USC: Malcolm Smith

Pac-12 players in the Super Bowl

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
5:30
PM PT
Another Super Bowl is in the books, and Pac-12 alumni played a major role in the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. Is it any surprise that the team with the most Pac-12 players won the game? (Hint, hint, Mr. Elway).

In all, there were 16 active players on both rosters: 11 for the Seahawks and five for the Broncos. There are other Pac-12 players on the rosters or practice squads, but they were either injured, suspended or inactive for XLVIII.

The standout was former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was named MVP for an inspired defensive performance. The Pac-12 had hit a bit of an MVP dry spell. After John Elway (Stanford) won the MVP in 1999, the league went more than a decade without having an MVP. Now it has two in the last four years after Aaron Rodgers (Cal) was MVP of XLV, and now it's Smith's turn.

Here’s a look at how the the Pac-12 alumni performed.

Seattle Seahawks
  • Doug Baldwin, WR, Stanford: Started at wide receiver. Led the Seahawks with five catches for 66 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. Also had an assisted tackle on special teams.
  • Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA: Recorded one tackle on special teams.
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Caught four balls for 65 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal: Started at running back. Carried 15 times for 39 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
  • Brandon Mebane, DT, Cal: Posted three tackles, including a tackle for a loss.
  • Zach Miller, TE, ASU: Started at tight end. Had one catch for 10 yards and recovered an onside kick.
  • Mike Morgan, LB, USC: Appeared, but did not record any stats.
  • Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Started at left cornerback. Posted three tackles (two solo) with one pass defended. Left game with an injury in the fourth quarter.
  • Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Crowned Super Bowl MVP. Returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to go along with 10 tackles (six solo) and a defended pass.
  • Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon: Started at cornerback. Posted three tackles (one solo).
  • Max Unger, C, Oregon: Started at center.
Denver Broncos

Trojans pick 2011 captains

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
5:05
PM PT
Quarterback Matt Barkley was named a USC captain for the second straight season Sunday, joined by tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, defensive tackle Christian Tupou and safety T.J. McDonald to form the Trojans' set of four.

Barkley and McDonald are juniors; Ellison and Tupou are seniors. The captains were chosen by a vote of the entire roster of more than 100 Trojans.

"I kinda saw it coming, but it's an honor nonetheless," Barkley said. "I'm proud to lead these guys into battle and I know I have their respect and I'm playing for them and not for me.

"It's fun to have Rhett and T.J. and Tupou there too, guys who I look up to."

A year ago, in coach Lane Kiffin's first year with the team, the Trojans had five captains: Barkley, senior fullback Stanley Havili and senior defenders Shareece Wright, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan.

The four players this year will be asked to lead the team off the field and on it, meeting the opposition's captains at midfield for the coin toss each game.

"It's awesome," Ellison said. "I'm just excited that the team put me there, in that position.

"I just try to lead by example -- effort and stuff like that, and help guys out on the sidelines just to get their heads right."

Pro Day tidbits plus some video

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
9:49
PM PT


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.

Galippo, Kennard pick their spots

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
1:37
PM PT
Devon Kennard seized the middle linebacker job from incumbent Chris Galippo last fall after months of back-and-forth between the two players in spring and fall practices, the Trojan coaching staff deciding in August that Kennard, then a true sophomore, was better suited for the position in the long term than the more experienced Galippo.

That experiment didn't go all that well, though, with Kennard giving way to Galippo late in the year in a decision caused partly by injury and partly by ineffectiveness. Galippo, who was a reserve for the first six games of the year and started two games at the weakside spot in place of the injured Malcolm Smith, started the final five games of the season at middle. Kennard

Here comes part two of the experiment.

Galippo, who sat out of Tuesday's spring practice opener with what he termed minor back spasms, said Kennard, also out for the spring while recovering from hip surgery, will be entering the 2011 season as the starting middle linebacker.

And Galippo?

"I'll be playing will linebacker," the redshirt senior said Tuesday. "I'm cool playing whatever position. I started two or three games last year playing will linebacker, so, wherever they need me I'll be there."

