USC: Jordan Simmons

USC offseason storylines: Offensive line

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
11:00
AM PT
No position group at USC entered the spring surrounded by more uncertainty than the offensive line. With the key losses of Marcus Martin, Kevin Graf, John Martinez and Abe Markowitz, a new position coach in Tim Drevno, and the offense transitioning into Steve Sarkisian’s up-tempo, shotgun-based attack, no one knew quite what to expect. While there was certainly plenty of good to take away from their performance this spring, this is still a unit with more than a few question marks.

Both guard spots open

[+] EnlargeMax Tuerk
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsNo matter the position, Max Tuerk figures to have a starting job on USC's OL.
With only eight healthy scholarship players available, it was hard to ever get a real solid read on the offensive line, and as Sarkisian recently noted, this is a unit that will need to be solidified in the coming months.

That’s particularly the case at the guard positions, where, during spring drills, the Trojans featured a starting duo of early-entrant freshman Toa Lobendahn at left guard and second-year freshman Khaliel Rodgers at right guard.

And while both players – particularly Lobendahn -- showed promise, the entire competition at those spots is set to change dramatically as the Trojans gain an influx of talent from incoming freshmen as well as players returning from injury.

Of those players on the mend, senior Aundrey Walker, who is returning from a broken ankle, will be watched with particular interest. Establishing himself as a reliable starter at right guard in 2013 after an up-and-down 2012 campaign at tackle, he possesses veteran experience that could be invaluable to this unit.

Jordan Simmons, returning from a torn ACL, is a big mauler who was really starting to stand out in practice prior to his injury in the fall, and he’s another player who could make a run at a starting job on the interior.

Of course, in the case of both Walker and Simmons, it’s how their recovery goes, and what kind of shape they come back in -- particularly with the conditioning required for the new offense -- that will likely play the biggest role in determining whether or not they’re able to jump in and perform at a high level when fall camp opens up.

And then there is fifth-year senior Giovanni Di Poalo, as well as a pair of incoming freshmen guard candidates -- Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao. Both youngsters arrive not only with more than their fair share of accolades, but also with unique talent and tremendous size -- giving them the look of potential instant impact performers.

Center of attention

With Martin off to the NFL, one of the new staff’s biggest priorities heading into spring practice was to find a capable starter at center. Max Tuerk, a tried and tested veteran who started 13 games at left guard in 2013, and the majority of the prior season at left tackle, wound up getting the call. While he did have some occasional difficulties in the snapping department, he performed solidly for the most part.

Chris Brown
Blair Angulo/ESPNIncoming freshman Chris Brown has been taking a lot of reps at right tackle during summer workouts.
Still, while Sarkisian lauded Tuerk’s overall ability during the recent Pac-12 football coaches teleconference, he also appeared to leave the door open for competition through fall camp, so this isn’t over just yet. Both Di Poalo and Lobendahn lined up at the position in the spring, and have continued to do so this summer during the team’s volunteer workouts. Talamaivao is another key name to watch here, as he too, has been taking reps at this spot over the course of the last week. It will also be interesting to see if Mama gets a look here when he arrives on campus.

If Sarkisian and Co. did decide to go with someone other than Tuerk here, it’s a virtual certainty that the junior would still line up as a starter somewhere else. Arguably the Trojans’ sturdiest pound-for-pound offensive lineman, he could conceivably slide back over to left guard or either of the tackle spots without a hitch.

Stability at tackle

While the interior of the line still isn’t totally set, the Trojans do appear to be in better shape at both of the tackle spots -- at least when it comes to the starters.

No player drew more praise from Sarkisian following spring drills than third-year sophomore left tackle Chad Wheeler. Having started every game last season, he looks primed for a fantastic 2014 campaign.

Over on the right side, the emergence of Zach Banner -- who sat out most of last season after having hip surgery -- was one of the great revelations of the spring. Performing at the highest level of his career, the 6-foot-9, 345-pounder took over with the No. 1 group in place of Nathan Guertler midway through camp and never looked back. Considering the fact that he said that he wasn’t even quite back to 100 percent during those workouts, there’s reason to believe he’s only going to get better, and it will be interesting to see just how much farther he can continue to progress this offseason.

