USC: Patrick Hall

More tidbits from signing day

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
7:21
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One of the benefits to getting USC coach Lane Kiffin in a room for 30 minutes where he's obligated to listen to a never-ending stream of questions and answer most of them is it equals an opportunity to get some long-standing questions answered. Here are notes going off of his most interesting answers:

Scholarship count

By now, it's well-known that the Trojans have to be at 75 total scholarships or fewer by the time fall camp comes around in August. Kiffin has said it over and over in recent months as a reminder that his USC team is still very much under sanctions.

But he refuses to reveal where his squad is at right now, after taking on 12 more signees this week and five as January enrollees. The only hint he would give to the team's roster status was telling a reporter who asked about it Wednesday that it's not quite as grim as he might imagine.

Luckily, we can do the math and get a tentative number for where the Trojans stand right now.

With the 17 new players added to the 60 scholarship returners, USC has 77 players on scholarship as of now, as far as we know. That number does not include players like Armond Armstead but does include the former walk-ons who were given scholarships, like linebacker Will Andrew.

We'll get into who else is no longer part of the program further down. But 77 is a manageable number.

Scroggins' future?

It might end up being 76 if Jesse Scroggins can't get his academics together. The redshirt sophomore quarterback from nearby Lakewood High has "fallen behind" in school, per Kiffin, and "has a lot of work to do" to become eligible for the 2012 season.

Of course, the Trojans also put on a huge late recruiting push for Colorado prep quarterback Cyler Miles, a similar signal-caller to Scroggins. So it's obvious that USC isn't exactly counting on Scroggins being a part of the team in the long term.

And, in front of him on the depth chart Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, who are both a year younger too. That could be an issue.

(Read full post)

Updated scholarship math

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
4:10
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National Signing Day is in 16 days, on Feb. 1.

On that day, USC plans to sign 15 players, the most it's allowed to sign under NCAA-mandated limitations because of the sanctions. But will that work, considering the NCAA is also mandating the Trojans keep their total number of scholarships handed out at 75?

It's going to take some finagling. Looking at the updated scholarship math after the latest wave of transfers, USC will still have to create some more spots by the time the 2012 season comes around in one way or another.

Position by position, as of Monday, the Trojans have four quarterbacks, three running backs, two fullbacks, five receivers, four tight ends, four offensive tackles, four guards, three centers, four defensive ends, four defensive tackles, eight linebackers, six cornerbacks, five safeties and three special-teamers on scholarship.

That's 59 players, not including Amir Carlisle, Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, Armond Armstead, T.J. Bryant and Patrick Hall, who have all left the program or are very near leaving.

Then add six more players who are expected to begin attending classes at USC by the Jan. 27 spring-semester deadline: Morgan Breslin, Scott Starr, DeVante Wilson, Gerald Bowman, Chad Wheeler and Josh Shaw.

That's 65 players. With a 75-man cap and 15 players presumably coming in the summer in the class of 2012, that means five more players still have to go. Where will those five players come from?

There are a few possibilities -- let's run through some of them.

-- Three former walk-ons who earned scholarships could have them revoked: offensive lineman Abe Markowitz, linebacker Will Andrew and safety Tony Burnett.

-- Bowman may not finish his junior-college requirements in time to enroll for the spring. That would push him back to the summer and lower USC's total.

-- One or two or a few players could still transfer. Prime candidates would appear to be those locked in at their spots behind younger players.

Those are three primary ways USC could get down to the maximum. Other more-creative, less-likely options are the oft-thrown-around ideas that (1) certain players could give up their scholarships for a year or (2) players who participate in other sports could get supported on scholarships from those sports.

But neither makes much sense -- firstly, it's not just the cost of attendance that a scholarship covers, it also provides the chance to eat in the athletic cafeteria and other similar privileges. And, secondly, there aren't too many football players still playing other sports. There are a few Track & Field athletes, but scholarships are at a premium there too.

Of course, USC could also grey-shirt a signee or two who doesn't qualify and have him come in next January, by which time more current players could transfer. There are ways around it.

16 players miss practice with injuries

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
7:45
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Injuries started to mount Wednesday, but Thursday they just took control.