The issue will likely be largely tabled until the fall, with both players out or limited for the spring, but it appears the spot won't be an open competition like it was a year ago.

As for the injuries both players are currently nursing, Kennard is expected to miss the whole 15-practice spring after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip in December. Galippo has recently been experiencing back spasms and lower back pain and will sit out at least for the rest of this week. His rehab exercises, he said, include doing nerve gliding to attempt to get out some of the swelling.

He said the back pain isn't directly related to the herniated disk injury that forced him to redshirt his freshman season in 2007 and miss the first three games of 2008.

And spring practice, he hinted, isn't his first priority at this point in his college career.

"Not that we know of yet, but I'm sure it's got something to do with that," Galippo said. " I've always had trouble with my back. But for now I'm more concerned about playing on Saturdays and in the fall rather than being a spring practice All-American."

NFL Combine recap

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
5:29
PM PT
The annual athletic workout headquarters that is the NFL Combine finished Tuesday in Indianapolis. Here's a recap of what the eight former Trojans participating in the festivities did over the five days of competition:

Allen Bradford, RB, 5-11, 242 pounds

Bradford weighed in at a fairly remarkable 242 pounds, which made him the 4th-heaviest running back out of 39 participants at the position, and the three guys in front of him -- Georgia's Shaun Chapas, Pittsburgh's Henry Hynoski and Stanford's Owen Marecic -- were all college fullbacks. His 40-yard dash time of 4.58 wasn't spectacular, but it was a respectable 15th out of the 39 prospects. His 28 bench-press repetitions at 225 pounds were third-best among all offensive players at the combine, and reports had him looking better than expected in the passing drills.

What'll he probably try to do is lower his 40-time a few hundredths of a second for USC's Pro Day later this month. If he can't do that, he runs the risk of being pigeonholed into the fullback spot at the next level.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 254 pounds

There were high expectations for Cameron in some circles, but the converted receiver came out and exceeded them over the weekend in Indy. He ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of any tight end (4.59) and recorded the second-highest vertical jump (37.5 inches) too. He won the 3-cone drill and also finished in the top five in the bench press and the broad jump and reportedly caught nearly everything thrown his way in pass-catching drills.

Cameron could have just played his way into a mid-round selection. At the very least, he'll be listed as a top sleeper pick on a ton of internet mock drafts over the next couple months.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey's 40 times had a wide variance, running as fast as 4.93 and as slow as 5.17. His overall time of 5.06 wasn't good enough to put him in the Top 15 in that category among defensive linemen, and none of his drill times were even close, either. For that, Casey probably goes down as someone who hurt himself a tad at the combine, although he wasn't really expected to wow anybody in the weight room to begin with. His stock is on the low end now, though, with most mock drafts sticking him around the second or third round.

Stanley Havili, FB, 6-0, 227 pounds

Havili did not work out at the combine, for reasons that are not currently clear. He did undergo shoulder surgery shortly after the end of the 2010 season and was sporting a sling on it in January, so he could be waiting until Pro Day to work out for NFL scouts. He did weigh in at 227 pounds, slightly more than the weight he played at while at USC but probably not enough to ease teams' doubts that he's too small to play fullback in the NFL.

Ronald Johnson, WR, 5-11, 199 pounds

Johnson finished with an official 40-time of 4.46, which tied for ninth-best among all receivers at the combine. He didn't participate in most of the other drills, but he did bench a respectable 16 repetitions. Johnson probably helped himself some with his measurements, though, as some scouts probably expected him to measure in smaller and lighter than those numbers.

He played at 185 in college, so the weight increase represents a significant improvement.

Kristofer O'Dowd, C, 6-4, 304 pounds

O’Dowd, a four-year starter who some scouts think has already reached his peak, finished tied for first among offensive linemen in the vertical jump (32.5) and tied for seventh in the 20-yard shuttle (4.59). He also ranked fifth in the bench press (31) and seventh in the 40-yard dash (5.16) and also finished in the top 10 in the broad jump.

So, yes, O'Dowd clearly helped himself.

