USC: Michael Morgan

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."

Questions for camp, No. 6: Successful switch?

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
12:35
AM PT
First on the list of our 10 question series for fall camp involved picking a backup for Matt Barkley; second, a look at the potential second receiver and Brice Butler's chances of earning the spot. The third question post, published Monday, involved offensive freshmen and Tuesday's defensive freshmen. The fifth question covered end Nick Perry and his big 2011 expectations.

The sixth is this: Will Devon Kennard be able to make a big, immediate impact at defensive end after spending more than a year at middle linebacker?

Kennard's talented, without a doubt. He was one of the top prospects in the United States as a high-schooler despite tearing his ACL and meniscus early in his senior season and recovered quickly enough to play right away as a backup defensive end in 2009 and even supplant Michael Morgan at strongside linebacker late in the year.

Middle linebacker was sort of a struggle for him, though. In spite of his best efforts put forth at the position in the spring and fall of 2010, he never quite got a hang of it. It's not so much mentally as it is physically -- Kennard's one of the smarter, quicker-thinking players on the squad, but his best physical traits don't entirely lend themselves to pass coverage. He often runs far too upright for a traditional Cover-2 middle linebacker.

Evidence as to his lack of productivity? In eight games as a starter, Kennard produced one solitary big play in the middle of the defense -- a sack against Hawaii in the season opener. He had one interception on the year, but that came after he had lost his spot to Chris Galippo, in the Notre Dame game in November. His only other sack came as a reserve, too.

In roughly two years since arriving on campus in the summer of 2009, Kennard has often mentioned one thing he definitely likes to do on the football field: start in a down stance. There has been talk of utilizing him as an elephant, la Clay Matthews in years past, and that may end up being the case, but even just playing as a straight 4-3 end makes plenty of sense.

The ideal Pac-12 end has to be able to drop back in pass coverage, anyway. With how many teams throw two tight ends three- and four-receiver sets at the Trojans with regularity, Monte Kiffin's defense is in much better shape when it can have Kennard on the field as a safety net in the passing game.

His time at linebacker wasn't a total waste. There are things he can take away from it back to end, and NFL teams might upgrade him come draft time when they see a player better-equipped to make the switch to 3-4 rush linebacker than the typical college end.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this whole situation for the Trojans is that Galippo isn't a natural Cover-2 Mike either -- but that's a story for another day. Lamar Dawson, the incoming freshman from Kentucky who was given Keith Rivers' No. 55 upon his arrival to Troy, is the most Mike-esque of the three, at least according to past precedent.

That's it for today. Friday and Monday we question who will join T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey in the secondary before moving on to off-the-field stuff in the final two questions in our series.

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.

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.

(Read full post)

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.

(Read full post)

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.

(Read full post)

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.”

(Read full post)

Thursday practice report: Breakdown

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
4:31
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Thursday's practice:
  • Coach Lane Kiffin was again happy with his team's performance in a shorter morning session Thursday -- "another good day, three in a row," he said. He mentioned to his players, he said, how much USC fans care about the rivalry with Notre Dame and the importance in extending what is now an eight-game winning streak against the Irish. He reminded them of "all the hard work those players did before, over these last eight years in the offseason and everything to keep this streak alive, and now it's their turn."
  • Matt Barkley took another step in his recovery from the sprained left ankle he suffered last week against Oregon State on Thursday, taking some snaps and making throws, Kiffin said, but backup Mitch Mustain continues to prepare as the starter. Said Mustain, who said he has not yet been told "explicitly" that he'll be the starter against the Irish: "There's always that wish for a little bit more time to practice, but that's just the progression of it. I'm ready to go now." Barkley, who wore a jersey top and sweatpants at practice, said he plans to suit up Saturday.

(Read full post)

Postgame extras: Matt Barkley, Shareece Wright revisit Arizona

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
2:22
PM PT
Video interviews with USC quarterback Matt Barkley and cornerback Shareece Wright, plus several quotes that stood out from after USC's 24-21 win over Arizona on Saturday at Arizona Stadium:

USC safety T.J. McDonald, on the Trojans' hopes for the remaining three games of their season: "We still have a chance to have a 10-win season -- which, you know what, not a lot of teams in the country can have a 10-win season, so we still have a chance to get that. We're thinking positive and we got some momentum now."