It was the biggest story of the Trojans' practice on Howard Jones Field. It took coach Lane Kiffin 40 seconds in meeting with the media afterward just to list all the various ailments and injuries and then another couple of minutes to detail some of them.

In total, 16 scholarship players sat out practice Thursday because of injuries -- of which four were new injuries or things that hadn't yet caused the players to miss practice this fall.

"We're seeing the price that you pay for doing what we're doing," Kiffin said. "And it's a decision we made to go this direction, to tackle and have physical practices the way that we are, because we think it's too critical to prepare our guys for game-like situations.

"And so this is the downside to it."

The list of 16 players: defensive tackles J.R. Tavai (hamstring) and Christian Tupou (knee), cornerbacks Brian Baucham (hamstring), Tony Burnett (ankle), Torin Harris (concussion) and Patrick Hall (knee), safeties Demetrius Wright (hip), T.J. McDonald (ankle) and Jawanza Starling (undisclosed), linebacker Chris Galippo (shoulder) and Dion Bailey (foot), offensive guard Giovanni Di Poalo (shoulder), center Cody Temple (back), quarterback Jesse Scroggins (thumb), tight end Christian Thomas (hip) and receiver Robert Woods (ankle).

The most serious of those is Scroggins', with his injured right thumb requiring surgery that will sideline him for an unidentified amount of time. We'll go over the implications to the rest of the injuries Friday.

With 79 scholarship players in camp for the Trojans, that means more than 20 percent of the team was out of commission Thursday. And that's not counting running back Marc Tyler, who's suspended.

Fall camp practice No. 1 tidbits + video

August, 5, 2011
8/05/11
1:11
PM PT


Three main stories out of the first day of fall camp Thursday: Defensive end Armond Armstead expects to be cleared by the season opener, running back Dillon Baxter is bigger, stronger and faster than ever before and quarterback Matt Barkley has a new roommate keeping him up at night in camp. Here's the rest of what went on at Howard Jones Field:

A cheery Kiffin

Now that was rare.

USC coach Lane Kiffin was positively delighted throughout his seven minutes with reporters at the conclusion of Thursday's fall camp opener, taking the time to credit his players and members of his support staff for their offseason dedication. He was clearly enthused about the way his team began practice, and, for Kiffin, that actually means something.

He's not always happy about his squad. But he had good reason to be Thursday, as the Trojans looked sharp all-around, especially considering there's still a month and 28 practices to go until the season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 3. There were no pads, which is a valid reason to hold most judgment, but there were still hits here and there. For a first day, it was close to as good as it gets.

"We look different than we did a year ago," Kiffin said after practice. "Even than we did in the spring. We look bigger, we look faster, we look stronger. I know it's Day 1, but I love where they're at, physically and mentally.

"Now we've got to put all this talent and all this hard work they've done and put the pieces into place."

To help put those pieces together, Kiffin had a simple message stenciled in white paint just inside the doors on USC's Howard Jones Field: "No distractions."

Waiting on a select few

Two freshmen are still home finishing up summer-school classes at their high schools, Kiffin said: tight end Junior Pomee and running back Javorious 'Buck' Allen.

Pomee's in nearby Moreno Valley; Allen is in Tallahassee. USC hopes both players will be in Los Angeles as soon as this weekend.

Other players the Trojans are waiting on include sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles and redshirt junior running back Curtis McNeal. Ambles, who had one catch as a freshman in 2010, is being held out of practice by USC's coaching staff for the final days of summer school while he focuses on maintaining his eligibility.

McNeal is practicing but has not yet received official word on his eligibility for the upcoming season. He missed 2010 while academically ineligible.

Highlights

The best-looking play of the day went to senior linebacker Chris Galippo, who smartly tipped a Matt Barkley pass into the hands of Shane Horton for a pick six the other way. Kiffin praised Galippo after practice for being alert on the play. The reason he was able to make the tough play, Kiffin implied, was that he knew exactly which play was coming once the offense lined up in a specific trips set, as they had only installed one in practice preparation.

Still, other players didn't pick up on it like Galippo did, Kiffin said.

