan Simmons -- all stayed true to their commitments, and the only recruit who defected away from USC was Northern California defensive end Pio Vatuvei, who the Trojans quickly replaced with Williams.

Together, Tuerk, Simmons and Zach Banner, the recruit from the state of Washington who announced he'd picked USC on Monday, add much-needed depth to the Trojans' offensive line, although Murphy, Peat or Dodson would have solidified it even further.

"Size is what sticks out about this class," Kiffin said, recounting the biggest positives from the day, in his eyes. "Really big guys and guys that can play a number of positions.

Kiffin also admitted that he fully expected Murphy, Peat or Dodson to sign, with the Trojans believing at one point last week they were leading in the chase of both Murphy and Peat and believing Wednesday they were first or second in the chase of all three prospects.

"To go 0-for-3 there, I thought we would have at least went 1-for-3," Kiffin said, continuing with the baseball analogy. "And I certainly didn't think two of them would go to the same school."

USC stayed three players below the 15-men limit, which Kiffin said wasn't entirely by design. But it makes sense. By taking only 12 players now, the Trojans save themselves from having to cut three more players to get under the 75-man overall limit come fall camp and allow three early enrollees to come in next January.

The only issue: Depth is at a premium. All 12 players need to pan out and stay in the program, or USC could be in for long-term issues.

"We can't afford attrition," Kiffin said. "So we had to look at everything, from academics to character to how well they play on the field and all the other stuff too.

"We tried to take all that into account."

Here's the full class of the 12 signees:

Nelson Agholor, WR, 6-1, 180, Tampa, FL (Berkeley Prep HS, Tampa, FL)
Zach Banner, OL, 6-9, 335, Puyallup, WA (Lakes HS, Lakewood, WA)
Gerald Bowman, S, 6-1, 215, Philadelphia, PA (Pierce J.C.)
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, TE, 6-5, 260, Rocklin, CA (Whitney HS, Rocklin, CA)
Jahleel Pinner, RB, 5-11, 225, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (Mission Viejo (CA) HS)
Darreus Rogers, WR, 6-2, 195, Compton, CA (Carson (CA) HS)
Jabari Ruffin, LB, 6-4, 230, Downey, CA (Downey (CA) HS)
Kevon Seymour, DB, 6-0, 170, Pasadena, CA (Muir HS, Pasadena, CA)
Devian Shelton, DB, 6-2, 185, Inglewood, CA (Inglewood (CA) HS)
Jordan Simmons, OL, 6-5, 335, Inglewood, CA (Crespi HS, Encino, CA)
Max Tuerk, OL, 6-6, 295, Trabuco Canyon, CA (Santa Margarita HS, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
Leonard Williams, DL, 6-5, 275, Daytona Beach, FL (Mainland HS, Daytona Beach, FL)

And the five players who have already enrolled for a total of 17

Scott Starr, LB, 6-3, 230, Norco, CA (Norco (CA) HS)
Chad Wheeler, OT, 6-6, 265, Santa Monica, CA (Santa Monica (CA) HS)
DeVante Wilson, DE, 6-4, 235, Corona, CA (Corona (CA) HS)
Morgan Breslin, DE, 6-3, 255, Walnut Creek, CA (Diablo Valley J.C.)
Josh Shaw, S, 6-2, 195 Palmdale, CA (Florida)

10:30 a.m. signing day update

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
10:34
AM PT
As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, 11 players have officially signed their letters of intent to attend USC.

The 11, listed in alphabetical order, are receiver Nelson Agholor (Tampa, Fla./Berkeley Prep), offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wa./Lakes), safety Gerald Bowman (Philadelphia, Pa./Pierce College), tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney)running back/fullback Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo), defensive end Jabari Ruffin (Downey, Calif./Downey), cornerback Kevon Seymour (Pasadena, Calif./Muir), cornerback Devian Shelton (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood), offensive guard Jordan Simmons (Encino, Calif./Crespi), offensive tackle Max Tuerk (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) and defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fl./Mainland).

That is according to their respective announcements and Twitter accounts. USC has made only seven of the signings -- Banner, Cope-Fitzpatrick, Pinner, Ruffin, Seymour, Simmons and Tuerk -- official as of 10:30 a.m.

Cope-Fitzpatrick, Pinner, Ruffin, Seymour, Simmons and Tuerk had been longtime USC commits. Williams and Agholor were known to be interested in the Trojans but had never publicly committed and ended up both picking USC over Florida. Banner announced on Monday he'd be attending USC. Shelton was offered a scholarship only on Tuesday; Bowman was supposed to enroll in school in January but didn't qualify in time and pushed it back to the summer.

Two players who USC had been seriously recruiting ended up not picking USC: offensive tackle Kyle Dodson (Cleveland, Oh./Cleveland Heights) and defensive lineman Pio Vatuvei (Patterson, Calif./Patterson).

Receiver Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson) is still committed to USC but is known to be seriously considering Arizona State. He'll make his official announcement at 3 p.m. PT Wednesday.

Other expected announcements that could affect USC are those of offensive tackle Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol), quarterback Cyler Miles (Denver, Colo./Mullen), offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), defensive tackle Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach).

Peat will announce just after 10:30 a.m. PT. Miles has said he will announce at 1 p.m. Murphy will announce at 1:30 p.m. and Shittu is scheduled for a 2 p.m. announcement at his high school.

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2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler100718468
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen603185.31
J. Davis26602.31
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
N. Agholor232129.23
J. Smith1117015.50
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense151292443
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring322012