Tyron Smith, RT, 6-5, 307 pounds

Smith didn't do anything besides the bench press -- and weigh in. But those two activities were plenty enough to create some buzz around him for Pro Day, as Smith weighed in at a hefty 307 pounds, 22 more than his listed playing weight during the 2010 season. He also did 29 bench-press reps.

Shareece Wright, CB, 5-11, 185 pounds

Wright ran a solid 4.46 40-yard dash time, which tied for seventh-best among cornerbacks, and recorded a 34.5 inch vertical jump and 9'5" broad jump. Reports had him looking polished during defensive back drills, which is a good sign for Wright, as one major criticism of him during his senior season was that he simply wasn't enough of a ballhawk for the next level.

USC's Pro Day is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on March 30, four weeks from today. A number of Trojans who didn't get combine invites are expected to work out for NFL scouts at USC's pro day, including linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, quarterback Mitch Mustain, running back C.J. Gable and receiver David Ausberry. Kicker Joe Houston, punter Jacob Harfman and offensive guards Butch Lewis and Zach Heberer are also possibilities.

NFL combine preview

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
5:12
PM PT
The NFL combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Eight USC prospects have earned invites to the festivities and will attempt to showcase their talents to the bevy of coaches and scouts in attendance.



Let's take a look at each prospect, with an eye on draft position and potential workouts where they could excel during this next week. They're sorted in alphabetical order, with listed height and weights from their USC biographies. Keep in mind that these measurements will probably be heavily adjusted in the next week after players are officially measured by the NFL:

Allen Bradford, RB, 6-0, 235 pounds

Bradford has the body type NFL teams like to see in a big, bruising runner, but his speed is questionable at best. His goal in Indianapolis, then, is simple: run a 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds or faster to show scouts and coaches he can be more than just an occasional ball carrier.

Another necessary task to prove that: perform well in catching drills. Bradford caught only eight passes in four years at USC and has serious questions attached to his pass-play skills.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 245 pounds

Cameron screams workout warrior in every sense of the phrase. He never produced much of anything while at USC -- he totaled 16 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD in two seasons, plus a redshirt year -- but always possessed the potential to start, the potential to be a great pass-catching weapon.

He still has that potential. Teams know he's quicker, more agile and in possession of better hands than the average tight end prospect. Where he needs to prove himself is in blocking, so he'll need to let loose on the weights and display that he has all of the necessary footwork down pat.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey has been criticized by scouts recently for not having an ideal body type. He's short and squatty, they say, and not a premiere athlete.

What's wrong with that? Casey is, regardless of natural athletic ability, one of the best run-stopping tackles in this draft, without a doubt. He won't be a 10-sack guy at the next level, but he's quick and smart enough to warrant selection as an early second-rounder. To do that, he's got to make a team fall in love with his motor and line-specific skills, so the defensive line drills will be big for him this week.

Showing up with a more chiseled upper body wouldn't hurt, either.

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Every day until Friday, we’ll tackle one key question facing the USC football team in 2011 and attempt to answer it logically. Feel free to leave your potential answer in the comments section each day.

Monday's question involved the possibility of a spread offense. Today, we present the second of our five questions: Will Monte Kiffin stay on staff as the assistant head coach and de facto defensive coordinator? Will his defense improve in 2011?

Let's clear up some confusion: No, Monte Kiffin was not the USC defensive coordinator in 2010.

That was Ed Orgeron. But who actually, physically coordinated the defense?

[+] EnlargeMonte Kiffin
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireAfter closer examination, the Trojans defense improved under Monte Kiffin. Will it get better next season?
Kiffin, of course. He had been the defensive coordinator at his three previous stops that spanned 15 years and had done remarkably well at each. Orgeron was busy enough tending to his duties as recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach -- plus dealing with a broken foot -- to do any defensive play calling.

Now that we've got that out of the way, who is going to coordinate the defense in 2011?

Monte Kiffin, surely. Internet speculation about his job security is far-fetched in nature, and it's very hard to imagine USC head coach Lane Kiffin relieving his dad of his duties on defense, especially after only one season.