The other top defensive play was made by safety Drew McAllister, who came up out of nowhere to snare a Max Wittek pass near the end of practice.

Offensively, sophomore De'Von Flournoy caught two deep passes from Barkley on the day, including one that included a tough adjustment over his back shoulder to grab the ball. Second-year receivers Robert Woods and Kyle Prater also caught pretty deep balls from Barkley.

Freshman running back Amir Carlisle fumbled three times but broke off several long runs and earned thoughtful praise from Kiffin.

Injury news

Aside from those injured in the offseason, defensive back Patrick Hall (knee) and defensive end DeVante Wilson (knee), the only player who was held out of practice Friday was freshman center Cody Temple (back).

But eight players missed time throughout the three-hour practice because of cramping, including Prater and defensive end Nick Perry. Perry missed the conditioning drills at the end of practice because of foot cramps.

Final notes

The first-string offensive line layout Thursday went like this, left to right: Matt Kalil, Jeremy Galten, Khaled Holmes, John Martinez, Kevin Graf. At other contentious spots, Dion Bailey led off as one outside linebacker and Demetrius Wright started opposite T.J. McDonald at strong safety... After the second no-pads day Friday, a 5:15 p.m. practice, USC will put on shoulder pads for Saturday and Sunday's practices and then move into full pads beginning Monday, per NCAA policy...In a statement, USC vice president of athletic compliance David Roberts praised a bill passed this week by California governor Jerry Brown that is expected to punish agents who victimize student-athletes in the state.

Questions for camp, No. 8: Joining Robey?

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
2:14
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Only three days remain until fall camp begins for the Trojans on Thursday, Aug. 4. We've been previewing the biggest questions that USC hopes to answer in the monthlong period between camp and the season opener in a series since last week. Read the first seventh questions-and-answers here.

The eighth is this: with sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey expected to start -- and shine -- in 2011, who will be the second cornerback for the Trojans?

The three players with a real chance to win the job: juco transfer Isiah Wiley, track-jumper-turned-football-player Tony Burnett and redshirt sophomore Torin Harris.

Wiley, who was originally headed to Alabama out of high school before failing to qualify, has the size and speed to start right away. The issue with him will be picking up Monte Kiffin's Cover-2 defense, although he's been scouted as a good tackler. Remember that one of the main reasons cited by the Kiffin's for last year's defensive struggles -- especially in the secondary -- were players taking time to pick up the schemes and new things they were being asked to do.

That'll essentially be repeated with Wiley, who didn't get a chance to enroll at USC in January, as the coaching staff had originally planned. If he had, he'd probably be the natural favorite. Of all the players there for the spring and competing for the spot, Burnett played the best, earning intermittent praise from Lane Kiffin and a number of his teammates.

He has no game experience at corner, having spent the 2010 season at safety. But his instincts are good, and so is his size, at 6-1 and close to 200 pounds. He would be a good contrast to Robey in that regard, allowing USC to suit up one small corner and one big one.

Harris is a natural ballhawk who has struggled both with injuries and consistency. He missed spring practice while recovering from a shoulder injury. The best play he's made as a Trojan provides a good example of what Harris offers: he made the game-winning two-point conversion return in a 34-33 win over Arizona State in November but picked up a penalty when he dove into the end zone, giving the Sun Devils an easy kickoff from the 45-yard line on the ensuing play.

Kiffin made it known he wasn't at all pleased with that.

Other darkhorse candidates to win the job include senior T.J. Bryant, redshirt freshman Anthony Brown and redshirt junior Brian Baucham. Patrick Hall, a redshirt freshman, would have been placed on that list had he not torn his ACL in an unofficial throwing session in June.

Remember, though, that when deciding on the second corner the coaches will also be determining -- or beginning to determine, at least -- the third and fourth corners. With h0w much Pac-12 teams will be throwing against the Trojans this season, the defense will more often than not be set up in a three-corner set.

For that reason, it's almost a guarantee that Burnett will be seeing the field regularly in some spot, as he's the biggest and best tackler of the bunch.

That's it for today. Tuesday we question how much the Trojans learned from 2010, specifically in regards to self-motivation without the possibility of a bowl game.

