USC: Keary Colbert

Woods could break Jarrett's all-time mark this week

October, 16, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Robert Woods has 212 receptions in his USC career. Five more and he'll pass Dwayne Jarrett to become the Trojans' all-time receptions leader.

Averaging six catches per game this season, Woods is on pace to break the record this Saturday, at home against Colorado.

"It would mean a lot to me," Woods said Tuesday. "But I never came into USC saying I'm gonna break this record or break that record. I came to USC wanting to play receiver and catch passes.

"Fortunately, I've been catching a lot of passes."

Jarrett set the record of 216 catches in just three seasons. If Woods, a junior, were to stay for his senior season in 2013, he'd have the opportunity to obliterate any mark he goes on to set this year.

He entered the 2012 season tied for sixth all-time with Mike Williams at 176 receptions. Woods then surpassed Steve Smith (190), Johnnie Morton (201) and Kareem Kelly (204) over the first few weeks of the season, and he tied Keary Colbert's second-place mark of 207 earlier this month against Utah.

He said he recently has spoken to Colbert and other ex-USC receivers about what the record would mean.

"Growing up and watching those guys and seeing how they played, I looked up to them, in awe watching them play," Woods said. "Then to be on top of them now with the record, it's surprising.

"Well, not surprising. I knew I could do it. But it's a shock still."

Interestingly, Woods' career trajectory has followed Jarrett's thus far. He caught 65 passes as a freshman to Jarrett's 55, then jumped up to 111 as a sophomore. Jarrett had 91 catches in his second season and then 70 in his final year.

Woods is on pace to finish the 2012 regular season with 72 catches for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He already owns the school record for receptions in a single game, with 17 in the 2011 season opener, and in a single season, with that 111 mark last season.

Examining the candidates for the WRs coach opening

February, 13, 2012
True to his word, USC coach Lane Kiffin has gotten right to work on filling up the three assistant coaching slots created with the departures of Willie Mack Garza, Joe Barry and Ted Gilmore over the last five months.

After saying he hoped to find replacements for all three men by the end of the upcoming week, Kiffin reportedly got Marvin Sanders to replace Garza as the defensive backs coach and Scottie Hazelton to replace Barry as the linebackers coach on Sunday.

Now he has five days left to meet his initial goal by hiring on a receivers coach and giving the new hire ample time to get to know his players before spring practice begins March 6. Let's take a look at who some of the potential candidates are, listed in alphabetical order.

-- Arizona State receivers coach/passing game coordinator DelVaughn Alexander

Alexander might make the most sense of any of the candidates. A former USC receiver and graduate assistant, he's qualified for the post and familiar with the area. Known as an above-average recruiter, he could jump right in and start that part of that job before spring practice even starts.

One potential problem: He just signed on at Arizona State last month under new coach Todd Graham. But that obviously wasn't too much of a deterrent for Kiffin in hiring Sanders, who just latched on at Florida Atlantic in December.

-- Former USC receiver and graduate assistant Keary Colbert

The sentimental choice, a number of current USC players have been campaigning on Twitter for Colbert to get the job.

He, of course, spent the 2010 season as a graduate assistant for the Trojans, coaching the tight ends. He could've kept the same job last year but chose to pursue an NFL comeback -- which he successfully completed, sticking with the Kansas City Chiefs for most of the 2011 season.

Colbert is completely unproven as a recruiter but provides reason to believe he could become a good one.

(Read full post)

LB, DB coaching positions filled

February, 12, 2012
USC coach Lane Kiffin announced the hiring of two assistant coaches at Sunday's Junior Day, according to multiple media reports.

Marvin Sanders will coach defensive backs and Scottie Hazelton will coach linebackers. A program source told the hirings were being finalized Sunday and would be formally announced at some point Monday.