Truth be told, toward the end of the 2010 season Kiffin's defense actually started to look pretty good. The Notre Dame and Oregon State losses looked bad on the surface (read: the score), but the blame for each goes almost entirely on the USC offense. And, in the season finale, UCLA really did next to nothing offensively.

You could make a great case that Kiffin's defensive players finally began to catch on to his changes from Pete Carroll's schemes. Is Kiffin's Tampa-Two-plus-some-other-stuff defense well-suited for the college level? Probably not, but neither was Carroll's. We'll have to set that part of the problem aside for the time being.

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Postgame thoughts: UCLA

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
9:22
AM PT
PASADENA -- Notes, quotes and video from USC's 28-14 win over UCLA on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl:
  • This one was interesting -- one of the Trojans' better defensive performances of the year sandwiched between a great running game and a mediocre passing game. Senior Allen Bradford ran the ball 28 times for 212 yards and added a 47-yard touchdown reception too. Remarkably, he averaged almost nine yards for each of his touches Saturday -- this, after earning a total of 20 touches in the six previous games. We'll have more from Bradford later in this post, but teammates had plenty of positives to say about him on his final night as a Trojan. Said fullback and fellow senior Stanley Havili: "He's faced adversity here. How you respond shows the character and the man that you are. Obviously Allen has been through his ups and downs. This is a way for him to go out on an awesome job." And quarterback Matt Barkley: "He was definitely a playmaker tonight." And running back Dillon Baxter: "I'm real excited for A.B. He had a rough year and for him to end it like this, I'm proud of him." Cornerback Nickell Robey simply called him a "beast."
  • As for Barkley, although he wouldn't admit much after the game, he was obviously affected by his sprained left ankle. Considering that, his 15-of-26, two-interception, one-touchdown line looks a lot better than it would had he been healthy. Said Ronald Johnson, Barkley's leading receiver on the night with five catches for 36 yards: "He had a messed-up ankle, but it was great to have him back." Barkley analyzed his performance with an eye toward the future: "I've still got a lot to work on this offseason, I think, especially with timing with the receivers -- which has gotta be one of my big projects this offseason."
  • The fourth-quarter scoring pass from Barkley to Bradford was definitely USC's play of the day -- with Bradford's 73-yard run the only other one coming close. On the swing pass that ended in the touchdown, Barkley said he checked down pre-snap into a new play and found Bradford at a perfect time in his route. Talking about the play postgame, Barkley went as far as comparing it to the glory years for the Trojans: "Plays like that are what USC football used to be and what it needs to be -- playmakers like that making guys miss, making guys fall to the ground."
  • Lane Kiffin made an interesting observation near the end of his postgame press conference when he said that the style in which USC won the game -- old-fashioned, run-run-run -- is more attractive to recruits than other styles, giving USC a leg up on competition for L.A.-area prospects. Robey, a freshman, agreed and said that -- physicality -- was one of his most desired attributes when he was deciding on a school a year ago at this time: "That right there set the tone for the recruits. It set the tone for everybody around the team. It creates more fans. It's a great thing in all phases."
  • Malcolm Smith extended his reputation as a "Bruin killer" -- per linebacker Michael Morgan and cornerback Shareece Wright -- with his 68-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown near the end of the first half. Last year, he scored USC's first touchdown against UCLA with a 62-yard interception return in the Coliseum. This time, he was a little bit emotional on the Rose Bowl field afterward."This is it, right here," Smith said. "Seeing the fans out here after the game -- this is it." And Morgan, quickly looking forward: "We have a great staff and a bunch of great young players. It's gonna be fun, man. I'm excited to watch these guys next year and in the years to come. It's gonna be a fun ride for these guys."
  • Baxter's five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rhett Ellison was Baxter's second college completion and his first scoring pass. It was also only the second touchdown the true freshman has been involved in on the year -- an undoubtedly disappointing one for the 19-year-old, who ended up with 252 yards on the ground after Kiffin called him maybe the most talented player on the team in the preseason. His 4.3 yards per carry were the worst of the team's big four backs and significantly worse than Havili's. Baxter was quite happy about the touchdown after the game: "That was cool, bringing back high school memories," Baxter said. "It was cool to end the year like that, beating the Bruins and throwing a nice touchdown pass."
  • Final notes: Walk-on Tony Burnett started over a healthy Jawanza Starling at safety and had six tackles, although he missed a chance to tackle Johnathan Franklin on the UCLA back's 59-yard run. Across from Burnett, Marshall Jones started and had 10 tackles, including one for loss. He was on the field at the end of the game when his brother, Malcolm Jones, but didn't tackle him. Both of the other set of the brothers on the two rosters, T.J. and Tevin McDonald, did not play. ... Baxter's touchdown pass was USC's first TD pass by a non-quarterback since Reggie Bush completed one to Dwayne Jarrett against Arizona State in 2004.