Football: Patrick Hall out for the year

June, 16, 2011
6/16/11
5:41
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LOS ANGELES -- USC defensive back Patrick Hall will undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee later this month, he confirmed Thursday.

Hall, a redshirt freshman, suffered the injury on a fluke fall after an interception on the final play of a players-only summer throwing session two weeks ago. He immediately sensed he had torn the ligament, went to a doctor to validate his suspicions, then visited a university doctor Thursday to confirm the results of an earlier MRI exam and scheduled the surgery for June 30.

"I knew it was the ACL because of the swelling," Hall said Thursday. "I was hopeful it was just a tweak, but I knew it was the ACL."

He will miss the entire 2011 season.

Read the full story here.

Spring depth chart: Linebackers and defensive backs

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
8:35
AM PT

Chris Morrison/US Presswire
Chris Galippo could end up starting at any of three positions on the linebacking corps.

There are two Mondays left until spring practice officially kicks off for USC on March 22. On each of those Mondays, we'll preview one-sixth of the Trojans' depth chart and eye potential risers and fallers during the monthlong springtime. We began four weeks ago with quarterbacks and running backs and continued three weeks ago with receivers and tight ends, two weeks ago with offensive linemen and last week with defensive linemen. This week, we look at both linebackers and defensive backs as we begin to close up shop, keeping in mind that all freshman who can't practice until the fall are automatically at the bottom of the depth chart:

Strongside linebacker

1. Chris Galippo, redshirt senior
2. Ross Cumming, senior
3. Lamar Dawson, freshman (won't enroll until fall)
4. Charles Burks, freshman (won't enroll until fall)

Galippo could, honest to goodness, end up starting at any of three positions on the linebacking corps -- or all three, too. But the strongside is probably the most likely place he'll start off at at, simply because he's better built for the position than any of the Trojans' other linebacking options aside from Devon Kennard.

Cumming's a very valuable backup and perhaps the best special-teams player on the roster. Burks is a sure bet to redshirt; Dawson is not at all and could very well end up playing significant snaps in 2011 as a first-year freshman.

Middle linebacker

1. Devon Kennard, junior
2. Dallas Kelley, junior
3. Will Andrew, redshirt sophomore
4. Anthony Sarao, freshman (won't enroll until fall)

Kennard playing middle linebacker in 2010 wasn't exactly the hit the Trojans' coaching staff envisioned it being, but it makes a lot of sense at this point to stick with it and allow one of the team's smartest players to mentally adjust to playing one position and one position only.

This is not a done deal, though. He could play strongside too, and he could also drop down and play some defensive end at times. Neither of those would surprise me. Kelley, although undersized, was a nice get as a junior college player because of his physical development. Unlike Sarao and even Andrew, a walk-on, Kelley could presumably hold his own in a pinch in a game in the fall.

Weakside linebacker

1. Shane Horton, redshirt senior
2. Marquis Simmons, redshirt sophomore
3. Hayes Pullard, redshirt freshman
4. Tre Madden, freshman (won't enroll until fall)

Horton's one of the least-talked about seniors on this roster, a guy who Lane Kiffin openly -- and memorably -- called out for poor play in 2009 but went on to earn significant praise over the course of the year as a spot starter and valuable reserve. He won't be a world-beater if he ends up starting, but he screams serviceable piece who makes a lot of a sense as a stop-gap measure while Madden and Dawson ready for prime time.

Simmons and Pullard are both very inexperienced; Madden could redshirt but is not a guarantee.

Left cornerback

1. Nickell Robey, sophomore
2. T.J. Bryant, redshirt junior
3. Patrick Hall, redshirt freshman
4. Ryan Henderson, freshman (won't enroll until fall)

Robey's a surefire starter, an undersized player who took a chance the coaches gave him in fall camp last year and ran with it all the way to December, starting every one of the Trojans' 13 games and performing fairly well overall. He had his bad moments and bad games, but Robey showed shades of early ballhawk-ness and consistently impressed as a tackler.

Bryant had a disappointing year and is nearing full-on bust status in Troy. He needs a big-time season in 2011, probably as either a nickel or dime back, to save himself in the coaches' eyes. Hall has a lot of work to do to get to a point where he could see legitimate defensive snaps.

