USC: Kyle Negrete

Marqise Lee voted Pac-12 player of the year

November, 26, 2012
USC receiver Marqise Lee was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, conference representatives announced Monday.

In a vote of the conference's head coaches, Lee was chosen as the top offensive player. He also was the only sophomore in the conference unanimously selected to the Pac-12 first team this season, during which he totaled 112 catches, 1,680 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns.

One other Trojan, senior center Khaled Holmes, was selected as a first-teamer. Receiver Robert Woods, defensive end Morgan Breslin, cornerback Nickell Robey and safety T.J. McDonald were all second-team honorees, as was Lee as a return specialist.

Thirteen USC players earned honorable mention, with quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Silas Redd, tight end Xavier Grimble and offensive linemen Max Tuerk and John Martinez leading the way on offense.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Arizona's Matt Scott, two quarterbacks who beat Barkley this season, were named the Pac-12's first- and second-team signal-callers, respectively.

Barkley will leave USC having never been a first-team all-conference performer, which is remarkable considering the conference records he owns for all-time passing yards and touchdowns.

USC defensive linemen Leonard Williams, George Uko and Wes Horton and linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard received honorable mention.

Williams also was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, after recording a 7.5-sack, two-fumble-recovery season.

Kicker Andre Heidari, punter Kyle Negrete and reserve linebacker Tony Burnett rounded out USC's honorable-mention recipients on special teams.

Four Trojans earn Pac-12 academic honors

November, 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC center Khaled Holmes and quarterback Matt Barkley were named to the Pac-12 all-academic teams Tuesday.

Holmes, a fifth-year senior starting his final home game for the Trojans this weekend against No. 1 Notre Dame, earned a 3.31 GPA and is now pursuing a post-graduate degree at USC. He earned first-team honors; Barkley has registered a 3.21 GPA in his communications major and was named to the second team.

Two other Trojans, special-teams contributor Charles Burks and punter Kyle Negrete, earned honorable mention with GPAs over 3.0.

Football players have to post at least a 3.0 GPA and contribute to their teams to earn Pac-12 all-academic honors.

USC's four players on the 108-man list was the second-lowest in the conference. Oregon and Colorado each had 16 players earn academic honors, Utah had 14 and Stanford had 12.

Only Arizona State, with just one player, had fewer honorees than the Trojans.

Switching some numbers around

October, 25, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Despite the controversy created by his jersey number switching scheme from last weekend's win over Colorado, USC coach Lane Kiffin left open the possibility this week of more moves like it in the future.

Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter orchestrated an unusual swap for the Colorado game, having backup quarterback Cody Kessler wear No. 35 for the first half and switch back to his traditional No. 6 for the second half.

Why? So that he could come in as a holder on a point-after play and run a two-point play undetected. Kessler did that and scored against the Buffs, only to have the play called back on a penalty.

The usual No. 35, punter Kyle Negrete, is the third-string holder, behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

"Well, we change jerseys all the time," Kiffin said this week when asked about the move. "We'll change some more this week. Everything is within college rules."

He's correct. Kessler switching from No. 35 to No. 6 mid-game did not expressly violate any NCAA rules.

It did, however, qualify as an unethical practice, according to the official NCAA rulebook, which lists "changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent" first in a list of eight such practices.

By dressing Kessler in a different number than normal, USC was attempting to deceive Colorado -- and, perhaps more important, its future opponents, who now have to prepare for all sorts of potential two-point plays.

Kessler first began holding for the Trojans earlier this month against Utah. Barkley had previously fulfilled all holding duties for the team.

Interestingly, USC also this week switched the numbers of four players who primarily play on special teams.

Receiver De'Von Flournoy went from No. 10 to No. 80, cornerback Ryan Henderson from No. 15 to No. 14, fullback Hunter Simmons from No. 46 to No. 42 and running back Robert Mojica from No. 27 to No. 40.

All four of the players' previous numbers had been shared with more prominent players.