Sanders was hired in December by Florida Atlantic after taking the 2011 season off, resigning from Nebraska last February for "personal and family reasons." In coming to USC, he fills an opening created by Willie Mack Garza's September resignation; grad assistant Sammy Knight had served as the interim position coach during the 2011 season but wasn't seriously considered for the full-time vacancy.

Hazelton has never played or coached at the FBS level but spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State. At a previous stop at the school, he worked with Gus Bradley, who worked with Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay and now works as the defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

Hazelton replaces Joe Barry, who left for the NFL's San Diego Chargers earlier this month. Both Hazelton and Sanders have worked extensively with the Cover-2 defense.

USC now has only one opening to fill -- wide receivers coach -- before spring practice starts March 6. Ted Gilmore left for the NFL's Oakland Raiders last week.

Potential candidates for that job are believed to include former USC receiver and grad assistant Keary Colbert, former UCLA interim head coach Mike Johnson, Arizona State receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander and Clemson receivers coach Jeff Scott, among others.

Kiffin told's Ted Miller last week he hoped to fill all three openings by the end of the upcoming week.

High praise for Marqise Lee

September, 29, 2011
It's becoming normal now, but freshman receiver Marqise Lee again had Trojans coach Lane Kiffin talking after Thursday's practice, another session in which Lee starred throughout and made a tremendous touchdown grab on a deep throw from Matt Barkley.

Asked afterward about Lee's progress so far, Kiffin went all-out with his praise.

"I know it’s early to say, but I think he is going to be one of the best receivers ever to play at this school," the head coach said.

Consider the company just over the past 40 or so years: Lynn Swann, Curtis Conway and Johnnie Morton. Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Steve Smith, Keary Colbert and, now, Robert Woods.

Kiffin thinks Lee fits right in there. The true freshman from Gardena Serra continues to improve in his first season with the Trojans, catching 13 balls through four games for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He's been Barkley's most consistent No. 2 target after the superstar Woods.

Even so, he hasn't gotten as involved as the Trojans would like. The go route he scored a touchdown on Thursday has been fruitful in game situations as well, but Barkley hasn't found on him much other stuff and other factors have gotten in the way of a truly big day for him.

Take last week's loss to Arizona State, for example, when he had one scoring catch for 24 yards but missed out on another sure score when lineman Marcus Martin was beaten by a defensive tackle, who got to Barkley in time to disrupt the throw.

"We've got to do a better job of getting him the ball," Kiffin said Thursday. "He continues to make plays almost every opportunity we give him. Unfortunately, last week, he ran right by the right corner and was going to score another touchdown on about a 50-yard go route and up front the left guard didn't block.

"Otherwise he was going to walk into the end zone, similar to the go route he ran the week before at home."

What Kiffin sees in the freshman is clear: A 1-2 tandem at receiver in Woods and Lee could potentially be one of the best in college football in recent history. Woods is already about to hit 500 yards receiving on the year and could be a legitimate Heisman candidate as a junior in 2012. And Lee, his longtime teammate, will be right there with him.

"We’re obviously really excited for the fact that our two top receivers in our mind are a true sophomore and a true freshman," Kiffin said. "He is bigger and stronger than Robert, kind of a mix of George (Farmer) and Robert.

"The future is bright.”

Pro Day tidbits plus some video

March, 30, 2011

As our coverage of Pro Day continues, we've already went over Tyron Smith and Jurrell Casey's workouts on USC's campus on Wednesday and Mitch Mustain's rebound from his February arrest.

Other things of note from the festivities: 31 of the 32 NFL teams were represented, including three general managers and two head coaches, Oakland's Hue Jackson and Dallas' Jason Garrett. Former Trojans who aren't exiting college this year weren't allowed to participate because of the NFL lockout, putting guys like Keary Colbert out of commission, but former USC receiver Travon Patterson did return to campus after transferring to Colorado last summer. Discus thrower Aaron Dan, a graduating member of the Trojan track and field team, also participated.