Still, Drevno needs to find out who else he can count on to contribute at tackle, if nothing else, to provide depth. Early entrant freshman Jordan Austin and Guertler were the primary backups in the spring, and then there’s also Nico Falah -- returning from a back injury. Highly touted incoming freshman Chris Brown has also been taking reps at right tackle during summer drills.

Sarkisian: 'Lot of work' needed on line

May, 1, 2014
May 1
4:30
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC head coach Steve Sarkisian took his turn on the phone on Thursday during the Pac-12 football coaches teleconference, revealing that among his biggest concerns for the Trojans heading into the fall is finding the right combination along the offensive line.

“Solidifying that front five -- who’s going to be where, that depth and all of that -- I think, is one key component for us,” Sarkisian said.

That doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. After all, this past spring the Trojans were without a 2013 starter in senior guard Aundrey Walker (ankle), as well as promising guard/tackle Jordan Simmons (knee) and tackle Nico Falah (back), all to injuries, making the lack of depth a glaring issue.

The Trojans featured a No. 1 offensive line unit throughout the majority of the March and April workouts that was comprised of Chad Wheeler at left tackle, Toa Lobendahn at left guard, Max Tuerk at center, Khaliel Rodgers at right guard and Zach Banner at right tackle.

[+] EnlargeMax Tuerk
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsMax Tuerk played center all spring and is almost certain to start somewhere on the line this fall.
But with Walker, Simmons and Falah all expected to return in time for fall camp, on top of the fact that the unit will add a trio of highly touted freshmen to the mix in Chris Brown, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao, the starting group could potentially have a very different look when the Trojans open up against Fresno State on Aug. 30.

Sarkisian noted that Mama and Talamaivao will both begin their USC careers on the interior. He did not discuss Brown, but most consider him to have the ability to line up at guard or tackle.

How the players who are coming off injury, as well those freshman additions, adjust to the new uptempo system and how they perform in fall camp will play a major part in what kind of role they’re ultimately going to play.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Sarkisian said. “So, that’s why the challenge is so big for us of how we’re handling that first week to get guys opportunities to show what they’re about, so we can start developing some cohesiveness amongst that offensive front as we move toward the season.”

Sarkisian spoke glowingly of Wheeler and also praised Tuerk, Lobendahn and Banner for their efforts this past spring. He also noted that Tuerk will continue to line up at center, where he played during the entirety of the spring, but he appeared to leave the door open for others to still compete at the position.

“I do know that Max Tuerk is a tremendous football player,” Sarkisian said. “He’s played a lot of football. He’s going to play for us this fall. He went through the entire spring as our center. We’ll obviously take a good, hard look at that early in training camp, along with a couple other guys.“

Response to SEC decision

One topic that was brought up throughout the call to all of the Pac-12 coaches was the Southeastern Conference’s recent decision to stick to an eight-game conference schedule.

With college football moving to a four-team playoff next season, the trend has been for conferences to adopt a nine-game conference schedule. Pac-12 and Big 12 teams already play nine conference games, and the Big Ten is scheduled to make the change in 2016.

When asked about the SEC’s decision, Sarkisian took the opportunity to praise the Pac-12 while also expressing his desire for a level playing field down the line.

“The Pac-12 has been on the forefront of the scheduling thing here for quite some time,” Sarkisian said. “I think it’s encouraging to see that the majority of college football is moving their way towards nine. I think for college football to find the common ground, the more areas we can all be the same so that there’s a competitive and level playing field for everybody, I think should be the goal.”

Hawkins impresses

When asked if there were any redshirt freshmen who stood out to him this spring at USC, Sarkisian answered with cornerback Chris Hawkins.

“From all of the accounts of all of the people that were here on the previous staff, he has really matured mentally and physically,” Sarkisian said. “I thought his body has really changed. I thought he had a very good spring for us.”

USC notebook: QBs in the spotlight

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
12:00
PM PT
video
LOS ANGELES -- Through a crush of digital cameras and recorders, new USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was given the requisite initial questions following his first official practice as USC’s head coach.

“What’s it like being back?”

“How was the walk onto the practice field?”