Kiffin: Revisiting Colorado

October, 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media in his normal day-after game conference call Sunday night, talking about his team's 50-6 win over Colorado and briefly looking ahead at the remaining five regular-season games.

Here are notes and quotes from the call:

Injury updates

Defensive end Devon Kennard (torn pec) will sit out the rest of the season and redshirt, Kiffin said.
Kennard will be a redshirt senior in 2013. He tore his pec in a July weight-lifting accident and previously said he had hopes of returning in November for a final NFL trial run.

Kiffin also provided updates on two other players, cornerback Brian Baucham and defensive tackle Cody Temple. Both players are out for the 2012 season, Baucham with a unspecified issue and Temple with an ankle injury.

Left tackle Aundrey Walker, who appeared to suffer a neck injury in the third quarter of Saturday's game, was released from the hospital Sunday after spending the night there.

Kiffin said Walker was back in meetings with the team Sunday. "Things seemed to be very positive," Kiffin said. "That's about all I'd be allowed to say."

Special-teams trickery

So the holder wearing No. 35 who took off running on the two-point play after USC's second touchdown in the first quarter?

That wasn't Kyle Negrete, USC's punter, who normally wears No. 35. That was Cody Kessler, third-string quarterback and recent new holder. Kiffin had Kessler sport No. 35 for the first half of Saturday's game -- presumably to run the fake kick -- and then switch back to No. 6 for the second half, when he came in the game in garbage time at quarterback and completed the first throws of his college career.

It's a legal move, but an ethically dubious one. Kessler was listed as the ballcarrier on the play in the postgame statistics, but he was not announced as such in the press box or over the PA.

It also opens the floodgates for many more potential shenanigans. If Kiffin tried that against Colorado, what might he try against Oregon? So much is suddenly in play.

Sunday, Kiffin deflected a question about who was the holder in the first half, saying, "I'd really rather not get into that at this time for certain reasons."

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Grades: USC 50, Colorado 6

October, 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- No. 11 USC easily rolled over Colorado at the Coliseum on Saturday, topping the Buffaloes, 50-6. Here's a report card for the Trojans' record-setting day:

Wouldn't it be funny if there was a 'B' here and a criticism of Matt Barkley's one incompletion? Ha -- anything other than an 'A' would be blasphemy, even considering the opponent. He was magnificent. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler showed positive signs in garbage time, too.

There really wasn't one, sort of out of necessity because of what Lane Kiffin wanted to accomplish through the air. Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd carried a combined six times. D.J. Morgan looked great late, carrying 10 times and showing the same explosion we saw against Utah.

Aundrey Walker didn't do anything to stand out until he got hurt was carted off -- and that means he was doing well. The Trojans' second-team offensive line created some holes, and just about everybody on the USC D-line got to the quarterback at one point or another.

The Trojans did nothing to disprove the argument that they're significantly improved on defense this year. Yeah, they allowed Colorado to gain some yards, but they also forced six turnovers. This USC unit has produced big plays all season long, and that's an underrated strength going forward.

There was still a big kickoff return, and there were still penalty issues on the unit, so this wasn't perfect. Kyle Negrete's only punt went 64 yards and was downed inside the 20, though, so that has to count for something. Andre Heidari banged an extra point off the uprights.

Lane Kiffin did a nice job of managing different interests in this game, getting Barkley and Robert Woods their records but also keeping them out of harm's way. He probably could've stood to run the ball more, but it's hard to argue with two incompletions. Nine penalties for 90 yards, though -- that's hard to support.

Kiffin revisits Utah victory

October, 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media in his normal day-after game conference call Friday night, discussing several topics pertaining to Thursday night's win over Utah and looking forward a bit to the Trojans' long week of practice before their next game at Washington.

Here are notes and quotes from the call:

Still no answers at corner

Kiffin has been looking for a solution at the second starting cornerback spot all season, but he said the Trojans aren't any closer to finding one after Thursday's game.

"No, we're not," Kiffin said Friday.

Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour were both burned on touchdown passes by the Utes, Harris flailing his arm well away from the pass in the end zone and Seymour getting out-positioned on another attempt downfield.