And two last tidbits: most USC assistants were there for at least part of the day, but head coach Lane Kiffin was nowhere to be found. The 40-yard dash and bench-press leaders on the day were both players with very small chances to be drafted, receiver David Ausberry (4.46 40) and offensive guard Zack Heberer (38 reps of 225 pounds).

Now here's the key info on the other former Trojans who participated Wednesday who have legitimate shots to be drafted, player-by-player in alphabetical order:

- Running back Allen Bradford

Bradford was timed as fast as 4.54 seconds on some stopwatches but the general consensus had him somewhere in the 4.6 range, not a positive development for the back, who needed a better time to convince NFL teams of his viability as a feature back. He did prove himself, though, as a capable pass-catcher in drills with Mustain and seemed to be proud of that afterward.

"I think that was kinda my downside -- a lot of people didn't think I could catch the ball out of the backfield because I didn't get it thrown to me, but I didn't drop the ball and I finished well on my runs," he said Wednesday.

- Tight end Jordan Cameron

Cameron looked very good, if not great, in position drills, catching most everything thrown his way by Mustain. He chose not to participate in the 40-yard dash or the bench press because of his positive numbers in the combine in those.

We'll have more on Cameron tomorrow.

- Receiver Ronald Johnson

Johnson's 40 time wasn't great -- only 4.49 -- but he was solid in position drills and looked very agile in shuttle and three-cone drills.

"I didn't feel good about it, but it is what it is and I can't do it over," he said of the 40 time. "They can see my speed out on the field in my routes and in my breaks, so that should make up for the 40 I ran."

We'll have more on Johnson's performance tomorrow.

- Offensive guard Butch Lewis

Lewis did 31 repetitions of 225 pounds and was timed in the 40 as fast as 5.09 seconds, but he didn't look too crisp in offensive line drills.

- Linebacker Michael Morgan

Morgan didn't look good in position drills or shuttle drills, but he did run a solid 40-time in the low 4.4's, ranging from 4.47-4.49. He tripped up on the three-cone drill.

- Center Kristofer O'Dowd

O'Dowd has been perhaps the most surprising workout warrior of the former Trojans, a guy who many expected to be more of a gamer type who would struggle in workouts. He looked good at the NFL Combine last month and he looked good again Wednesday in the limited drills he did do -- specifically offensive line-specific blocking drills.

"Coming into the combine, I had the focus and drive to show who I am, to show what school I’m from and to show who we are as offensive linemen," O'Dowd said. "I’m very happy. I exceeded what my goals were at the combine. So I wanted to come out here, do a little workout and kind of show in my last interview who Kris O’Dowd is."

- Linebacker Malcolm Smith

Smith may have helped himself the most of anybody Wednesday, beating the speedster Johnson with a 40-yard dash timed as fast as 4.45 seconds and also pushing out 28 repetitions in the bench press. His other numbers were reported at 39 inches in the vertical jump and 10 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump, solid figures both.

He tripped up in the shuttle drill but rebounded to finish strong.

- Cornerback Shareece Wright

Wright pulled up during defensive back drills near the end of the workout and didn't get up for a while, but the school announced his injury wasn't believed to be more serious than a pulled hamstring.

He didn't run a 40 after running it in 4.46 seconds at the combine.

Colbert resigns; NFL comeback

February, 14, 2011
USC's Keary Colbert has decided to resign from his position as tight ends graduate assistant to make a comeback attempt at the NFL, the school announced Monday.

Colbert, 28, was a four-year receiver for the Trojans from 2000-2004 and once held the school's all-time receptions record. He was a second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2004 and set a number of franchise rookie records.

He then spent the next several years with the Panthers, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.

"After spending a year working with the tight ends at USC as a graduate assistant, it ignited my passion and fire to compete at the highest level," Colbert said in a statement. "I've been training and getting myself physically prepared to make a comeback in the NFL. I plan to be a great veteran addition to any team's wide receiver corps."

Colbert was being considered for the vacant receivers coach job by Lane Kiffin. USC now has at least two vacancies on the coaching staff.