“What’s it like coaching some of the guys you recruited at Washington?”

Yada, yada, yada.

It didn’t take long, however, for the queries to turn to the quarterbacks. Much like last season, anytime USC has a quarterback competition it’s going to be in the national spotlight. For now, save the cards -- score, report or otherwise -- because to speculate on the quarterbacks after one practice barely scratches the surface of superficial. Particularly since, as Sarkisian noted, “we were practicing in our underwear.”

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsCody Kessler led USC to 10 wins last season, but his status as starting quarterback is not guaranteed.
To be clear, the Trojans wore shorts and helmets. But the lingering question throughout spring and into the fall will be whether Cody Kessler will retain his starting job, or give way to Max Browne.

Neither quarterback seemed particularly thrilled to be talking about a competition on Day 1.

“I’m just trying to get better every practice,” Kessler said. “I’m going to keep working. I’ve been competing my whole life. And even if (there wasn’t a competition) I’d keep competing. It is what it is and I’m just going to keep trying to get better.”

At first glance, the assumption is that Kessler has the inside edge given his experience. Last season he completed 236 of 361 passes for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He posted a raw QBR of 59.7 with an adjusted QBR of 66.7 in guiding the Trojans to a 10-4 record and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he was named the game’s MVP.

“I thought they both did some good stuff,” Sarkisian said. “They both had some moments they’d love to have back. We have to look at the film. We’re moving at a pretty fast clip out there, and you’re trying to assess everything at once, and it’s hard to do that. There’s plenty of stuff for both of them to learn from.”

Then again, Max Wittek had more experience than Kessler heading into spring last season. So as far as Browne is concerned, it’s wide open.

“Since the day I got here we’ve all competed each and every day,” said Browne, who redshirted last season. “My mindset hasn’t changed. Even last year when it was a Week 7 game and I knew I was redshirting, I was still competing ... It’s no secret he led us to 10 wins last year. We had a lot of success. But we’re both going to come out and compete each and every day and see where the chips fall.”

Max in the middle

Those in attendance for the open practice might have noticed big No. 75 playing center. You might recall that Max Tuerk spent about a week at center last spring but couldn’t quite get the quarterback-center exchange figured out -- mostly because Tuerk’s arms are so long.

But with Marcus Martin departing -- and the new scheme being installed by Sarkisian working almost exclusively out of the shotgun -- the versatile Tuerk could be the primary guy in the middle.

“We didn’t snap any over the quarterback’s head,” Sarkisian said. “So knock on wood. And there were no grounders. That was the first thing I was concerned about coming out today.”

Tuerk is obviously a fan of the shotgun. As a consummate team player, he’s happy going wherever the team needs him, as he started 13 games at left guard and one game at right tackle last season. In his freshman season he started five at left tackle.

“He could probably play three different positions,” Sarkisian said. “We have to see how we evolve. At some point we’ll get Aundrey Walker back and Zach Banner and Jordan Simmons. We have some versatility on this front. But it is comforting to know you have an experienced player at center when you are operating at this pace.”

Speaking of pace

The hot buzz word at practice was “tempo” because of the fast-paced offense that Sarkisian is installing. The Trojans ran approximately 120 offensive plays with little time to rest in between.

The upside is that the pace boosts conditioning and gets the Trojans more prepared for a game situation. The downside is it doesn’t allow for much in-practice instruction.

“If you make a mistake, you’re glad you’re going right back,” Browne said. “If you throw a touchdown, like I did today to George Katrib, you don’t get to time to celebrate either. It works both ways. But it allows you to get into a rhythm. You can dink-and-dunk your way down the field and never really get time to breathe.”

Unproven Trojans who could make impact

January, 25, 2014
Jan 25
10:00
AM PT
Every season in college football there are previously unproven players who rise up to play major roles for their teams. For the Trojans in 2014, here are five players who will be looking to make their mark in a USC uniform for the first time:

1. DL Delvon Simmons: This 6-foot-6, 300-pound transfer from Texas Tech could have an immediate opportunity to step into the starting lineup to replace George Uko. Simmons started 13 games for the Red Raiders in 2012 and has 40 career tackles under his belt, along with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. At the very least, he is expected to be a key part of the interior D-line rotation next fall.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Farmer
Harry How/Getty ImagesCan highly-recruited wideout George Farmer star for the Trojans in 2014?
2. S Gerald Bowman: There was a lot of hype surrounding Bowman when he transferred in as a highly-ranked junior college prospect but academic delays and injuries have prevented him from making an impact . There isn’t a ton of depth at the safety spot so Bowman will have the chance to get immediate playing time when he returns from a shoulder injury that forced a redshirt year in 2013.

