USC: Jordan Campbell

Early enrollee profile No. 3: Scott Starr

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
5:41
PM PT
Going along with our end-of-year lists that looked at the top performers from the 2011 season and the top questions facing USC in 2012, we're now profiling each of the five early enrollees expected to begin classes at USC this spring, continuing through Friday.

We began Monday with No. 1 was safety Gerald Bowman, a product of nearby Pierce College, and No. 2 was defensive end Morgan Breslin of Diablo Valley College.

No. 3 is Norco linebacker Scott Starr, who's already on campus, taking classes and working out with the Trojans.

Norco linebackers have a history at USC over the past five or so years. Former player Jordan Campbell came to the Trojans from the high school; current player Dallas Kelley transferred to USC last year after graduating from Norco and then spending two years at junior college.

Starr has significantly more potential than either of those two. A 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, Starr has sufficient mobility to play any of the three linebacker slots. His fluidity as an athlete is up for debate -- he sometimes appears stiff on film -- but he consistently makes plays, including tackles, sacks, fumbles and interceptions.

He had 210 tackles and 8.5 sacks during his final two seasons in high school and reportedly made a number of big plays at last month's Semper Fi All-Star Game.

So, where does he fit? Good question. USC's three starting linebackers are presumably entrenched for the next two seasons, with Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson and Hayes Pullard all sophomores next season. But depth isn't exactly established.

Tre Madden, Anthony Sarao and Marquis Simmons are all scholarship players returning in 2012. Madden started a game last season at strongside when Bailey was hurt; Simmons, also a strongside 'backer has played himself into starring special-teams roles but gotten hurt twice now. Sarao redshirted as the third-string weakside linebacker in 2011.

That leaves the backup middle linebacker slot wide open, and hence there are rumors USC is looking at Starr as a potential mike 'backer. The fact he's coming in early and getting a half-year of experience before the 2012 season comes around also adds credence to the possibility that he could be Dawson's No. 2.

That would make sense.

Check back for our profile of Chad Wheeler.

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.

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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.

Campbell transfers to Louisville, Heidari commits to USC

June, 26, 2010
6/26/10
9:57
PM PT
We've got two roster developments to report on this Saturday.

First, former Trojans linebacker Jordan Campbell has committed to transfer to Louisville. Campbell, who spent three years at USC and started one game at weakside linebacker in that time, took his first visit to the school this weekend and said he came away pleased with what he saw.

The Cardinals were a Big East power for much of the 2000's before experiencing a downturn under former coach Steve Kragthorpe. After two turmoil-filled seasons under Kragthope, the school made a December high-profile hire of former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong with the apparent hope of bringing a new defensive mentality to the school.

Campbell has bought into it.

"There's nothing wrong with creating your own legacy," Campbell said by phone Saturday night from Louisville. "Coach Strong wants to create his own legacy here and he is a very wise, very smart man.

"He knows exactly what he wants to do."

Campbell was recruited by both Bobby Petrino and Kragthorpe at Louisville out of high school but chose to join the Trojans. Now, afteheading to the Cardinals, he believes he can jump into Strong's system and start right away — beginning with a big Governor's Cup matchup against Kentucky on Sept. 4.

Louisville returns a total of 15 starts at the three linebacker spots.

"I definitely expect to start," Campbell said. "With my capabilities, my speed, my size, my everything, I believe I can start at any school in the nation.

"I just gotta work hard — if I don't work hard, I won't be a starter anywhere."

--

Meanwhile, a Class of 2011 kicker, Andre Heidari (Bakersfield, Calif./Stockdale) committed to the Trojans on Saturday after receiving a scholarship off after the Rising Stars Camp held on USC's campus on Wednesday and Thursday.

Interestingly, Heidari's school is a perennial rival of Matt Darr's Frontier High in Bakersfield. Darr, a punter/kicker, decommitted from USC just before Signing Day in February and chose to attend Fresno State. The Trojans then hired famed Bulldog special teams coordinator John Baxter to coach special teams at USC.

Baxter was a big part of Heidari's decision to choose USC.