Candidates to replace receivers coach John Morton

January, 18, 2011
Tuesday's announcement that passing game coordinator and receivers coach John Morton accepted a job with Jim Harbaugh and the NFL's San Francisco 49ers is the first coaching switch for USC this offseason.

Who could Lane Kiffin and the Trojans appoint to replace him?

It would seem that graduate assistant Keary Colbert is the likely candidate. Colbert, a former USC receiver who also spent six seasons in the NFL, worked with the tight ends this past season and earned praise from Kiffin at various points in the season.

Another option could be longtime college and NFL assistant Kippy Brown, who currently coaches receivers for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. Former USC coach Pete Carroll is the Seahawks' head coach, of course, and it is unlikely Brown would jump down a level to work under Kiffin at USC. But Carroll today fired offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates (remember him, USC fans?) and could be in the process of revamping his offensive staff.

Brown was hired to Kiffin's staff at Tennessee in December 2009 and was named the Volunteers' interim head coach when Kiffin departed for USC in January 2010 but left for the Seahawks when he was leapfrogged by Derek Dooley for the head coaching job.

In a statement released Tuesday by USC, Kiffin said he has not yet determined who will fill the receivers coach position for the 2011 season.

Mustain, Johnson miss out on history

November, 27, 2010

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Mitch Mustain started for USC on Saturday in place of injured Matt Barkley.

LOS ANGELES – It was the pass, the catch and the play that would have defined the careers of Mitch Mustain and Ronald Johnson at USC. Despite playing out the stretch of a season most chalked up as meaningless before it ever began, Mustain and Johnson nearly etched their names into the history of a storied rivalry that pays no attention to meaningless games and down years.

For all the acrobatic catches Johnson had made during his career at USC, this would have been his easiest. With no defender within 10 yards of him, thanks to a beautiful double move that left Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith on the ground, and the end zone just 15 yards in front of him, Johnson looked at the ball fall between his numbers and then bounce off his body.

Johnson stayed on the turf longer than usual after the dropped pass as the rain poured down on his helmet. He looked at his hands, almost in disbelief that the ball wasn’t in them, before he got up and looked at the end zone he should have been standing in.

For all the errant and off-the-mark passes Mustain has thrown in practice and in relief duty during his career at USC, this was the best pass he’d ever thrown. With perfect protection, he dropped back, moved up in the pocket and followed through on a perfect 30-yard pass to Johnson in stride.

Instead of celebrating a potential winning touchdown with 1:17 left, both players walked off the field in a daze after Mustain threw an interception to Smith five plays later.

Johnson looked as if he were somewhere else as he slowly walked off the field at the Coliseum. As reporters asked him about the play, he stared into the distance and didn’t say a word. After being consoled by former USC receiver and tight ends coach Keary Colbert in the tunnel, he took a seat on a golf cart parked outside the locker room and sat there for a few minutes with his head down.

An hour later he was escorted out of the locker room by USC sports information director Tim Tessalone, who said Johnson, with a glazed look still on his face, would answer only two questions.

(Read full post)

Robert Woods is adjusting quickly

August, 16, 2010
It could be argued that Robert Woods was the least heralded of the star-studded trio of freshmen receivers in the USC class of 2010 at the start of fall camp.

Kyle Prater had joined the team in the spring, and -- despite being hampered by a variety of nagging injuries -- impressed the coaching staff. Markeith Ambles had gathered up a whole lot of attention via his tweets and school-switching prior to Signing Day.

Woods was silent. He didn't enroll early, he didn't announce his decision on national television -- he didn't even waver from his commitment to USC when Pete Carroll resigned and Lane Kiffin replaced him.

He has, however, been the most impressive of the three through two and a half weeks of fall camp -- by far.

Displaying impressive body control day in and day out and a well-developed chemistry with both Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound speedster has earned comparisons from Kiffin to Steve Smith and Keary Colbert -- on and off the field.