3. OL Jordan Simmons: It has been a rocky road for Simmons at USC. His freshman year started with knee surgery prior to the season but he came back in the second half of the season and was named offensive service team player of the year. Simmons was showing promise last fall as a road-grading guard until he hurt his knee trying to catch a pass before a practice and will be sidelined for spring.

4. WR George Farmer: It seems like forever since Farmer came to USC as the top-ranked receiver in the country. It has been so long that his high school teammates -- Robert Woods and Marqise Lee -- have already wrapped up their college careers and will be playing in the NFL next year. Farmer, meanwhile, will be hoping that his knee rehab goes well enough to allow him back on the field to regain the momentum he was showing last spring before suffering the injury.

5. RB D.J. Morgan: Another player who has battled knee injuries, Morgan has two career starts under his belt with 364 yards on 83 carries and one touchdown. There is a clean slate waiting for Morgan when he returns -- Morgan had fallen in Lane Kiffin’s doghouse for fumbling -- but there is also a deep and talented stable of backs to compete with for carries. The one thing Morgan brings to the table is speed and if he is healthy enough to offer that he will have a chance to crack the rotation.

USC freshmen who could breakout in 2014

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
1:15
PM PT
Here are 7 freshmen who could play much bigger roles for the Trojans in 2014:

• RB Ty Isaac: In his limited action so far in 2013 -- eight carries for 59 yards, a team leading 7.4 yards-per rush -- Isaac has shown that his future is bright. He has excellent size in the range of 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, plus he has a nice forward lean and pretty good speed. Silas Redd will be the only tailback to leave an already crowded rotation but Isaac should be able to quickly carve a niche as a power back with the capability of putting up good numbers.

[+] EnlargeLeon McQuay III
AP Photo/Gus RuelasFreshman safety Leon McQuay III had his first career interception in the Trojans' win over Utah.
• WR Darreus Rogers: It’s no surprise that Rogers is on this list, considering how injuries have been the only thing to slow him in his brief USC career. He had one catch in the first three games, did not play the next three, and then had 11 catches for 122 yards in the last two games combined when finally healthy. Rogers is a physically strong receiver who will find a lot of success with intermediate routes. If Marqise Lee leaves early for the draft, as is widely suspected, look for Rogers to move into the starting role alongside Nelson Agholor.

• OL Jordan Simmons: Among the USC reserve linemen, Simmons was the one most ready to step in as a major contributor before going down with a knee injury last week that will force him out of the remainder of the year. Assuming he is able to come back healthy for the start of 2014, he could definitely be in the mix for a starting spot depending upon how the rotation shakes out.

• DL Kenny Bigelow: There were a lot of expectations on Bigelow to come in and be an immediate contributor as a freshman this season but that just didn’t pan out. Bigelow has his moments on the practice field but there are also times when you can see that it was a big leap for him to be at the USC level. The redshirt year should do wonders and chances are Bigelow will be ready to play an expanded role along the line next fall.

• OLB Jabari Ruffin: Both of the USC outside linebackers will be graduating this year so chances are good that Ruffin will be filling one of the starting spots next year. Ruffin has been backing up Devon Kennard this year and has nine tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. He has also been an active part of special teams.

• CB Chris Hawkins: The corner spot has been one of the biggest issues with the defense this year and Hawkins offers the promise of being a good addition to the group in 2014. Hawkins brings good fundamentals to the position and the redshirt year should allow him to add more bulk to his frame.

• S Leon McQuay III: There has been a lot of attention paid to fellow freshman safety Su’a Cravens -- and justifiably so -- but McQuay has been quietly improving on the practice field and even showed a glimpse of his future against Utah with three tackles and an interception in his first start. McQuay has also shown a real knack in practice for blocking field goals.