Kiffin did say he and his staff have discussed the possibility of moving safety Josh Shaw to corner to provide a different look -- a move he has steadfastly resisted so far this year.

Shaw has played well in limited snaps as a reserve safety this season and also looked good during his temporary switch to corner in fall camp.

He said in August that he prefers playing corner over safety.

More on Woods' situation

Receiver Robert Woods, who fell to the field in a scary moment in the first quarter of Thursday's game, is "fine," Kiffin said.

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Grades: USC-Cal

September, 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The No. 13 USC Trojans rebounded after an upset loss to Stanford last week and topped Cal at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, 27-9. Here's a report card for the Trojans.

The numbers don't reflect it, but Matt Barkley actually had an all right game against the Bears. His first-quarter interception on an end-zone fade to Robert Woods didn't look like it was his fault, and his other pick came on an unlucky tipped pass. Still, his Heisman campaign is going to take another hit after this one.

Hey, look what happens when you commit to running the ball! Lane Kiffin consistently called run plays on Saturday, and Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal each rewarded his decisions, combining to flirt with 300 yards. This needs to happen every week going forward.

USC's defensive line is quickly becoming a strength. The Trojans' offensive line still needs a lot of work, but it's definitely improving. Having center Khaled Holmes on the field -- even though he clearly wasn't 100 percent -- helped a lot, and defensive end Morgan Breslin is already one of USC's best players.

Any time you can hold your opponent out of the end zone for 60 minutes, it's a good game. But, jeez, Cal quarterback Zach Maynard played pretty poorly in this one. There were several occasions when USC's defense left Bears receivers wide open and Maynard failed to capitalize.

Not punter Kyle Negrete's best day, and USC's kick coverage unit continued to commit penalties at a prolific rate. How good is Andre Heidari? He missed the past two games because of an injury but looked as good as always on his two converted field goal attempts Saturday.

Could the Trojans have won this game without the services of Holmes? It seems as if they could've, and it might have been a good idea to hold Holmes out for this one to ensure his health for the rest of this year. Kiffin does deserve some credit for preventing a drop-off after last week's upset.

Grades: USC-Syracuse

September, 8, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The No. 2 USC Trojans fought through an hour-long severe weather delay to top Syracuse, 42-29, at MetLife Stadium on Saturday. Here's a report card for how the Trojans performed in their second game of the 2012 season:

It might've been the sneakiest six-touchdown game in history. This wasn't A-quality work from Matt Barkley, and that shows how high expectations for him this season. He had a nice streak going in the second and third quarters, but that was ruined by a bad deep throw to Robert Woods that was picked off.

This was a significant improvement over Week 1, but, still, that's the best USC could do? Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, two 1,000-yard rushers in 2011, gained more than six per rush, but they got only a combined 25 carries. Maybe some run calls could've replaced those boring bubble screens.

USC's offensive line was downright poor for much of this game, as evidenced by Lane Kiffin's repeated avoidance of anything that required Barkley to stay in the pocket for more than three seconds. But the Trojans' defensive line played well for the second straight game, even though two key ends were out in the second half.

Considering Syracuse put up 41 points a week ago, USC did OK to hold the Orange to 29 points Saturday. Dion Bailey and Morgan Breslin were difference-makers all game, but the Trojans' defensive backs were not. Monte Kiffin really needs to find a suitable second corner sometime soon.

Kyle Negrete averaged 50 yards on his three punts and downed all three inside the 20-yard line -- that's elite punting. Woods boosted the Trojans with a big second-half punt return, and walk-on kicker Alex Wood knocked down all five of his point-after attempts. This unit really helped USC today.

Lane Kiffin's playcalling was clearly not at its best, but he did enough in the fourth quarter to get things going. USC had its players take their pads off during the 70-minute delay, and that appeared to help keep them fresh late in the game. And he didn't go for two at all.