Monday, the 18-year-old Woods talked with the media for the first time. There was an underlying trend of the questions asked: How have you adjusted so quickly to life as a Trojan?

"What helped me was living not too far, I got to come up here and practice during the summer throwing sessions sometimes," Woods said, looking calm and composed. "That helped me a lot to get to know some of the plays, read some of the corners. Once I got to the field I already knew what they were doing and that's helped me in camp."

Woods says he has gone to Barkley for advice on how to get on the field during his freshman year. As of right now, Woods is -- along with Ambles and De'Von Flournoy -- the backup to Ronald Johnson at flanker. But his play could eventually warrant time as the slot receiver or even as the starting flanker in a two-receiver set with Johnson playing across him at split end.

That's all contingent on Woods knowing what to do on the field. But, judging on comments from Kiffin and his teammates on Woods' tendency to eat meals while reading his playbook, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"My playbook is very important," Woods says. "It's the football Bible."

"You gotta know your plays. You don't know your plays, you don't play."

That has been more of a problem for Ambles, a surprisingly strong 215-pounder who has been inconsistent with his route-running. Woods is very complementary of his fellow freshman.

"Markeith is putting in work," Woods said. 'He's great competition. He was All-American so I know he knows the same things I do. I try to help him and he tries to help me. It's a great competition here -- we compete in everything."

Asked about his team-clocked 40-yard dash time, Woods recalled it being in the 4.6 range -- not an overly impressive time considering his height and weight combination.

Then, Woods said, Kiffin saw him running a route in practice and said something must have been wrong with the original time.

It was too slow. Woods is faster than that.

"That was good news," Woods said, laughing.


Here's video of Woods' meeting with the media:

Tuesday evening practice report

August, 10, 2010
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's evening practice, arguably the most exciting, hardest-hitting yet:
  • It may seem counter-intuitive, but, according to Lane Kiffin, two-a-days create more energy -- not less. The Trojans had to wait almost seven hours between morning and evening practices on Tuesday, and Kiffin said that he has found in each of his coaching stops that players respond well to such situations. Plus, the Trojans' morning practice was lighter than a typical two-a-day -- and there's the night-time factor, which Kiffin said adds to it all. "It creates more energy, being under the lights," he said. "And the players respond to it."
  • Practice highlights: a huge, bone-crushing hit from middle linebacker Devon Kennard on running back Marc Tyler and an impressive come-from-behind tackle by defensive end Kevin Greene of running back C.J. Gable after Gable broke a run through the secondary and nearly took it to the house. Two impressive interceptions and a reception in a crowded end zone are also detailed below.
  • Injury report: senior offensive lineman Butch Lewis had an MRI on his hip Tuesday morning, Kiffin said. Immediate results were not available. Freshman safety Dion Bailey sat out of practice while waiting to be cleared after suffering a concussion. Defensive ends Armond Armstead and James Boyd, tight end Blake Ayles, receiver Kyle Prater, left tackle Matt Kalil and fullback Stanley Havili all returned to the practice field, while receivers De'Von Flournoy (shoulder) and Brandon Carswell (thigh) remained out.
  • While freshmen Dillon Baxter and Markeith Ambles spent the morning practice running on the sideline as punishment for arriving late to a team function, only Baxter was forced to continue with the punishment during the evening practice. From start to finish, Baxter did a variety of brutal drills, including rollovers across the end zone for a good 45 minutes. Asked why Ambles was allowed to return to practice, Kiffin indicated that Ambles' transgression was an honest mistake -- whereas Baxter made the choice fully knowing he was in the wrong. "I hope it's a good lesson for him to learn," Kiffin said of Baxter.
  • The trio of freshmen wideouts -- Ambles and Prater, plus Robert Woods -- have received much of the pass-catching pub during the first week of fall practice, leaving redshirt sophomore Brice Butler -- the projected starter at split end at the end of spring practice -- a bit out of the spotlight. But Butler had a nice performance Tuesday evening, making two big catches in traffic near the end of practice and one in particular that Kiffin complemented. "Brice has made a number of plays, but he has not made the really tough play for us," he said. "He made one today, which was nice to see. He's going to have to go take it away like the big body guys we had before did."
  • Both Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain threw their first interceptions of the fall in the final 15 minutes of Tuesday's practice. On a deep ball in which Kiffin said that Woods made "a rookie mistake" on, Torin Harris picked off Barkley. And Mustain delivered a ball fairly well to Prater near the sideline, only to have true freshman cornerback Anthony Brown strip it away from him and grab the interception.
  • On Woods, Kiffin went out of his way to compare the freshman's off-the-field mentality to current USC graduate assistant Keary Colbert on Tuesday, making the Gardena Serra product now a cross between former Trojan receivers Steve Smith and Colbert in Kiffin's eyes. Hyperbole aside, Woods had a very good practice under the lights. His ability to adjust to balls as they travel toward him is simply superb, and Kiffin mentioned that he frequently sees Woods at mealtimes with his head in the playbook.
  • Final notes: Defensive end Nick Perry made the Hendricks Award watch list today, awarded to the nation's best defensive end...Practice is scheduled to resume at 3 p.m. tomorrow before another two-a-day Thursday...Joked Kiffin when asked about the host skill position players his squad boasts compared to a dearth of offensive linemen: "Do you think they'd let us play 7-on-7? We'll challenge anybody."