Five things: USC-Utah

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
8:00
AM PT
Five things to watch for USC in the upcoming game against Utah:


Injuries: The long list of injuries for the Trojans is mind-numbing these days and three more players were lost for the season this week; linebacker Lamar Dawson (knee), tailback Justin Davis (ankle) and offensive guard Jordan Simmons (knee). These are not inconsequential losses as Dawson was fourth on the team in tackles and Davis was second on the team in rushing. At the end of Tuesday’s practice, only one scholarship receiver was available -- Darreus Rogers -- and there were no scholarship tight ends. How the USC injury list stands on Saturday may be as important to the outcome of the game as anything.

USC O-line vs Utah D-line: It was a rough night for the Trojans O-line against the Irish and it doesn’t figure to get a whole lot easier this week against a defensive line that paves the way for the conference lead in sacks. The Utes have 22 sacks on the year and 16 come from the line. They are a strong and aggressive group, led by a pair of outside pass rushers in Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard. Under normal circumstances the Trojans would use the tight ends to help with blocking assignments so this is yet another area where injuries could come into play.

USC corners vs. Utah pass game: The Trojans pass defense has been a struggle for the past three games and interim coach Ed Orgeron has decided to address things with a position change. Josh Shaw will move from safety to corner, the position he played earlier in the season. Orgeron is confident that the presence of Shaw will help to correct things, noting that the problems were not there earlier when Shaw was at corner. The ability of Utah to attack USC is the passing game will depend largely on the health of Utes quarterback Travis Wilson, who suffered a hand injury last week against Arizona but is expected to play on Saturday.

Kicking competition: After Andre Heidari missed two of three field goals against Notre Dame, Orgeron announced that the place-kicker job would be open for competition this week. Heidari, who has been the starter since his freshman year, admitted after Wednesday’s practice that he is in “a funk” with his kicking but he is confident he can work out of it. Alex Wood and Craig McMahon are being given longer looks in practice with a decision expected Friday after Orgeron meets with special teams coach John Baxter.

How do Trojans respond: It was an emotional scene in the USC locker room after the game in South Bend and it was obvious that was a game the players really wanted. They had fought hard but just weren’t able to pull it out. What made it even more interesting is how many players talked about how they wanted to win it for Orgeron. The interim coach has put a much-needed focus on the players, on keeping their spirits up, and that energy will need to continue because there is no time for a letup against Utah. Don’t forget that the Utes are the one team this year that has defeated Stanford.

Planning for success: USC

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
5:00
AM PT
Some of the most glaring issues for the Trojans last week in the loss to Notre Dame were the troubles along the offensive line with penalties, miscommunication and signs of physical dominance from the Irish defensive line.

Well, it’s time to get back to work on the practice field for the USC O-line because another tough test will be coming to town on Saturday in the form of the Utah Utes. While Utah may not present as much of a challenge as the Notre Dame line, it isn’t far behind.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Martin
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsTrojans center Marcus Martin (66) hopes the offensive line can cut down on penalties.
The Utes lead the Pac-12 in sacks with 22, and 16 of those come from the D-line. It’s an aggressive group that stood toe-to-toe with Stanford two weeks ago and came away with the most shocking upset of the year in the conference. The Cardinal have built their recent reputation on power football, but the Utes were able to hold them 50 yards below their normal rushing output.

For the Trojans, the theme of the practice week is accountability, following a game in which too many of the penalties came at critical times to halt USC momentum.

“As an offensive line, we are here to take responsibility and improve,” USC center Marcus Martin said. “It’s upsetting because penalties that take away explosive plays really hurt your offense. That’s our offensive line and we take full responsibility.”

One thing the USC O-line hasn’t had to deal with as much is injuries. While the rest of the Trojans offense seems to be an exercise in patchwork substitutions these days due to injuries, the offensive line has remained fairly intact. There was an unfortunate knee injury early in the week to reserve guard Jordan Simmons, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season but other than that the lineup for has been fairly consistent and should pay dividends at some point.