Arizona linebacker Paul Vassallo, on why the the Wildcats lost: "It's not that they are better than us, but we are making mistakes and beating ourselves."

Arizona receiver David Douglas, who had the crucial fumble in the third quarter that Monte Kiffin later called the play of the game, on the loss: "Close ones are always tough. USC is a great team. The defense has bailed us out a lot of times. They were out there righting hard. Nick (Foles) made some big plays, (Shaquille) Richardson, (Travis) Cobb, they all stepped up."

USC assistant head coach Monte Kiffin, on whether the Trojans were prepared for the quickness of Arizona's offense: "We kinda heard that a little bit. They weren't as fast as Oregon, but they were a pretty fast tempo. That's hard, but we did a good job -- we never got caught with 12 guys on the field or anything like that. Our players did a good job."

USC linebacker Michael Morgan, on whether or not USC was really an underdog in his eyes heading into the game: "No. I've never felt like an underdog in my whole career. Even if we're down I always feel like we can win. We're SC. We play ball."

USC backup quarterback Mitch Mustain, on the Trojans' successful fourth-and-three conversion in the first half, where Mustain found tight end Jordan Cameron for a seven-yard reception down to the Arizona four-yard line: "I'm glad we did it. We had been working on it and it's something that we hadn't done before, so it was kind of exciting. All of us in the huddle were pretty excited about it, and it worked exactly how we planned. The only thing I could ask more is that we score on it. I kinda got excited for a minute after he caught because I thought he might."

USC left tackle Matt Kalil, on the officials' ruling on the would-be blocked PAT returned for two points near the end of the game that was called back because of an offsides penalty: Yeah, I blocked the [PAT], and I guess Shareece was in the neutral zone and the ref said he wouldn't have called it if I hadn't blocked it. I guess because he scooped and scored and ran all the way for a touchdown. Kinda sucks, it's what I've been waiting to do all season. And I finally blocked one, and of course it's a flag."

Arizona Coach Mike Stoops, on his team's game: "I think we played hard and lost to a very good team. USC protected the ball well, threw the ball well. Out kicking game hasn't been very good these past couple weeks, and we really need to work on that. Overall, it just wasn't a good night for us."

***

Despite a subpar second half, Barkley was very positive after the game about his team's performance.

See what he had to say well after the game ended as he finally emerged from the locker room, with thoughts on Marc Tyler's 160-yard day on the ground, USC's temporary proclivity to throw the ball short and more:



***

Wright provided some interesting perspective about USC's defensive gameplan Saturday, with insight on the success of Arizona receivers Juron Criner and Terrence Mitchell, the big plays produced by the Trojans and more.

See all of what he had to say on the Arizona Stadium field right after the game:

