USC: Jacob Harfman

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.

(Read full post)

USC-UCLA grades

December, 4, 2010
12/04/10
11:05
PM PT
CPASSING ATTACK

Not a great game for Matt Barkley, who looked healthy enough to return to action but was clearly missing something on the Rose Bowl field Saturday night. He threw two picks, only one touchdown and completed less than 60 percent of his passes.

ARUSHING ATTACK

Allen Bradford got one final chance to shine in a USC uniform and did just that, averaging seven yards a carry and really running the ball down UCLA's throats in the second half. Where was this earlier? Bradford had more carries tonight than the previous six games.

BIN THE TRENCHES

The defensive line put together a great pass-rushing night, with a couple sacks by Armond Armstead and consistent pressure on Richard Brehaut, but Johnathan Franklin often appeared to run right through the front four. The offensive line had a respectable game.

ADEFENSE

Most of the credit for this grade goes to Nickell Robey and Malcolm Smith, who combined to produce all three of UCLA's turnovers. UCLA's final touchdown was scored after the result of the game had essentially been determined.

CSPECIAL TEAMS

Not this unit's finest performance, with a horrific fourth-down fake punt attempt in the first half and nothing doing in the return game. But Jacob Harfman had one of his better days punting the ball, and USC was in fine field position more times than not.

BCOACHING

Lane Kiffin clearly had his players motivated. After Bradford's touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans were jumping around on the sideline and making quite a bit of noise. Play-calling was again questionable at times -- but when hasn't it been?

USC-Notre Dame grades

November, 27, 2010
11/27/10
8:22
PM PT
CPASSING ATTACK

In his first start in four years, Mitch Mustain was asked only to manage the game for the Trojans. He did that fairly effectively, missing badly only once or twice but throwing the game-clinching interception in the final minute. USC's big-play potential was clearly affected with Mustain under center.

DRUSHING ATTACK

Marc Tyler was either still limited by the ankle sprain that has been bothering him for most of this month or just ineffective, averaging around three yards a carry. C.J. Gable got a brief chance in the second half but the run game was mostly nonexistent.

BIN THE TRENCHES

Defensive end Nick Perry showed what he's capable of when healthy, almost single-handedly producing a touchdown for USC when he sacked Notre Dame's Tommy Rees, forced a fumble and recovered it, taking the ball down to the two-yard line and setting up Mustain's QB sneak.

ADEFENSE

All of USC's scores all came as a direct result of big defensive plays, so any credit for the Trojans' 16 points has to go to this unit. Chris Galippo's pick set the tone for what was almost the Trojans' best defensive performance this season.

BSPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Joe Houston made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a career-long 45-yarder in the first quarter. Robert Woods did his best to spark USC with a 37-yard kick return in the second half. Jacob Harfman matched the Irish's Ben Turk kick for kick.

CCOACHING

Lane Kiffin's playcalling decisions were often questionable, and his team was hurt by its six penalties that seemed to come at the worst times. Walk-on cornerback Tony Burnett was oddly used as an extra defensive back over players like Demetrius Wright and Jawanza Starling.

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.

Postgame thoughts: Arizona State

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
10:48
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from USC's 34-33 win over Arizona State on Saturday night at the Coliseum:
  • It was a rollercoaster game, a seesaw game, a wild game and a crazy game -- but it was a victory for USC. It was also "far from perfect," in Trojans coach Lane Kiffin's relieved words after his Trojans pulled out a win over the visiting Sun Devils. "I really felt like, 'Finally," Kiffin said when asked about his emotions. "We just hadn't had many breaks this year where things go our way. It's really good for our players in such a rollercoaster game." Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson had very similar comments. "The game was as crazy as they get," he said. "You could stay up all night thinking about what could have happened. It was a back and forth seesaw football game. There are 1,000 things that could have made a difference."
  • The Trojans have lost three games this season, two of which were of the variety they handed to Arizona State on Saturday. But the feelings from those games are gone after this win, left tackle Matt Kalil said: "Just like Coach Kiff says, you take a tough loss like that last week -- a win erases everything. It erases all the bad feeling we got and kinda makes you feel good as a team and as a unit, that we kinda stuck together, made big plays when we needed to and pulled off the win."