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USC-UCLA grades

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

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

ARUSHING ATTACK

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

BIN THE TRENCHES

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

ADEFENSE

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

CSPECIAL TEAMS

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

BCOACHING

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

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
11:25
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Matt Barkley took another step forward in his recovery from the high-ankle sprain he suffered 11 days ago against Oregon State. Mitch Mustain continued to take the majority of the quarterback reps in team drills as Barkley sat out for that period, but the sophomore signal-caller made good throws earlier in practice. "Hopefully it stays at this rate every day, and three days from now it'll be three times better," Barkley said afterward. "I felt a lot better than yesterday and was able to do a lot more movements. Added Coach Lane Kiffin: "He continues to look better every day. He’s throwing the ball fine and his movement is coming around. I would anticipate him playing.”
  • Injury report: defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, safety T.J. McDonald (shoulder) and cornerbacks Brian Baucham (neck/shoulder) and Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (knee), fullback Stanley Havili and Barkley (ankle) were limited. Smith returned to the practice field after missing all of last week's practices and the Notre Dame game, but Butch Lewis continued to take the majority of first-team snaps.
  • Kiffin was asked quite a bit about UCLA and the nature of the rivalry between the two schools. In his opening statement, he made a great point in saying that "records mean nothing in [the game,] as we have seen before." He also remarked he was indeed surprised by UCLA's lack of success this season: "I would have thought that they would have with the coaching staff and their ability to recruit," he said. "But I think this sport, you just can’t plan everything out. When I look at their roster, they have a lot of young guys and a really bright future.”

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Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
10:58
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Trojans coach Lane Kiffin criticized his team after what he said was a lackluster session Wednesday, saying that a lack of intensity has been present in both practices preparing for Oregon State this week. Added Kiffin: "I don’t know whether it’s feeling good about themselves after a couple of wins, and they don't remember why we’ve played well lately is because we’ve practiced extremely well. Very disappointing, but there’s still enough time for us to get right and get ready to go up there.” Kiffin did say the usual leaders -- among them junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and fullback Stanley Havili -- continued to practice well, but the team as a whole didn't, he said. "Right now, our practicing isn't on par with where it should be," senior center Kristofer O'Dowd said. "The good thing is we have a couple days to narrow in on what we need to do and focus on that."
  • Injury report: cornerback T.J. Bryant (left shoulder) and Torin Harris, strong safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), tight end Blake Ayles (concussion), receiver Brice Butler and center Abe Markowitz (foot) did not practice; defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo (ankle) was limited. Starling could return later this week, Kiffin said; Ayles said after the Arizona game that he'd be back by now from a head injury but is obviously still out. Bryant visited with team doctors Wednesday and underwent an MRI but did not yet know results after Wednesday's practice. He said he would know more Thursday: "I might have to have another surgery; I might not. We'll see when I go get the results." Bryant couldn't clarify exactly what the injury was or what surgery would do to it, but he said it involved his labrum, it had happened in high school and it has continued to bother him while he has been at USC. "I re-injure it every year, every time we practice," he said. "It consistently gets injured."