"I've been talking to coach Baxter a lot, and I think he's the best special teams coach in the nation," Heidari told USCfootball.com. "He's taught me so much in just the two days I was at the camp. He taught me how to shape my foot like it was different types of sports equipment. He is very technical."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Heidari reportedly plans to enroll in January, which will help USC a good bit in maneuvering around the NCAA-sanctioned 15-scholarship a year limit.

Report: Jarvis Jones chooses Georgia

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
1:20
AM PT
Just one day after linebacker Jordan Campbell announced he has chosen to transfer from USC, fellow ex-Trojan linebacker Jarvis Jones made a decision of his own — his next destination.

Jones, who was not medically cleared by USC because of a neck injury suffered against Oregon during the 2009 season, will transfer to Georgia, according to report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia's campus in Athens is only three hours away from Jones' hometown of Columbus, Ga. and the school was one of his finalists before he chose USC in 2009.

Jones did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Jones, who reportedly plans to utilize his redshirt year in 2011, told the Journal-Constitution he was cleared by Georgia doctors, who put him through a series of tests before he was permitted to commit to the school.

“I did good on all my tests and went through everything and they said I looked all right,” Jones said in the report. “I’m just going to take some extra time to make sure I’m completely healthy.”

He has not yet submitted the paperwork that would make the transfer official and has not signed a financial aid agreement with Georgia, but, according to the report, Jones says he is "definitely a Georgia Bulldog now."

Summer workouts: Morgan provides updates

June, 15, 2010
6/15/10
8:04
PM PT
Sure, the Trojans have been hit with a two-year postseason ban and scholarship limitations that will test their depth and determination over the next few years.

But that doesn't mean too much for now, they insist.

Just five days after the NCAA-imposed sanctions were announced, USC players were already back on the field Tuesday for the next in a regularly-scheduled series of players-only throwing sessions over the summer break.

Featured in the workout were a number of impressive catches from incoming freshman receiver Robert Woods — on one streak route Woods outran and outfought sophomore track standout and cornerback Tony Burnett for a score — and solid play on both sides of the ball. Quarterbacks Matt Barkley, Mitch Mustain and walk-on John Manoogian threw to a host of receivers that included redshirt senior David Ausberry, senior Ronald Johnson and freshmen Kyle Prater and Woods.

After the hour-long workout, redshirt senior linebacker Michael Morgan talked to the media about a variety of topics — the transfer of linebacker Jordan Campbell, the depth chart at the linebacker spot and more.

Morgan also confirmed he would stay at USC and not take advantage of the opportunity to freely transfer to another BCS school, asking, "Why would I leave these guys like that? It's not even worth it. It's only one game when you think about it."

Here's the video with Morgan:

The first domino has fallen.

USC redshirt junior linebacker Jordan Campbell has become the first player to defect from the land of Troy and take advantage of an NCAA-regulated free-transfer policy for juniors and seniors, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com Monday he has already told USC he will transfer.

Contacted Monday evening, a school spokesperson could not confirm that USC had received notification of his decision.

But Campbell's decision to leave the Trojans is especially interesting because of the circumstances surrounding his time at USC. A high school All-American out of Norco High who struggled to find playing time at USC during his three-year career, Campbell ended spring practice not officially on USC's roster due to a violation of Kiffin's newly instituted 'zero-tolerance' policy.

Instead of being forced to sit out a season and thus forfeit his penultimate year of eligibility -- as would have happened if he decided to transfer even a month ago -- Campbell will be immediately eligible upon enrolling at his new school.

"I decided to transfer because it was a blessing in disguise," Campbell said by phone Monday. "The opportunity to go to any other school that I wanted to without sitting out a year -- that was awesome."

According to NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osburn, any USC junior or senior is essentially allowed to re-open his recruiting process with only one caveat: the player's next school would have to submit an official waiver to the NCAA asking to waive the "year in residence," which would likely be approved.

In three years with the Trojans, Campbell starred primarily on special teams while earning just one start -- against Washington State in 2009. He led the Trojans in tackles against the Cougars with eight but sprained his ankle late in the game and missed the next three contests while recovering.