Postgame thoughts: Arizona

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
11:45
PM PT
TUCSON -- Notes, quotes and video from USC's 24-21 win over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium:
  • Before the Trojans departed Los Angeles for southern Arizona on Friday afternoon, Lane Kiffin made sure to pound one phrase into his players' minds -- and it sure sunk in, as a number of players brought it up after the game Saturday. Per middle linebacker Chris Galippo, Kiffin told the team: " 'When you want to go win a big away game, you gotta pack your defense and you gotta pack your run game.' " Said Galippo: "I think that's what happened today -- both of those showed up." Added strongside linebacker Michael Morgan, who had five tackles: "It was a big win for the defense and a big win for the whole team. It was especially big for the defense because we haven't been playing too well lately."
  • Marc Tyler ran for a career-high 160 yards on 31 carries, running the ball 17 times in the second half as he wore down the Wildcat defense. Tyler said afterward that he felt "terrible," with the ankle that held him out of much of the week's practices flaring up during the game. Running backs coach Kennedy Pola, he said, kept yelling at him to get back in the game every time he felt like taking a breather. Said Tyler of the likelihood coming into the game that he would carry the ball as much as he did, and with as much success as he did: "I thought the chances of that happening for me were slim to none. I haven't seen anyone run the ball more than 30 times ever." Arizona coach Mike Stoops praised the junior runner postgame: "Marc Tyler was outstanding tonight," he said. "He was very physical and USC is a good blocking team and did a good job at giving him the space he needed." We'll have more from Tyler, including a video interview, further down in this post.
  • Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley started off red-hot, completing 14 of his first 15 pass attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown. From then on, though, he was a lot cooler -- completing just 7-of-20 for 48 yards and an interception. Kiffin called the third-quarter pick -- a solid throw that glanced directly off the body of normally sure-handed tight end Jordan Cameron -- "really tough to swallow," as it killed a good bit of momentum for the Trojans and put the ball back in Arizona's hands. Asked how he felt his day went, Barkley indicated that the Trojans parroted Arizona's bread-and-butter more than usual with quick throws. "A lot of those shorter routes were working, getting yards, getting first downs," Barkley said. "Most of that stuff was underneath, but it was just taking what the defense was giving us."
  • USC right tackle Tyron Smith said Arizona defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore were "really speedy," but added that the Trojan offensive linemen knew what to expect with the two of them. As such, Kiffin called for a lot of short drops for Barkley and didn't allow Reed and Elmore to penetrate into the backfield. "We treated them like any other defensive ends," Smith said. "Of course, they were faster than any other defensive ends that we've faced this season. But we were prepared for it."
  • Junior Marshall Jones made his first career start at strong safety in place of the injured Jawanza Starling, who hurt his hamstring last week against Arizona State. Kiffin had refused to name a starter this week, but Jones said the coaching staff told him after last week's game that he'd be making the start in Tucson. He had only three tackles, but one of them was a shoestring "touchdown-saving" tackle of Arizona's Juron Criner in the fourth quarter. "You have a different mindset when you come in and you know you're a starter," Jones said. "It's different, but I had a lot of fun. I love being out there, it felt great."
  • Shareece Wright had talked a lot this week about Criner, but he didn't end up defending much on Saturday, as Stoops and his staff devised ways to move the junior receiver around the line of scrimmage and prevent Wright from keying on him."They did a good job moving him around and working him in the slot, working him against our linebackers," Wright said. Why didn't USC's coaching staff, in turn, have Wright follow Criner along the line wherever he lined up? "We gotta have confidence in our other players, man. At the end, we were starting to do that. We were going to change the game plan and do that but he wasn't in as much."
  • USC allowed Arizona to convert seven of eight third-down opportunities in the first half. After an old-fashioned halftime talking-to, the Trojans held the Wildcats to three of eight in the second half. "Let me tell you something right now," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "You're doing a good job if you get them to third downs. That means you're doing something good on first and second down. But that doesn't do any good if you don't get off [the field] on third downs. It was really frustrating." Said Galippo about the differences between the halves: "We didn't even really change that much up, schematically. But we needed to get a better pass rush -- that was evident."
  • Final notes: Injury update: Monte Kiffin said freshman cornerback Nickell Robey was banged up in the second half and had to leave the game. Tight end Blake Ayles revealed that the injury that has kept him out of the last three games is a concussion suffered against Cal last month. It's still causing him headaches, he said. ...Freshman receiver Robert Woods very quietly made eight catches for 41 yards as the leading pass-catcher for the Trojans. Aside from Tyler, only backs Dillon Baxter and Stanley Havili carried the ball for USC, with six rushes for 34 yards...Said Kiffin of senior center Kristofer O'Dowd's final return home to the Tucson area in a sack-free performance for the USC offensive line: "Real special for him. Any time someone leaves their home and goes away, it's a pretty neat thing to be able to finish like this."

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Kiffin talked to the media after the game and addressed the validity of a win over a top-20 opponent on the road, Tyler's bang-up performance and plenty of other topics.

See what he had to say:



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Tyler had a lot to say after his 160-yard day, including several funny remarks and praise for his pile-driving offensive line.