Even with the benefit of putting the same lineup on the field this week, the offensive line has struggled in protecting USC quarterback Cody Kessler, and that will be a key element to watch against Utah. The Trojans have given up 15 sacks on the season, a number that could definitely grow on Saturday. The Utes have a pair of 300-pound tackles in the middle of the defensive line, but most of the production comes from defensive ends Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard, who will look to use their speed to cause havoc in the Trojans' backfield.

For the Trojans to come away with a win against Utah, the offensive line will need to show a one-week improvement.

Notebook: Cravens latest to injure knee

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
7:17
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Injuries continue to be one of the big stories for the Trojans this spring as it was confirmed after practice that both George Farmer and Su’a Cravens will undergo knee surgeries.

The news was more dire for Farmer after Kiffin confirmed the earlier media reports of a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, which will force him to miss the 2013 season. For Cravens, he has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo surgery Friday. The injury is the same as the one suffered by Silas Redd. Cravens is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and will be back in plenty of time for fall camp.

Su'a Cravens
Garry Paskwietz/WeAreSC.comSu'a Cravens is the latest USC player to get dinged in spring practice.
“Whenever there is an injury you hope, like Su’a, that’s it’s not going to be a long setback,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “With guys like George, those are the ones you feel really bad for. A guy who battles back and was playing well and then to have this setback.”

The Trojans entered the Thursday practice session with 20 players out of action because of injury and two more left practice – Torin Harris and Cyrus Hobbi.

“I don’t see any way we could practice like this in the fall. We wouldn’t be able to play a game,” Kiffin said. “Of the 22 guys who ended up being out today, 18 of them are scholarship players. With the roster reductions we already have we would not be able to give up that many players. We will start fall camp practicing this way, but I don’t think we will end fall camp this way.”

There was some good news on the injury front as Marqise Lee returned, albeit in a limited role, after missing two-and-a-half weeks with a knee injury. Lee seemed to be running fine with no major issues but he was held out of contact team drills. Kevon Seymour and Jordan Simmons also returned to action.

“Marqise was back, which was obviously good to see,” Kiffin said. “He basically took part in the first hour of practice and we’ll add to him as we go.”

George Uko was out today and J.R. Tavai took his spot with the first unit at defensive end. During the final team drill, Aundrey Walker was out and Max Tuerk had moved to center with Hobbi out, so the first unit left side of the line was walk-on Nathan Guertler at tackle and Giovanni Di Poalo at guard.

Receiver shuffle

With Farmer out, that means opportunities for players such as Victor Blackwell and De’Von Flournoy along with first-year players Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell. Kiffin also made sure to note the high level of play from Nelson Agholor this spring when discussing the receiver group.

(Read full post)

Thursday spring practice notes

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
7:25
AM PT
It was a spirited, full-pads practice session for the Trojans on Thursday and one that featured a nice performance from the offense. This was welcome news to USC coach Lane Kiffin, particularly after the defense had dominated a practice earlier in the week.

“The offense did a lot better today,” Kiffin said. “It was good to see them bounce back that way after what happened on Tuesday. They came out today with a much better mindset.”

[+] EnlargeD.J. Morgan
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillBefore leaving practice with an undisclosed injury, D.J. Morgan was making a case to jump toward the front of USC's RB rotation.
The solid play was spread around through many players but one area that really stood out was the run game. With Silas Redd out for spring with injury and Tre Madden limited in contact, the tailback work has fallen to the trio of D.J. Morgan, Buck Allen and Justin Davis, and they responded on Thursday.

It was Davis who got things going with a pair of long touchdown runs in a team drill. The smooth freshman, who has provided multiple promising moments in his brief time at USC, took both runs to the left side and showed a combination of speed and moves to get to the end zone.

Morgan followed in the next drill with a 10-yard touchdown run, showing a quick burst through the line. A few plays later, Morgan took a handoff and went down in a pile after a short gain. When he came up, he was limping a little and did not return.

Allen took his turn as the lead runner at the end of the day when the Trojans were in goal-line situations. The chatter between the offense and defense had reached a crescendo as time was running out in practice and both sides were eager for victory. With the ball at the five-yard line, Allen was able to punch in two touchdowns, including the final play of the day to signal a win for the offense. Davis also had a short touchdown run in the goal-line drill.