(Read full post)

Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
8:27
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • News items coming from the practice field: defensive back Patrick Hall has been reinstated to the team after being suspended indefinitely last month, and junior safety Drew McAllister will "most likely" have surgery on an injured hip and miss the rest of the season, coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday.
  • The McAllister news, accordingly, means that freshman safety Demetrius Wright will not redshirt this season and will instead serve as the fourth safety, working with Marshall Jones to back up Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald.
  • More injuries: defensive end Armond Armstead (shoulder) was limited in practice, as were tight end Xavier Grimble (ankle) and linebacker Michael Morgan. Grimble participated in practice for the first time in several weeks; Armstead's injury is the same as last week's -- a shoulder AC sprain -- and the coaching staff appears to be taking it easy with him during the week.
  • As for the tailback spot, it appears Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford are still in competition to start against Washington State on Saturday, although both associate head coach John Baxter and offensive coordinator/running backs coach Kennedy Pola referred to Tyler as the starter on Tuesday. The two split carries as the first-team runner in practice, while freshman Dillon Baxter continued to take his typical dose of snaps as the change-of-pace back. "They're all getting better," Pola said of his stable of backs. "We have a lot of improvement to do."
  • Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey may also be in danger of losing his starting spot after he was called for two penalties against Minnesota and appeared at times overmatched against tallest receivers. Possible candidates to take over that spot include Torin Harris, Brian Baucham and T.J. Bryant. "Right now, there's probably about to be some changes," Robey said Tuesday. "I don't ever know, I gotta let the coaches make the decisions, so I just practice every day."
  • Over the weekend, Kiffin looked into the possibility of redshirting freshman receiver Markeith Ambles, who played three snaps in the season opener against Hawaii. After determining that doing so was impossible, Ambles will now be available, beginning this week against the Cougars and continuing for the rest of the year. Ambles' case also appears to firm up the redshirt/non-redshirt decisions that had to be made with the entire freshman class, giving USC six freshmen who will not redshirt this season: receivers Robert Woods and Ambles, defensive backs Robey and Wright, defensive end Christian Thomas and Baxter. Among the 10 players that appear set to sit out of the rest of the season's 10 games: defensive tackle George Uko, receiver Kyle Prater and offensive lineman Giovanni Di Poalo -- plus sophomore De'Von Flournoy and now McAllister, a junior.
  • On-field highlights: quarterback Matt Barkley was twice forced to run a lap around Howard Jones Field after being intercepted. The first time, he threw a slow-paced over the middle that almost appeared targeted for Wright, who took it back a good 20 or 30 yards before being touched down. On the second play, Barkley threw to the left sideline for receiver David Ausberry, only to see Ausberry tip the ball right into the hands of cornerback Shareece Wright. Robey attributed this recent surge in defensive turnovers to improved play from the defensive backs as a whole -- and not to any decrease in play from Barkley, although his two picks against Minnesota would seem to indicate otherwise. "We're getting casual with the ball," Kiffin said Tuesday. "It was frustrating today. Sometimes they're gonna happen -- the ball's gonna get tipped or the guy's gonna miss a protection -- but when you force a ball, like the one out here today towards the end, there's no excuse for that."
  • Final notes: The Trojans will stay in Los Angeles until Friday this week before traveling up to Washington, meaning that practices will be at 4 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday. ...Kickers Joe Houston and Jacob Harfman will continue to each wear No. 10, Baxter said Tuesday, in an effort to open up more numbers for special-teams players to wear. Asked why Kiffin said after the game Saturday that it was a strategical move, Baxter indicated that was because he wanted to have all of its players available on each of the units and added that Kiffin didn't care enough about the kicking game to spend his time strategizing there.