See all of what he said:

Monday practice report: Breakdown

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
10:19
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Monday's practice:
  • Fresh off two full off-days on Saturday and Sunday -- the first time this season that has happened and the only time it will -- the Trojans continued with their up-tempo feel from the last week's abbreviated sessions and ran a fast-paced two-hour practice on Howard Jones Field. Coach Lane Kiffin shared an intriguing anecdote after practice, saying that defensive tackle DaJohn Harris told him after practice that he felt Monday's practice was a lot easier than any other practices the team has gone through this year. The funny part was that it definitely wasn't -- the team has just adjusted to a more intense feel on the practice field after last week's three brutal 6 a.m. sessions.
  • The much-shorter injury report, as compared to last Thursday's long list: Defensive end James Boyd, linebackers Marquis Simmons and Malcolm Smith (knee), guard John Martinez (foot) and running backs C.J. Gable (knee) and Dillon Baxter (toe) did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) was limited. Going off of Thursday's report, it's clear that defensive ends Wes Horton (back) and Nick Perry (ankle) have both improved significantly, although Perry is still sporting equipment on the right ankle hat he sprained in August. We'll have more on Horton on Tuesday, but, at this point, the "big" remaining injuries, in Kiffin's words, belong to Gable, Baxter and Smith. Baxter said last week that he would definitely practice Tuesday; Gable said he hopes to. More on Malcolm Smith further down.
  • For much of the season, Kiffin and his coaching staff have been criticized for not tackling in practice, with the common belief that the tackle-free practices have led to poor tackling in games. The coaches -- and players, for that matter -- have unequivocally denied any connection between the two, but Kiffin seems to have gone back on that a bit in preparation for Oregon. See, the Trojans are tackling again -- not a lot, but some -- and the reason is apparently because they haven't tackled well. "Going back through the bye and looking at how poorly we tackled, it’s been game-changing," Kiffin said Monday. "If we can tackle at all in the secondary, we’re 7-0 right now. It’s something that we decided to do. We didn’t do it all practice, but we did some live tackling drills and it was good to see. We did a little bit of that last Thursday, with the DBs and Michael Morgan, but we incorporated all the linebackers today.”

(Read full post)

Football: Trojans visit children's hospital

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
6:41
PM PT
Sixteen USC football players and associate head coach John Baxter -- accompanied by the USC Song Girls and Trojan Marching Band -- made a trip to the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center on Monday to visit with a number of kids at the Children's Hospital.

With an off day for the bye week, the team spent a couple of hours visiting with children in the eighth-floor playroom and then splitting up and visiting children all around the hospital. A hospital spokesperson said the Trojans have been coming annually since Pete Carroll became the coach at USC. Current coach Lane Kiffin did not attend this year but kept the tradition going.

Cool sights: kicker Joe Houston teaching a 14-year-old how to throw a football when the preferred expert -- quarterback Mitch Mustain -- was in another room, receiver Ronald Johnson pretending to be "el novio" -- the boyfriend -- of a young Spanish-speaking girl as two Song Girls joked with her and tight end Jordan Cameron holding an infant while his mom smiled big and watched and hospital staff snapped pictures.

Among those who made the trip: Mustain, fullbacks Stanley Havili and Hunter Simmons, receivers Kyle Prater and Johnson, tight end Jordan Cameron, linebackers Shane Horton, Michael Morgan and Hayes Pullard, defensive tackles Christian Tupou and Derek Simmons, defensive ends Wes Horton and James Boyd, safety Marshall Jones and Houston.

Photos from the event are here, with a video showing some of the playroom activities and one-on-one video interviews with two of the players below.

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Wes Horton, a redshirt sophomore defensive end, has missed the last three games because of an injured back after leading the team in sacks through four games. But he still went on the trip -- and seemed to enjoy it, too. He and Cameron had to be told to leave one young patient's room when the team was readying to depart.

See what Horton had to say about the visit:



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Morgan was one of two captains to make the trip, with Havili also coming. See what Morgan said about the experience and what it meant for him -- and, more important -- what it meant for the kids:



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See some of what the Trojans did with the children at the hospital in this quick video that takes you around the playroom:

Friday night video extras: Jordan Cameron, Michael Morgan talk Cal

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
5:28
PM PT
With two videos that didn't make it into this week's regularly scheduled blogging, we present Friday night video extras -- two video interviews from the past week that are worth your time.