He said he lost his place in the depth chart because of the injury. By the time he was healthy, his spot was no longer available and he felt he had lost valuable competition time.

"I'm confident enough in my game where I can go to another school and start for the next two years," said Campbell, who added that he is considering a number of schools, including Boise State. "And there's a lot of guys here who could do the same thing, but we're at SC and we came into SC to compete and battle for those starting positions."

Campbell, who has a large USC tattoo on his arm, said he will remain a Trojan fan, no matter his next destination. But, he said, "at the end of the day, I have to do what's best for my family and for myself."

Asked if he could see his transfer foretelling the exodus of a number of other Trojan juniors and seniors, Campbell said, "I can't comment on anybody else because I don't want people to be persuaded by my decision. But I'm saying we have four, five starters across the board at USC. You go into another school, you have a lot of opportunities to go out there and be the man, play every single game."

In a brief Thursday press conference following the official announcement of the NCAA-imposed sanctions, Kiffin was asked if he was concerned about the potential that Trojan juniors and seniors would transfer because of the eliminated restriction.

"If someone wants to leave the best place in the country to play football, we won't stop them," the first-year coach said.

The loss of Campbell leaves the Trojans significantly shorthanded at linebacker, a spot where they had already been suffering from a lack of depth. In Devon Kennard, Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, USC has four supremely talented linebackers. Unfortunately, the Trojans -- playing a 4-3 system under assistant head coach Monte Kiffin -- have only available three starting spots. But behind those four is only one letterwinner, redshirt junior Shane Horton, and two other scholarship players, redshirt freshmen Simione Vehikite and Marquis Simmons.

USC does have two linebackers enrolling in the fall: junior-college transfer Glen Stanley (Thatcher, Ariz./Eastern Arizona JC) and Hayes Pullard (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw).

Thursday practice report

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
9:40
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice, the final practice of the spring before Saturday's Spring Game:
  • Quarterback Matt Barkley struggled some Thursday because of the roaring winds that engulfed Howard Jones Field, but Barkley's spring was, overall, quite successful. The sophomore noticeably improved his decision-making, cutting down his interceptions a great deal. After Thursday's practice, he talked about what he learned this spring and what he expects for next season:
  • No pads meant the practice wasn't as intense as some have been in recent weeks, but it was longer. Thursday's practice was the longest of the 14-practice spring schedule, with many players not leaving Howard Jones Field until nearly 7 p.m.
  • Injury update: receiver Ronald Johnson participated in practice but will have arthroscopic surgery on his wrist once he finishes finals, which are scheduled for May 5-12. He will not play in Saturday's game. Running back Marc Tyler's situation is the opposite; Tyler didn't practice Thursday, nursing a sore toe, but plans to play Saturday. Defensive end Nick Perry returned to the practice field.
  • The Jordan Campbell situation has not been resolved. Campbell, a redshirt junior linebacker, is not currently with the team due to a second violation of Kiffin's zero tolerance policy, but the circumstances remain ambiguous. “Everything we’ve been told is that he didn’t do anything,” Kiffin said. “But we want to be very cautious about that and make sure because of the zero tolerance (policy) that he’s on.”
  • Kiffin highlighted tight end Jordan Cameron and defensive end Armond Armstead as some of the most improved players in spring. Cameron was converted to tight end from receiver prior to spring and shined while other players at his position — Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison, namely — missed time with injuries. Armstead, who missed half of last season with a broken foot, stayed healthy for the majority of practice. At one practice he missed, Kiffin noted that the running game performed better because Armstead wasn't there to stop them. "He had a phenomenal camp," Kiffin said.
  • The format for Saturday's game will simply be offense vs. defense, not first-string vs. second-string, as former coach Pete Carroll did in past years. The reason: the Trojans don't have enough healthy backups to play every spot. "We don't have an option," Kiffin said. "We can't do ones versus twos — we don't have twos on the offensive line."
  • Kiffin, on what he learned in the spring: "I didn't know our defensive line was potentially this good. I didn't know that we had this many depth issues at some other positions. You find out some good and some bad."