“I thought D.J. Morgan was having a very good day before he went down,” Kiffin said. “Justin Davis had a great day.”

It was also a good day at the quarterback spot, Max Wittek looked much better than he did on Tuesday, while Max Browne had his best practice as a Trojan.

Wittek got things going early with a deep touchdown pass to De’Von Flournoy against solid coverage from Ryan Henderson.

In a red-zone drill, Browne hit Nelson Agholor as Torin Harris went for the ball and missed, so Agholor was able to go in for the 20-yard score. Browne also hit a pair of short touchdowns to Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. The highlight throw of the day for Browne came when he hit Farmer on a 55-yard completion. It was yet another sign of the accurate touch that Browne has shown on the deep ball so far, and of the fact that Farmer is continuing to make plays as well.

“George has stayed healthy and he’s doing well,” Kiffin said. “We need him to make the hard plays, to be physical, and he’s doing that. It’s been great to see.”

O-line adjusting to coaching changes
One of the primary areas of emphasis for the Trojans this year will be to get more physical, and that starts with the line. To that end, Kiffin has put two coaches on the offensive line, adding Mike Summers and keeping James Cregg, who had been the line coach for the past three years, as his assistant. There was some curiosity as to how the arrangement would work but, through the first three weeks, Kiffin is pleased with what he sees.

“Mike Summers has done a really good job of coming in and capturing the group,” Kiffin said. “It’s worked out like we had hoped with the two of them in combination, that’s why we put two coaches at such an important position.”

Injury report
Xavier Grimble will miss the remainder of spring with a chest fracture. There was no update on Morgan after practice. Jordan Simmons missed practice after getting sick earlier in the afternoon.

Defensive highlights
* Ryan Henderson had multiple solid tackles on the day coming up from his corner position. Two of them were on Agholor, including one at the end of the day when emotions were high and his big hit brought a huge roar from the defensive sideline.

* Anthony Brown also had a solid tackle for no gain from the corner spot.

* Josh Shaw read a screen pass from Cody Kessler to Agholor and he was able to bat the ball down.

* J.R. Tavai recorded a sack of Browne.

* Leonard Williams tracked Davis along the line of scrimmage for no gain.

Notables in attendance
Naijiel Hale, David Sills, Steven Mitchell, Nico Falah and several members of the Chaminade Eagles program.

Quotebook
“It was a slow adjustment at first for me because things are so different at this level. There were little things I could get away with in high school, some bad habits, but you need to pay attention to those techniques here. I’m getting those little things down right now. The good thing is that I get a first chance to learn everything now in spring and then I will get another camp in the fall. That will really help me learn the playbook. I’m not sure about redshirting, I’ll just work hard every day and see what happens.” -- Justin Davis

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.

Fall camp position preview: O-linemen

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
6:05
PM PT
With the start of the 2012 USC football season drawing near, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster all this week. We began Monday with quarterbacks and continued Tuesday with running backs and Wednesday with receivers and tight ends.

Today, we will profile offensive linemen.

For each position, we’re starting with the 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.

Left tackle

1. Aundrey Walker, sophomore
2. Nathan Guertler, redshirt sophomore
3. Chad Wheeler, freshman

Left guard

1. Marcus Martin, sophomore
2. Giovanni Di Poalo, redshirt sophomore
3. Max Tuerk, freshman

Center

1. Khaled Holmes, redshirt senior
2. Abe Markowitz, redshirt senior
3. Cyrus Hobbi, redshirt freshman

Right guard

1. John Martinez, redshirt junior
2. Jeremy Galten, senior
3. Jordan Simmons, freshman

Right tackle

1. Kevin Graf, redshirt junior
2. David Garness, redshirt junior
3. Zach Banner, freshman

An offensive line depth chart is always a funny thing.

The backup at a given position might technically be the No. 2 guy there, like Guertler is at left tackle, but that doesn't mean he'd be the guy to come in if Walker got nicked up and had to miss a series. And the same thing goes for Di Poalo backing up Martin -- it's much more likely that Markowitz would be the short-term replacement than Di Poalo.