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
11:24
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • No. 18 Arizona is the focus this week as a likely harbinger for the rest of the season, and the matchup -- a "really, really big game for us," coach Lane Kiffin said after Tuesday's practice -- presents an inherent challenge in facing a top 25 team on the road. USC's done that one other time this season, at Stanford, and lost, 37-35, on a last-second field goal. Said Kiffin: "Hopefully this time we'll finish it off, if we have a chance to."

  • Injury report: Defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, safety Jawanza Starling, left tackle Matt Kalil, center Abe Markowitz (foot), running back Marc Tyler (ankle) and tight end Blake Ayles did not practice. Cornerback Brian Baucham, right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle/foot) and receiver Robert Woods (back) were limited. Woods hardly did anything, but we'll get to that Wednesday on the blog with a video interview with him; Tyler did some light running on the side of Howard Jones Field during practice and says he fully expects to be ready for Saturday. The injury, suffered at the end of the Arizona State game, was originally thought to be more serious, but it turned out to be a minor sprain of the inside ligaments -- not the break he feared. Said Tyler on Tuesday: "I heard a pop, but I guess I was wrong."
  • The kicking situation is -- in Kiffin's words -- an "ongoing concern." Of course, starter Joe Houston is 6-of-12 on field-goal attempts so far this season, with two key misses against Arizona State. But both Houston and punter Jacob Harfman, who moonlights as a kicker, struggled mightily while kicking in practice Tuesday. "It's not going to be relieved until we start making a few in row," Kiffin said of his worrying about the spot. "It's disappointing at this point in the season to still be where we're at with that, but it is what it is."

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Postgame thoughts: Arizona State

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

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USC-Arizona State grades

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
10:52
PM PT
CPASSING ATTACK

Barkley was just OK, with no star-studded throws and a few mistakes. His second pick was not his fault -- rather, it looked like receiver David Ausberry's -- but his first interception in the end zone was a crucial error that cost USC dearly.

BRUSHING ATTACK

Dillon Baxter got the start he had been waiting all season for, but he did very little with it. Marc Tyler was much, much better in relief, but the Trojans' ground game was still a bit limited. Stanley Havili and Allen Bradford both looked banged up.

CIN THE TRENCHES

The main five USC defensive linemen -- Jurrell Casey and Wes Horton especially -- played well defensively for USC, but this one looked like another "down" in what has been a series of up-and-down performances from the Trojan offensive line. Barkley had limited time on many occasions.

BDEFENSE

Actually not an awful performance by the Trojans, with both the run and pass defenses limiting the opposition for most of the game. ASU had only 19 offensive points. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, returning from a knee injury, had a key pick six.

DSPECIAL TEAMS

Joe Houston missed two short field goals in the first half and the Trojans gave up a kickoff return touchdown to the Sun Devils. T.J. McDonald's blocked punt and Torin Harris' two-point return are really the only things keeping this unit from an 'F.'

CCOACHING

Were the Trojans motivated to play this game? Heading into it they said they were, but it sure didn't seem like it early on. But Lane Kiffin's squad did turn it up some in the second half, and the coach's playcalling was fairly interesting.

Thursday practice report: Breakdown

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
10:45
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • A shorter session for the Trojans on Thursday as Lane Kiffin attempted to conserve his players' energy for a Saturday night game against Arizona State. One unusual drill USC spent some time working on in practice had quarterback Matt Barkley drop back under heavy five- and six-man pass rushes and attempt to deliver on-target passes.
  • Injury report: Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo, center Abe Markowitz (foot), guard John Martinez (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (knee/ankle) and running back C.J. Gable (knee) were limited. Markowitz, who broke his foot in August, was again sporting a boot on his injured foot Thursday. He had been practicing lightly earlier in the week.
  • Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey, who missed Wednesday's practice with an unusual injury we detail below, offered up some quality insight Thursday about Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet, who has thrown 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season: "He's a real confident guy, as I look on film. Once he makes something good happen, he just starts gunning it to the point where he throws a lot of interceptions. It shows up big-time on film how he gets real overwhelmed with his throwing and everything. He's a great quarterback, though." Robey also said he expects to be called upon for corner blitzes more this week.

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PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler413292350536
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