Kiffin had many positive things to say about his team after the high-energy day they had Tuesday. Hear his thoughts on the offense answering an early surge from the defense, Woods' off-the-field habits and more from Tuesday's post-practice media session:


Former Trojan safety Sammy Knight returned to USC earlier this year to be the defensive graduate assistant under Kiffin. Knight, 34, essentially works under defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza while working primarily with the safeties.

Hear from Knight on his journey to the NFL and back from USC, plus get his thoughts on his pair of young safeties slated to start come September, Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald:

It's the day after USC's third practice of fall camp. As we will have after most of the month-long camp schedule, here are a few extra observations and a video interview from Friday's practice:
  • Forget the much-publicized middle linebacker battle between Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard -- USC coach Lane Kiffin is also paying attention to the two other two linebackers who will likely start for the Trojans come September, Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith. Even though he wasn't there to see them, Kiffin took note of the linebackers' poor performances in 2009 and seems determined to prevent them from happening again in 2010. "Michael Morgan, at outside linebacker, and Malcolm, they both look bigger and stronger and faster than they ever have here," the first-year coach said after Friday's practice. "We're sure hoping what was probably our weakness last year will be our strength this year."
  • With three freshmen tight ends and at least two scholarship returnees to boot, Kiffin finally admitted the inevitable Friday when he announced plans to try out the new players on the defensive side of the ball. It's likely that at least one of the trio will end up making a long-term move to another position, whether that be on defense or to the offensive line -- as has been speculated with Las Vegas native Xavier Grimble. Kiffin said earlier in the week he had no immediate plans to try the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Grimble out on the line.
  • It's a little remarkable that all three Trojans who hail from Florida -- cornerbacks T.J. Bryant and Nickell Robey, plus safety Jawanza Starling -- play in the secondary. It might be even more remarkable that all three have been in the news this week. Both Robey and Starling were spotlighted by Kiffin for their performances thus far in fall camp, while Bryant underwent facial surgery Thursday and is out 3-4 weeks after a controversial confrontation with fullback Stanley Havili in a team conditioning session last week. Of course, Starling and Bryant were high school teammates at Tallahassee's Lincoln H.S., whereas Robey hails from Frostproof H.S. in Central Florida.
  • The Trojans have a very capable backup at quarterback behind starter Matt Barkley in Mitch Mustain, but behind that Kiffin's squad is very inexperienced. In a normal situation, freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins would likely redshirt this season -- but these aren't normal circumstances. Aaron Corp's transfer in January left USC with only two scholarship returnees at the position. Say, for example, if Scroggins were to redshirt and either Barkley or Mustain would suffer a minor injury. If said injury would keep them out of a weekend contest, walk-on redshirt sophomore John Manoogian would then be the backup quarterback for the day -- just one potential snap away from being in the game. What probably will happen is the coaches will attempt to redshirt Scroggins -- who has looked very raw in his limited practice time so far -- but also prepare him as a third quarterback in case of an injury to the top two. A player's redshirt status isn't truly determined until the end of the season, leaving open the possibility that Scroggins could enter into a game at any time.