Strongside linebacker Michael Morgan was called for two penalties in last week's game against Stanford. See his thoughts on those calls plus a number of other issues that have presented themselves to the Trojans' defense this season:



And, in a one-on-one video interview with backup tight end Jordan Cameron, we ask about his potential one-on-one matchup with Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan: "That'll be a day for the announcers right there, trying to get that right. It's pretty funny; it's weird, kinda random."

Plus, Cameron sheds light on the left knee bone bruise he suffered against Stanford and how it happened and talks about freshman tight end Christian Thomas, who just moved back to the position from end.

See the video:


Postgame thoughts: Washington

October, 3, 2010
10/03/10
12:00
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from USC's 32-31 loss to Washington at the Coliseum:
  • Saturday's game was eerily similar to last year's USC-Washington game, when the host Huskies used a final-seconds field goal from Erik Folk to topple the Trojans, 16-13 -- and don't think Washington didn't notice. "It's really important," Folk said after the game of having the experience of last year's game. "I think it was really good for the confidence of our offense on the last drive, knowing that they could drive down the field against these guys. And they did exactly that."
  • Loss aside, the biggest bright spot for the Trojans was clearly the performance of Allen Bradford, who had by far the best game of his career in carrying the ball 21 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Bradford's previous career highs were 15 carries for 147 yards against Oregon State last year, but the redshirt senior was at his best Saturday from the start. His first carry of the game was a 37-yard touchdown rumble on which he may not have even been touched, and he averaged more than 10 yards a carry for the game.
  • As a whole, the Trojans' running attack was superb. USC broke out the Wildcat for the first time this season after a lot of work on it during the week of practice leading up to the game. But the player who seems most well-equipped to operate out of it -- freshman Dillon Baxter -- only carried the ball once the entire game, while Tyler received several direct-snap handoffs on his way to running 14 times for 60 yards. No passes were thrown out of the formation.
  • Only five players caught passes for USC, with Robert Woods being shut out. In fact, he was hardly targeted. Barkley completed 70 percent of his passes on the day (14-of-20) but overthrew two key attempts, one to David Ausberry in the end zone and one to Jordan Cameron on USC's last drive of the game. Receiver Brice Butler also appeared to drop a deep ball from Barkley in the first half that would have been good for 40 or 50 yards.
  • Washington quarterback Jake Locker, on what he told his teammates in the huddle on the crucial fourth-and-11 on their own 23-yard line he converted to D'Andre Goodwin: "I said, 'Hey, I love you guys. We've got one more down to continue this drive and get ourselves a chance to win this game.' There wasn't one guy in the huddle who thought we couldn't do it. Looking in every guys' eyes, there was confidence in each and every guy -- and I'm convinced that that's why we were able to win."
  • USC's defense simply could not stop Locker, who threw for 309 yards and a touchdown and ran for 110 more. His only mistake came on Washington's first drive of the second half, when he broke off a big run down the left sideline but had the ball smartly poked away out of his left hand by Shareece Wright. After a review, it was ruled that the ball went out of bounds after going into the endzone, giving USC the ball at its own 20 and essentially taking away a touchdown from the Huskies. Still, Washington gained 536 yards and looked like the better team on the field. "It was really bad, actually," linebacker Michael Morgan said of the defensive performance. "We didn''t execute the way we were supposed to, and we lost the game.
  • A sharp contrast was evident between the two kickers -- Folk and USC's Joe Houston. Folk converted all four of his field goal attempts; Houston made just one of two and hit a 40-yard attempt off the right upright with two-plus minutes to go that would've made the final drive a lot harder for the Huskies. The two kickers, both proteges of famed Chris Sailer Kicking, are good friends, and Folk said that he was disappointed when Houston's kick missed -- despite the fact that it made it easier for his team to win.
  • Tackling was once again an issue for the Trojans, but the team will still stay away from doing so in practice because of depth concerns. "Think about it," cornerback Shareece Wright said. "If we go live every day at practice, we'll be killing each other. It's not worth it."

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USC coach Lane Kiffin spoke to the media after the game and was clearly displeased with the loss and his team's performance.

See what he said about Locker, the Trojans' tackling and plenty of more topics, including Bradford's 200-yard day:



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Houston spoke to the media after the game in an emotional session in which he took full responsibility for missing the 40-yarder near the end of the game.

"I feel terrible," he said.

See what else he had to say:

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