Henderson will likely redshirt.

Strong safety

1. Drew McAllister, redshirt junior
2. Jawanza Starling, junior
3. Dion Bailey, redshirt freshman

McAllister missed all of last season with a hip injury and was able to redshirt the year after he underwent surgery in October. He was one of the players who seemed forgotten in some circles last year but was really a sorely missed piece on the Trojans' defensive unit. He is, for all intents and purposes, their best playmaking defensive back, and it'll be interesting to see if he retains that specific skill after his return from injury.

Starling started until the Oregon game before losing his spot to Marshall Jones, but he could still play an important role this season. His main issue last year involved mistaken routes to tackle ballcarriers, and it troubled him often in most of USC's games. Fix that, and he could easily start.

Bailey's interesting, as he is also playing some strongside linebacker in winter workouts and sounds set on finding his way into the lineup this season at that spot, not on safety. But he's still small for the linebacker spot, and he's probably a better fit at safety in the long term.

Free safety

1. T.J. McDonald, junior
2. Marshall Jones, redshirt senior
3. Demetrius Wright, redshirt freshman
4. Tony Burnett, junior

McDonald is probably the best player on the entire defensive unit, a junior to-be who will enter the season as a top underclassman. He has everything NFL scouts like to see in a young player, including the smarts for the position, and he still retains some ability to grow into his lanky frame. He'll be the cornerstone of the defensive backfield.

Jones is another solid backup but also a guy who will be jonesing for starting snaps. He didn't do badly in his opportunities last year, but, with McAllister back in the fold, there isn't really an obvious spot for him to play in 2011.

Same for Wright and Burnett, two players who looked good in their limited opportunities last season -- Wright in practice and Burnett in the Notre Dame and UCLA games.

Right cornerback

1. Torin Harris, redshirt sophomore
2. Brian Baucham, redshirt junior
3. Anthony Brown, redshirt freshman
4. Isiah Wiley, junior (won't enroll until fall)

This is probably the most unsettled spot on the defense, with Harris maybe the leading candidate to start on opening day but also a leading candidate to frustrate Kiffin and the coaches again and again with his inconsistent play.

Baucham has yet to put it all together in what will now be his fourth year at USC, but he has the size and athletic ability to start -- as does Brown, who has impressed in winter workouts but is still very inexperienced. Wiley will come in as a junior but will assuredly be hurt by the fact that he wasn't able to qualify for spring enrollment.

Any of these four guys could end up starting come September.

That's it for today. We'll be back next week, just one day before the official start of spring practice, for a quick, concluding look at the special-teams units.

Winter workouts: Markeith Ambles, Dion Bailey talk changes

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
9:17
PM PT
Most every Monday and Wednesday afternoon during the spring semester before spring practice officially starts in mid-March, a number of Trojans gather voluntarily on Howard Jones Field for informal throwing sessions, largely featuring skill position players, linebackers and defensive backs. Occasionally, linemen will show up after a conditioning session and work out on the sidelines while watching their teammates, but it's typically a lot of 7-on-7 and not much else.

Wednesday, Gardena Serra receivers George Farmer and Marqise Lee made an appearance, with Farmer impressing his soon-to-be teammates with a number of impressive plays on passes from Jesse Scroggins and walk-on quarterback John Manoogian. Matched up frequently against defensive backs Patrick Hall and Anthony Brown -- redshirt freshman, both -- Farmer looked more skilled and polished than both of them.

Farmer, Lee and the rest of the incoming freshmen -- early enrollee quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek included -- are not allowed to speak to the media until fall camp, per USC policy, but we caught up with two players who have wholesale changes to make in their games from their first football seasons last fall in sophomore receiver Markeith Ambles and redshirt freshman safety/linebacker Dion Bailey.

Ambles left the team in November after issues with USC coach Lane Kiffin at various points during the season, but he says all is good once again as he continues to take classes and prepare for spring practice, where he will have a sincere opportunity to make his case to start across from Robert Woods at receiver with Kyle Prater out for at least the start of spring practice.