Former Trojans receiver Keary Colbert, who graduated from USC in 2004 as the school's all-time leader in receptions on his way to a five-year NFL career, re-joined the squad in the spring as a graduate assistant coaching the tight ends.

Colbert, 28, brings a unique perspective -- he's young enough to relate to the athletes but old and experienced enough to be a coach.

In a video interview taken this week, Colbert talks about his natural love for the wide receiver position, his role in tutoring a big group of both young and old tight ends and the whirlwind last six years of his career.

Hear all of his comments -- including his thoughts on the USC-to-NFL pipeline:

Kiffin on Pola

July, 24, 2010
USC keeps finding his way into the spotlight.

First-year football coach Lane Kiffin announced Saturday he has filled out his coaching staff by hiring USC alum Kennedy Pola to be the Trojans' offensive coordinator and running backs coach -- but, as usual, it didn't come without controversy.

See, Pola signed on to be the Tennessee Titans' running backs coach six months ago. And, according to Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Kiffin didn't inform him of his interest in hiring Pola until after Pola had already accepted the position Saturday.

Kiffin released a subsequent statement claiming a slightly different sequence of events -- but it does appear Kiffin and Fisher have yet to actually speak on the subject. Both coaches' statements indicated indirect conversation; Fisher said Kiffin left him a voicemail.

Kiffin came short of admitting error in the matter in a statement released by the school Saturday afternoon, but he did allow that the situation wasn't ideal.

“We realize the timing of this isn’t perfect for all parties, but this is a great opportunity and promotion for Kennedy," he said.

An hour after Kiffin's statement, USC released an official statement announcing Pola's hiring. In it, Kiffin focused on the 46-year-old Pola's past experience -- both at USC and in the NFL.

“It’s great to welcome Kennedy home,” Kiffin said. “This is a great opportunity and promotion for him. He’s done an outstanding job wherever he’s been in college and the NFL. The last time he was here, he helped build the foundation for the championship run of the past 9 years.

Pola also joins linebackers coach Joe Barry, tight ends graduate assistant coach Keary Colbert, defensive assistant Sammy Knight and offensive assistant Lenny Vandermade as former USC players on Kiffin's staff -- and six other coaches as former NFL coaches now working for the Trojans.

"It’s always great to bring another Trojan back to the family, as he’s now the fifth former USC player on our staff," Kiffin said. "He’s also the seventh full-time coach on our staff with NFL coaching experience.”