***

Kiffin addressed the media after Tuesday's practice, talking over injuries, the start of conference play and other topics.

See what the coach had to say:



***

Pola talked about each of his running backs on Tuesday, including his view on Baxter's progress so far, what the coaching staff would need to see from a back to make them the starter, and more.

See what he said:

Joe Houston, Ross Cumming earn it

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
9:15
PM PT
The NCAA allows FBS teams 85 scholarship players.

USC had just 70 at the start of camp, leaving 15 spots to be allocated, or saved, to make the assembling of future classes easier.

Miami transfer Thearon Collier got one and former walk-on offensive lineman Abe Markowitz got one, but that still left a hefty 13 available scholarships.

Two of those were filled Tuesday when USC coach Lane Kiffin announced during a team meeting that starting kicker Joe Houston and linebacker Ross Cumming would be awarded scholarships for the upcoming school year.

"Maybe the one positive thing about the sanctions is that we have plenty of spots right now," Kiffin said after Tuesday's practice. "It's great for those guys and for their families."

The news was first reported by USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who has evidently taken a liking to announcing the awarding of scholarships. He did the same when Markowitz earned his two days into camp.

Listed at 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, Houston transferred from a local junior college following his freshman season and spent three years as a walk-on at USC, backing up David Buehler and Jordan Congdon. This fall, he was in competition with scholarship punter Jacob Harfman for the placekicking job and beat him out with a solid camp performance.

***

Houston called Tuesday's news "a dream come true." Hear what else the 23-year-old had to say in a one-on-one video interview taken Tuesday:

Judging the punt return battle

August, 14, 2010
8/14/10
7:29
AM PT
The punter position has been decided for a while now, with senior Jacob Harfman the clear starter.

The placekicking spot is beginning to look decided, with senior Joe Houston holding an edge over Harfman according to Lane Kiffin.

But the returners?

Far from decided. Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter have rotated a cadre of players in for kick and punt return practice so far in camp with no clear leaders thus far.

The candidates for the job include freshmen Dillon Baxter, Robert Woods and Nickell Robey -- plus Curtis McNeal and Ronald Johnson.

What exactly does Kiffin want in a punt returner?

"That catches the ball, first of all," Kiffin said. "You want to take possession of the ball and not give it up. We want guys that hit (the hole). Guys that dance usually struggle back there to try to make too many moves."

He continued, calling it a "very healthy competition" and indicating that the freshmen have struggled making the transition to the college level. Essentially, he wants a seasoned, tried-and-true veteran back there -- not the risk-reward type.

"That's a hard transition from high school to college because in high school, returners take it and they go all over the place because they're better than everybody else. You get to this level, you got a lot of fast players you're playing against."

"We have to train our guys to do that."