Grades: USC-Hawaii

September, 1, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 1 USC Trojans certainly looked the part on Saturday at the Coliseum in a 49-10 win over visiting Hawaii. Here is a closer look at how the Trojans performed:

We knew this was coming. But it was still darn pretty, wasn't it? Aside from a few drops from Marqise Lee and one from Robert Woods, the Trojans' passing game was sharp all night. Max Wittek didn't seem to be overly jittery when he entered the game in the fourth quarter.

There really wasn't one. When your starting running back doesn't get hurt and has only three carries at the end of three quarters, you don't have a rushing attack. Silas Redd looked like quite the able ballcarrier, but Curtis McNeal should probably have gotten some more opportunities.

Hey, five sacks in a game is good for the Trojans' defensive line -- no matter that the Hawaii offensive line isn't exactly elite. Morgan Breslin proved to have serious pass-rushing potential, and George Uko similarly flashed. On offense, new left tackle Aundrey Walker wasn't dominant and had room for improvement.

There were a lot of good signs from this group, from the fumbles forced by a couple young players to Hayes Pullard's pouncing-on of a tipped pass and subsequent pick six. USC's secondary depth is clearly a strength, and Hawaii couldn't get anything going at all when it mattered.

The newly scholarshipped Kyle Negrete averaged more than 45 yards per punt, and both Andre Heidari and Craig McMahon were effective kicking -- when they were in the game, of course. Marqise Lee's 100-yard kickoff return for a score boosts this group's grade into the 'A' range.

Passing play-calling was nice and varied, but Lane Kiffin would've been well-served to call a few more runs in the first half. And 0-for-3 on two-point conversion attempts -- with no apparent explanation for why they kept coming -- is grounds for a full grade deduction.

Andrew: 'It didn't go my way'

August, 29, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC had one scholarship left, and it essentially came down to linebacker Will Andrew and punter Kyle Negrete.

Andrew played last season on scholarship after starting his Trojans career as a walk-on; Negrete punted all of last season as a walk-on.

USC coach Lane Kiffin ended up giving Negrete the scholarship on Sunday, and Andrew is currently without one. But it wasn't a complete surprise to Andrew -- he knew going into the season there was a distinct possibility his 2011 scholarship wouldn't extend into 2012.

"I knew it was for sure a one-year deal, with a possibility of a renewal if something were to happen," Andrew said. "But Coach Kiff was honest with me from the start, so I knew when the time came there was a 50-50 chance and it didn't go my way."

It appears they may still be an opportunity for Andrew to get back on scholarship, if incoming receiver Darreus Rogers is not cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center within the next 16 days. But Andrew, a Huntington Beach native, said Wednesday he doesn't worry about what he can't control.

"That's not up to me," he said. "That's the coaches' decision."

He said the move gave him some needed perspective.

"I was somewhat disappointed, but it made me realize the big picture of things," Andrew said when asked about his initial feelings. "It made me realize that I have a great supporting family and I'm very blessed that my family has worked very hard throughout their life to have the opportunity to pay tuition here at USC."

Andrew, a redshirt junior, is scheduled to graduate in the spring but is interested in coming back for a fifth year in 2013. That could depend on his role with this year's team. It looks like he'll be a potential special-teams contributor and reserve linebacker for the Trojans this season.

"I gotta still continue to work hard on defense and special teams because anything can happen in a game, and I'm just continuing to prepare the way I always have," Andrew said. "Whatever happens, I'll be ready."

Negrete on his long-awaited scholarship

August, 29, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Negrete watches "SportsCenter." He saw how Vanderbilt coach James Franklin handed walk-on fullback Marc Panu a scholarship in front of all of his teammates. As a fellow walk-on, he felt for the guy, too. But the USC Trojans punter didn't dream of an experience like that for himself.

He got his scholarship in a different fashion.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin was talking to his team at the conclusion of Sunday's practice and providing reminders for upcoming days and events. All of the team's scholarship players had to be on campus at 9 a.m. the next day to get their textbooks for the upcoming semester, set to begin that day.

Then, in an aside, Kiffin added: "Negrete, make sure you don't pay for your books this year."