Kiffin previews spring practice

March, 29, 2010
Some notes from Lane Kiffin's afternoon meeting with reporters, held inside Heritage Hall. Spring practice begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. on Howard Jones Field. Kiffin discussed former Trojans Sammy Knight and Keary Colbert, who he said were well on their way to being hired as graduate assistants by USC, outfielder/safety Jawanza Starling, who alternates between practicing with baseball and football this spring, and quite a few other topics:
  • At quarterback, Kiffin insisted that Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain will start off as equals, despite the fact that Barkley has 352 pass attempts with the Trojans compared with Mustain's 16. "That’s open," Kiffin said. "Both guys will have exactly equal reps tomorrow."
  • Linebacker Jarvis Jones, a key recruit in the class of 2009 who played significant time as a reserve last year before missing the final five games with a neck injury, could very well keep him on the sidelines this season — and possibly for the rest of his career. “I’m not very positive about the possibilities of him playing here, at all," Kiffin said. "I don’t know how to describe it from a medical perspective. There’s a serious concern that hits or a number of hits could lead to permanent damage. Obviously, Jarvis’ safety is the No. 1 issue.”
  • More on the injury front: Kiffin said a full report regarding the team's many injuries would be available after Tuesday's initial practice. “We have a lot of injury concerns,” Kiffin said in the meantime. “We’re surprisingly very injured at this point. I don’t really know what to credit that to. But there’ll be a number of guys that are either out or limited tomorrow.”
  • In competition news, Devon Kennard will get a shot to unseat Chris Galippo at middle linebacker. Kennard started his freshman season in 2009 as a defensive end but switched to strongside linebacker midway through the season when Michael Morgan faltered. Said Kiffin of the sophomore Kennard: "This is potentially a really special player." Linebacker as a whole, Kiffin said, was the position group most in need of improvement. "That position is so critical for us," he said.
  • Kiffin also said he wouldn't shy away from using early enrollee athlete Dillon Baxter in the wildcat formation, as some have predicted. Baxter will play running back, Kiffin said, and “go out to receiver at times.” Kiffin said he felt it would be easier to play Baxter primarily at running back and rotate him in at receiver than the other way around.
  • Asked if he thought USC had enough talent to measure up to past seasons, Kiffin said: "I don’t know enough yet. I don’t even know if I could answer that towards the end of the spring." He added, "I don't think it's any secret we don't have a bunch of proven players coming back."
  • The QB race might be open, but from the looks of things, practices will be less open under the Kiffin regime. Said Kiffin on Monday of the idea that former Pete Carroll allowed just about anyone into practices: "I think that's a misconception that practices have been open to the public, because they haven't been. There was a system in place here before of how people got into practice, and we will have a statement I anticipate will be released within the next 24 hours on that. Our practices will not be open to the public, but they weren't before either."

Wednesday links and notes

March, 12, 2010
Lots of USC news on this Wednesday:
  • As Director of Track and Field Ron Allice prepares his team for the Northridge Relays this weekend, distance runner Blake Shaw and pole vaulter Brandon Estrada are in Fayetteville, Ark. for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Shaw, who is coached by famed distance runner Laszlo Tabori, ran a mile in 3:59.85 on Saturday, becoming the first Trojan in history to go under four minutes. Tabori, of course, was the third person in the world to ever record an under four-minute mile time, in May of 1955. Shaw will run the mile again in Arkansas, but a top finish might not be in the cards — even with his record-breaking time Saturday, he still finished only fifth in the race.
  • Making his debut for USC this weekend is famed sprinter Bryshon Nellum, who hasn't run an official race since March 1, 2008. Nellum, named the Gatorade boys' track and field athlete of the year during his senior year of high school in 2007, strained his hamstring in that race and sat out the rest of the season. Then, that Halloween, Nellum was shot in the left thigh and right hamstring at a Halloween party just off-campus.
  • More awards announced today: USC point guard Ashley Corral and guard Briana Gilbreath earned All-Pac-10 honors, announced today in a vote of the conference's 10 head coaches. Corral leads the Women of Troy with 15.1 points and five assists per game; Gilbreath is second behind Corral with 12.8 points and leads in rebounds with 5.9 per game. To wrap up other honors, forward Christina Marinacci was Honorable Mention All-Freshman, and center Kari LaPlante was Honorable Mention All-Defensive.
  • Link roll: USCRipsIt reports that Jordan Cameron and Simione Vehikite have made position changes, O.J. Mayo said he never got paid "during, before or after" his time at USC on the Dan Patrick show, and former Trojan Keary Colbert will coach tight ends as an offensive graduate assistant, and the Pac-10 Tournament starts at the Staples Center.



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J. Smith1117015.50