See what Ambles had to say after Wednesday's hour-plus winter workout:



***

Bailey, one of the nation's highest-rated defensive backs out of Lakewood High in 2010, redshirted as a safety last season despite a solid fall camp performance. Now, the 18-year-old is trying his hand out at the strongside linebacker spot in workouts after USC's coaches approached him about making the switch for the spring.

The terms of the switch are interesting. Bailey, at 6-1 and just 195 pounds, wouldn't be a full-time linebacker, just an intriguing option in the nickel defense and against spread-oriented offenses as a way to bridge the gap between linebacker and defensive back. Bailey would also keep practicing at safety when possible. He sounded pretty excited about the move after Wednesday's workout -- see what he had to say:

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
10:11
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • USC coach Lane Kiffin said after another spirited session from his team that this weekend's impending battle with Oregon is not just another game for the Trojans. But he also said it wasn't their version of a bowl game, something quarterback Matt Barkley had said Tuesday -- more like somewhere in between. "It's a big game," Kiffin said. "Fortunately for us, it’s the No. 1 team in the country coming in here. We better play extremely well in all three phases of the game to have a chance.”
  • The injury report, shorter this time around: Defensive end Nick Perry (ankle), guard John Martinez (foot) and right tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) did not practice. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee) and running back C.J. Gable (knee) were limited. Perry was not at practice; Kiffin would not specify where he was other than to say that it was injury-related. Smith and Martinez spent the duration of practice on the west sideline sitting on the trainer's table. Smith and Gable both returned after missing more than a week of practice.
  • Running back Dillon Baxter had been off the field for more than two weeks since spraining his toes against Stanford, but he returned Wednesday and looked "fine," as Kiffin put it, in getting his normal amount of carries. Baxter said he was felt "90 percent" recovered. He had said last week that he would definitely return Tuesday but said Wednesday that the extra day was very beneficial.

(Read full post)

Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
8:27
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • News items coming from the practice field: defensive back Patrick Hall has been reinstated to the team after being suspended indefinitely last month, and junior safety Drew McAllister will "most likely" have surgery on an injured hip and miss the rest of the season, coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday.
  • The McAllister news, accordingly, means that freshman safety Demetrius Wright will not redshirt this season and will instead serve as the fourth safety, working with Marshall Jones to back up Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald.
  • More injuries: defensive end Armond Armstead (shoulder) was limited in practice, as were tight end Xavier Grimble (ankle) and linebacker Michael Morgan. Grimble participated in practice for the first time in several weeks; Armstead's injury is the same as last week's -- a shoulder AC sprain -- and the coaching staff appears to be taking it easy with him during the week.
  • As for the tailback spot, it appears Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford are still in competition to start against Washington State on Saturday, although both associate head coach John Baxter and offensive coordinator/running backs coach Kennedy Pola referred to Tyler as the starter on Tuesday. The two split carries as the first-team runner in practice, while freshman Dillon Baxter continued to take his typical dose of snaps as the change-of-pace back. "They're all getting better," Pola said of his stable of backs. "We have a lot of improvement to do."
  • Freshman cornerback Nickell Robey may also be in danger of losing his starting spot after he was called for two penalties against Minnesota and appeared at times overmatched against tallest receivers. Possible candidates to take over that spot include Torin Harris, Brian Baucham and T.J. Bryant. "Right now, there's probably about to be some changes," Robey said Tuesday. "I don't ever know, I gotta let the coaches make the decisions, so I just practice every day."
  • Over the weekend, Kiffin looked into the possibility of redshirting freshman receiver Markeith Ambles, who played three snaps in the season opener against Hawaii. After determining that doing so was impossible, Ambles will now be available, beginning this week against the Cougars and continuing for the rest of the year. Ambles' case also appears to firm up the redshirt/non-redshirt decisions that had to be made with the entire freshman class, giving USC six freshmen who will not redshirt this season: receivers Robert Woods and Ambles, defensive backs Robey and Wright, defensive end Christian Thomas and Baxter. Among the 10 players that appear set to sit out of the rest of the season's 10 games: defensive tackle George Uko, receiver Kyle Prater and offensive lineman Giovanni Di Poalo -- plus sophomore De'Von Flournoy and now McAllister, a junior.
  • On-field highlights: quarterback Matt Barkley was twice forced to run a lap around Howard Jones Field after being intercepted. The first time, he threw a slow-paced over the middle that almost appeared targeted for Wright, who took it back a good 20 or 30 yards before being touched down. On the second play, Barkley threw to the left sideline for receiver David Ausberry, only to see Ausberry tip the ball right into the hands of cornerback Shareece Wright. Robey attributed this recent surge in defensive turnovers to improved play from the defensive backs as a whole -- and not to any decrease in play from Barkley, although his two picks against Minnesota would seem to indicate otherwise. "We're getting casual with the ball," Kiffin said Tuesday. "It was frustrating today. Sometimes they're gonna happen -- the ball's gonna get tipped or the guy's gonna miss a protection -- but when you force a ball, like the one out here today towards the end, there's no excuse for that."
  • Final notes: The Trojans will stay in Los Angeles until Friday this week before traveling up to Washington, meaning that practices will be at 4 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday. ...Kickers Joe Houston and Jacob Harfman will continue to each wear No. 10, Baxter said Tuesday, in an effort to open up more numbers for special-teams players to wear. Asked why Kiffin said after the game Saturday that it was a strategical move, Baxter indicated that was because he wanted to have all of its players available on each of the units and added that Kiffin didn't care enough about the kicking game to spend his time strategizing there.