Friday practice report: Running shoes

August, 14, 2010
8/14/10
12:39
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Friday's practice, which pushed three hours in length:
  • After a lackluster, three-interception day from the offense, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin had the entire unit running after practice ended. Kiffin had praised his offense -- and his quarterbacks especially -- for much of camp for staying away from turnovers, but the situation has turned on its head in recent days. Said an obviously upset Kiffin while his players ran on adjacent Brian Kennedy Field: "We have a turnover issue on offense, which we're addressing as we speak, because we're not going to win any games if we take care of the ball like we did today." We'll have more on this in the morning.
  • The injuries are just piling on for USC. At least 17 scholarship players are currently hindered by injuries, with most of those players unable to practice. Friday's big one was redshirt freshman linebacker Marquis Simmons, who underwent an appendectomy during practice, Kiffin said, after he had some "issues" during the team's morning walk-through. Freshman cornerback Demetrius Wright (toe), running back Marc Tyler (groin), offensive lineman Kevin Graf (shoulder) are among the newly injured, as is senior receiver Ronald Johnson, who took it easy during practice because of a sore back. Fullback Stanley Havili participated in practice after dislocating his shoulder Thursday but wore a yellow jersey to avoid contact.
  • On-field highlights: cornerback Torin Harris picked off a Matt Barkley pass in the end zone that was intended for Robert Woods, and Brian Baucham intercepted a Mitch Mustain ball during scrimmage drills. Both players drew considerable celebration along the defensive sideline, and Kiffin spotlighted the performance of Harris, Baucham, and freshman cornerback Nickell Robey after practice.
  • Kiffin finally budged a bit on the kicker spot Friday, admitting that Joe Houston has the edge over punter Jacob Harfman for the placekicker spot -- as it stands today. Houston was listed ahead of Harfman on the end-of-spring depth chart, but Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter re-opened the competition for fall camp. Both players started camp well and then tailed off, although Houston has appeared to turn it up in recent days while Harfman has continued to struggle. Both players are seniors.
  • Final notes: Offensive coordinator Kennedy Pola's son, K.C. Pola, has joined the team as a walk-on fullback and will wear No. 43, the same number his cousin, Troy Polamalu, wore at USC. ... The Trojans will hold their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday at 4 p.m. before taking Sunday off. ... Friday's practice had originally been scheduled for 3 p.m. but was moved to the evening.

***

Kiffin talked about the growing number of injuries for the Trojans, the turnover situation, the competition at cornerback and plenty more during his post-practice meeting with the media on Friday.

Hear what he had to say:

Back to the future: kicking problems

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
2:55
AM PT
USC’s kicking woes continued on Wednesday as Joe Houston missed three field goals inside of 40 yards without much of a rush from the defense to block the attempts. During Sunday’s scrimmage Houston and punter Jacob Harfman combined to miss two extra points and a short field goal. Kiffin said if the problems continue into the season, he will have to adjust his play-calling accordingly. Kiffin said he had to deal with a similar situation last year at Tennessee where kicker Daniel Lincoln missed three field goals against Alabama in a 12-10 loss in Tuscaloosa.

“I had to deal with that last year where we had a stint where we couldn’t make anything for instance in the Alabama game and we had to get into a different idea of going for it and playing three-down territory and knowing you were going for it,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t have that problem here.”

Kiffin recaps the spring

April, 30, 2010
4/30/10
2:35
PM PT
First-year coach Lane Kiffin took to the mike Friday to provide a look at spring practice, including observations on the mass amount of injuries the Trojans have suffered and a look forward to the fall. Here's a video snippet of what he had to say:



Some other highlights:
  • On middle linebacker, where Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard are competing to start: "We’re excited about both of those guys. I’d imagine, whoever ends up winning the battle, we’ll find a way for the other guy to play."
  • On the injuries of early enrollee receiver Kyle Prater, which have hindered the true freshman in practices: "I’ve been disappointed for Kyle, not in Kyle. I don’t think that we know what we have yet in Kyle."
  • On the other early enrollee, running back Dillon Baxter, who broke a 50-yard run in the first scrimmage of the spring but struggled at times to break through the defensive line: “Dillon Baxter’s kind of the wildcard. This kid’s got the potential to be really, really special.”
  • On the placekicking spot, where walk-on Joe Houston has taken the lead over Jacob Harfman, who is slated to be the punter: "It’s still open. I would say he’s ahead in the battle. We’re excited about what [Houston] has done."
  • On the consistency of fullback Stanley Havili, who stayed on the field despite suffering injuries this spring: "I really enjoy watching Stanley and his leadership role. He’s very unique, a very unique fullback. He’s fun to have as you get to game-planning."
  • Kiffin didn't commit to using incoming offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson at left tackle, but he did say he would start at that spot. As for other incoming freshmen who he has big expectations for, Kiffin spotlighted receivers Robert Woods and Markeith Ambles. Woods has been slated as a flanker, Ambles as a split end.

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