Tuesday practice report

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
10:10
PM PT
Notes, quotes, and video from Tuesday's practice, the final full-pads practice of the spring before Saturday's Spring Game:
  • The big story was at linebacker, where the battle at the middle spot was cleared up a bit, as redshirt junior Chris Galippo switched over to strongside for 15-20 snaps. Sophomore Devon Kennard, who was moved over to middle linebacker before spring practice, said he wasn't involved in the decision. "I have no idea what the coaches have in mind with all of that," Kennard said. "I don't know the situation -- the coaches haven't talked to me about it." Kennard added that nothing was decided and that the two would continue to compete at least for the rest of spring.
  • Galippo, who played middle linebacker all four years at Servite High School in Anaheim, on the move: "I think I'm ready for that. Mentally, [strongside] is a lot easier than [middle]. You don't have to worry about making checks, I can trust Devon to do all that. I just gotta get used to the alignments, get my mind away from being in the middle a little bit."
  • Highlights of practice: quarterback James Boyd displayed an impressive arm with a touchdown throw to tight end David Ausberry during passing drills, the USC kickers practiced pooch punting by punting the ball over the fence at Howard Jones Field and cornerback Shareece Wright displayed impressive range with an interception of a deep pass during 11-on-11 play. Defensive tackles Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey combined on the most impressive play of them all, working together to sp
  • Injury updates: defensive end Armond Armstead and running back Dillon Baxter returned to the field after missing Saturday's scrimmage. End Nick Perry left practice early; tight end Blake Ayles sat out because of his second concussion of the spring and running back Marc Tyler again sat out because of a sore toe.
  • Offensive guards Zack Heberer and Butch Lewis stretched with the team prior to the start of team play in practice, but spent the rest of the 2 1/2-hour practice doing individual workouts designed for injured players. Both have been out for all of the spring.
  • Receiver Kyle Prater continues to practice with a bulky cast on his thumb, which seems to hinder him in making catches. Receiver Ronald Johnson may not need surgery on his right wrist after all, coach Lane Kiffin said, and Johnson spent a good portion of practice fielding punts.
  • Kiffin on the certainty of the end-of-spring depth chart, which will be released Friday: "It all depends. There's too many variables to tell. Each spot will be different...We'll have something on Friday, but that's pretty much in pencil." Former coach Pete Carroll would typically list "or" between multiple players at contested positions, leaving the chart with an indefinite sense. Kiffin seemed to indicate his system would be similar.
  • The USC defense shut down two attempts at a two-minute drill from the offense, spearheaded by both Mitch Mustain and Matt Barkley.
  • Kiffin spoke with a bit of ambiguity regarding linebacker Jordan Campbell, who was absent from practice Tuesday, presumably because of a violation of the team's zero-tolerance policy. The video of Kiffin's response is below:

Heritage Hall reaction

January, 8, 2010
1/08/10
4:46
PM PT
Heritage Hall was strangely quiet this afternoon, considering all that's happened today.

Joe McKnight is gone to the NFL, and the most recent rumors have head coach Pete Carroll possibly leaving to coach the Seattle Seahawks.

A few players and assistants have been shuffling in and out of USC's athletic headquarters. Most coaches have said they had no comment, including running backs coach Todd McNair and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider.

Sophomore defensive end Malik Jackson came into Heritage while walking his dog, hoping to find out more information. He said all he knew was what he'd heard on television and through brief conversations with teammates.

Jackson said he first heard about it in a text message from former tight end Anthony McCoy this morning. Jackson said the text read, "Looks like you guys are gonna be without a coach."

"We’ll see what’s going to happen," Jackson said. "That’s all we can wait and do."

Former safety Will Harris said he didn't know much either.


Said Harris: "I just know what everybody else knows."

Harris cited the McKnight investigation, Stafon Johnson injury, and now the Carroll situation as evidence of perhaps a USC football demise.

"It's sad to see everything going down like this," Harris said. "But that's the way it goes."

But Harris also said he supported his former coach in whatever he chose to do.

"People move on to do better things," Harris said. "And that's what he's about to do."

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