***

Kiffin addressed the media after Tuesday's practice, talking over injuries, the start of conference play and other topics.

See what the coach had to say:



***

Pola talked about each of his running backs on Tuesday, including his view on Baxter's progress so far, what the coaching staff would need to see from a back to make them the starter, and more.

See what he said:

Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice as the Trojans get into game week mode with the Virginia contest quickly approaching:
  • Lane Kiffin is liking what he's seeing so far this week when it comes to energy from his players during practice. Kiffin said Wednesday that he has noticed . "I think you kind of feel a sense of excitement amongst the players," he said. "As this home opener gets closer, the excitement of playing in front of our families, our crowd, our people -- especially after this offseason -- is very exciting for them, and I think you can feel that as you get closer to the game and the week goes on."
  • That positivity also spreads to the defense, where Kiffin seems certain an improvement will be made against Virginia. The no-tackling mentality has not changed in practices this week, but the on-field product will be better, he believes -- and not just in terms of tackling. "I think you're going to see a very different game here," Kiffin said. "And hopefully a much-improved game from them and from our defense. Let me phrase it this way: I will be shocked if we don't play extremely well on Saturday night on defense."
  • Players from all three areas of the defense have agreed with that sentiment over the last two days. "We definitely have a chip on our shoulders," middle linebacker Devon Kennard said when asked if the defensive unit had something extra to prove at the Coliseum. "There were points where we played really good and points where we need to improve. We're just concentrating on that, looking at the positive and making sure we fix the negative."
  • Injury update: linebacker Simione Vehikite and tight end Xavier Grimble were out, cornerbacks Brian Baucham and Nickell Robey were both listed as "limited," with undisclosed injuries. Defensive end Nick Perry was also described as limited, although he appeared to participate in most of practice.
  • In the stead of Baucham and Robey, junior T.J. Bryant took a lot of snaps at cornerback across from Shareece Wright and appeared solid. Bryant, of course, is in just his second day of practice with the team after missing all of fall camp following an altercation with Stanley Havili. But Kiffin indicated Wednesday that Bryant could very well play against Virginia -- possibly in nickel or dime situations.
  • Associate head coach/special teams coordinator John Baxter's units had a bit of an up-and-down week against Hawaii. The effervescent coach addressed the go-for-two concerns, some kick-coverage struggles and Ronald Johnson's muffed punt with a simple question: "Is every decision we make gonna ultimately be the right one? No. But every decision we make is gonna be full speed."
  • Final notes: Wednesday was quarterback Matt Barkley's 20th birthday. Asked if he had any surprises planned for his sophomore quarterback or if he'd done something earlier in the day, Kiffin said the Trojans would have to win more games before he would begin celebrating birthdays. ...The Trojans practice again Thursday at 4 p.m., their last before the Virginia game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. ...Defensive back Patrick Hall, suspended indefinitely last week for an unspecified violation, continues to attend classes and academic tutoring sessions at USC, Kiffin said. Hall has also met with the coach to discuss his future, although no timetable for his possible return has yet been concocted.