Negrete didn't realize what that meant right away -- not until center Khaled Holmes looked over to him, grinned wide and said, "Congratulations!"

Then he got it: He was on scholarship.

Kiffin said nothing more about it. Most of the players didn't even realize what happened. When they got back to the locker room, they saw Matt Barkley's tweet and asked Negrete about it.

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Taking a look at the depth chart

August, 27, 2012
USC released its season-opening depth chart Sunday night. Here are our brief takeaways, position by position:


As expected, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are still listed as co-backups to starter Matt Barkley. We should have a resolution soon, according to Lane Kiffin, who said Sunday he'd have something to say on the subject on "Tuesday morning."

For what it's worth, Kessler was listed first at the end of spring and Wittek was listed first this time. But they still had an all-caps "OR" in between their names both times.

Running back

This might be the biggest surprise on the depth chart.

Curtis McNeal was expected to be the for-sure starter heading into camp, and that didn't change much when Silas Redd was added just days before. McNeal has done very little wrong over the last few weeks, yet, somehow, Redd's listed as his co-starter on the depth chart.

As the third-string running back, D.J. Morgan cannot afford to fumble this season. A turnover or two and his carries will be going to redshirt freshman Buck Allen, who has improved in camp.


Soma Vainuku is the starter here. There was never any doubt.

Freshman Jahleel Pinner is listed as the second-stringer, but it's likely he'll redshirt, so third-stringer Charles Burks is probably bound for the backup role. Walk-on Hunter Simmons gets on the depth chart after re-joining the team this year.

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USC's season-opening depth chart

August, 26, 2012
USC coach Lane Kiffin released the first official depth chart of the 2012 season on Sunday night. Here it is, in its entirety, with bold indicating starters, ALL-CAPS indicating returning starters and ^ indicating returning co-starters.

We'll analyze the depth chart on Monday.


Cody Kessler OR
Max Wittek

Running back
Silas Redd
D.J. Morgan
Javorius Allen

Soma Vainuku
Jahleel Pinner
Charles Burks
Hunter Simmons

De'Von Flournoy OR
Nelson Agholor

Split end
George Farmer
Victor Blackwell

Tight end
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick OR
Christian Thomas OR
Junior Pomee

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Saturday scrimmage quick hits

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

Trojans name captains

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

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

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

Kiffin said he agreed wholeheartedly with his players' choices.

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Film study: Washington

August, 23, 2012
Here’s the 10th post in our “film study” series.

Every other day, almost, we’re watching one of the games USC played last season and putting up a set of pertinent-to-this-year notes, going of course in chronological order from the Minnesota season opener to the UCLA season finale. At the end, we’ll have one last post with our overall takeaways from the re-watching. By then, it’ll be the week of this year’s opener.

We’ve already done USC’s 19-17 win over Minnesota, 23-14 win over Utah, 38-17 win over Syracuse, 44-23 loss to Arizona State, 48-41 win over Arizona, 30-9 win over Cal, 31-17 win over Notre Dame and 56-48 triple-overtime loss to Stanford and 42-17 win over Colorado. Here, now, are our five notes -- four big things and a bunch of little ones -- from the Trojans' 40-17 win over Washington on Nov. 12, 2011.

The fake punt

It was 7-3 Trojans in the second quarter and USC was about to to give the ball back to Washington after another penalty- and incompletion-filled drive.

Then Kyle Negrete entered the game to "punt" and took off running down the field. He ended up gaining 35 yards -- and several fans with the big hit he doled out at the end of it. In retrospect, it was clearly the biggest play of the game, with the Huskies really never figuring into the outcome after Negrete's fake punt led to a USC touchdown.

Seven minutes later, it was 23-3, Trojans.

It was a heck of a time to call the only fake punt of the season, too. If it failed, Washington would have had the ball just 30 or 40 yards away from a control-taking touchdown.

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C. Kessler37253944
J. Allen221336.01
J. Toland12473.90
D. Rogers56012.00
N. Agholor55711.42