But, about the starters, there really isn't going to be much competition going on here. The interior spots are all solidified, and Kiffin and his staff seem pretty set on keeping Walker on the blind site. The only foreseeable changes would be a switch between Walker and Graf if Walker is underperforming, and maybe a move of Markowitz into the left guard slot if Martin is experiencing a sophomore slump.

Walker's offseason weight loss has been remarkable. He weighed around 375 pounds on his official visit to USC in the winter and then proceeded to slowly lose weight over the next year and a half.

In early June, he was 296 -- too light for what the Trojans' coaching staff wanted. So he's tried to gain back some of the weight since.

Even when Walker was a lot heavier last year, you could see the makings of a left tackle in his game. He has a wide body, his feet are quick and he has long arms. It also makes sense to keep Graf at the position he has a year of starting experience at already.

Other things to watch in camp include the development of Banner, the mammoth freshman listed at 6 feet 9 and 335 pounds. He's a redshirt candidate, along with the other three first-year freshmen, but he might have the best chance to play this year of the group.

Simmons' status is unknown, as a knee injury has prevented him from most team workouts since he arrived on campus earlier this summer. Wheeler, still a serious project, is almost a guarantee to redshirt although he enrolled in January.

We tackle defensive linemen tomorrow.

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)

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.

Signing day preview

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
10:56
PM PT


With the Monday commitment of four-star offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wa./Lakes), USC now has nine Class of 2012 prospects committed to sign with the school out of 14 available spots.

NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to 15 signees. They can actually only take 14 because safety Gerald Bowman (Philadelphia, Pa./Pierce College) signed as an early enrollee but didn't finish up his junior-college requirements in time to actually enroll early. So, with barely 36 hours remaining until the faxes will begin rolling in to Heritage Hall on Wednesday morning, let's take a look at which players could potentially fill those five spots.

The following 10 prospects are the candidates. They are listed in a rough order of the likelihood they will sign with the Trojans, from most likely to least. Then we'll go over some of the other things that could still affect the final formulation of the recruiting class, like current commits defecting to other schools and last-second, under-the-radar signees.

WR/RB Nelson Agholor (Tampa, Fla./Berkeley Prep)

Although not yet on campus, Agholor has quickly become Robert Woods' understudy at the receiver position, through social media and his official visit to the Trojans earlier this month.

He seems like a perfect fit as the next top-recruit receiver at USC after Woods and Lee. And he has gotten rave reviews on his character and attitude from all over the country. The only other school he could choose at this point is Florida, but he seems very likely to pick USC.

DE Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fl./Mainland)

Williams is also down to just USC and Florida, according to a recent interview with Rivals.com. An interesting aspect of his recruitment is that he is originally from Los Angeles, which would ease the cross-country transition.

One question: Is a third (or fourth) defensive end really the Trojans' biggest need in this limited class? One could make a convincing argument that a running back would be a better use of the scholarship offer. But Williams is also big enough to make a potential transition to defensive tackle possible, and depth is needed there.

OT Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol)

Peat is arguably the second most-important recruit remaining for USC, and he has the Trojans in his final three alongside Nebraska and Stanford. Now that he's gotten in at Stanford and with his brother heading into his second season at Nebraska, it's really an unknown how interested he is in USC.

But he has a ton of potential as a tall, room-to-grow player who could easily bookend USC's line with Banner for two or three seasons.

OT Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente)

Let's put it this way: If the Trojans don't get either Peat, Murphy or Kyle Dodson (more later) to go along with Banner, something went wrong in the final week of the 2012 recruiting season.

He has USC and Stanford as his final two schools, and many recruiting analysts have speculated that Peat and Murphy will pick different schools, which would obviously help USC's cause. But there's also the worst-case scenario of Murphy picking Stanford and Peat joining his brother as a Cornhusker.

An item of note on the 6-7 Murphy: His high school teammate and good friend, Christian Tober, announced over the weekend he'd be coming to USC as a preferred walk-on in the fall.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

2013 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler361236296820
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen1357855.814
T. Madden1387035.13
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Lee5779113.94
N. Agholor5691816.46
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense174.2218.1392.3
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring28.521.37.2