***

Kiffin spoke to the media following Wednesday's practice. Hear what he had to say:



***

Perry, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice nearly a month ago and was out entirely until last week, refrained from saying he has recovered 100 percent but seemed confident that he would suit up against the Cavaliers.

Actually, he did suit up for the Hawaii game and participated in pre-game workouts with his teammates on the Aloha Stadium field, only to stay on the sidelines during the game. He said Wednesday that he felt about 50 percent ready at the time.

This week, the USC coaching staff is making some changes on the defensive line to better accomodate Perry, moving junior Armond Armstead from end to tackle and sliding Jurrell Casey from under tackle to nose tackle. We'll have more on those switches tomorrow.

See what Perry had to say about his injury, the defensive line's quest for redemption against the Cavaliers and more:

Monday practice report: Breakdown

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
10:13
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Monday's practice:
  • Kiffin announced the Trojans' picks for captains: on offense, quarterback Matt Barkley and fullback Stanley Havili. On defense: cornerback Shareece Wright and linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan. Morgan and Smith came in at an exact tie with votes, necessitating a fifth captain. Barkley, a sophomore, is the only non-senior of the group. We'll have more on the captain situation Tuesday, including Havili's rise from suspension to captainship in a matter of weeks and Barkley's impressive candidacy at just 19 years old.
  • In what qualifies as more than a mild surprise, freshman receiver Kyle Prater will likely redshirt the 2010 season, Kiffin said Monday. Prater, an impressive physical specimen at 6 feet 5, 215 pounds, was the only one of USC's three frosh receivers to enroll early and participate in spring practice -- but a number of lingering injuries (thumb, hamstring, thigh) meant that he never reached full strength for a significant period of time. Kiffin indicated he had consulted Prater's family on the issue and determined that both player and team will be better served by a return in 2011. “We feel he is going to be so good when he is [healthy] that we don’t want to throw him out there when he is not 100 percent," Kiffin said. "We’re fortunate to have enough guys where hopefully we can do that and he can get healthy and stronger and look to a great career here starting next year."
  • Freshman defensive back Patrick Hall, who was suspended indefinitely on Saturday for an unspecified violation, continues to attend classes at USC. Hall has yet to fully recover from a severe knee injury suffered in August 2009 and has never participated in a full practice with the Trojans. In the meantime, Kiffin reiterated his belief that the Trojans are the best football program in America and indicated that Hall needs to realize that, saying that the coaching staff is "still trying to work with him and get him on the same page as the rest of our team."
  • Backup center Abe Markowitz broke his foot in practice Sunday and will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Kiffin said after practice. The redshirt sophomore, who earned a scholarship earlier this month, is expected to miss six to seven weeks. As for the rest of the injuries: offensive lineman Michael Reardon was "full," defensive end Nick Perry, cornerback T.J. Bryant, safety Drew McAllister, right guard Khaled Holmes, quarterback Mitch Mustain and running back D.J. Morgan were "limited" and tight end Xavier Grimble was out.
  • Kiffin, on his potential changes to the team traditions -- especially on Saturdays -- that gained popularity under former coach Pete Carroll: "There's a million ways to do things. It's going to be a little bit tighter. That doesn't mean its better by any means. The old way won 34 straight games and seven straight conference championships. But you have to be yourself and you have to let your own personality on your team. We'll be a little tighter with them and not quite as loose."
  • Final notes: The Trojans will practice at 2 p.m. on Tuesday before departing for Hawaii at 7 p.m. ... Kiffin said Holmes would be the emergency backup center if Reardon were to be unavailable for the Hawaii game. Of course, Holmes is not yet a certainty to start that game himself.

***

Kiffin met with the media after practice and talked about his biggest question marks in advance of the season opener at Hawaii. He also addressed the injury situation on the offensive line, where only four of the Trojans' 12 scholarship players have spent the offseason injury-free.

Hear what else Kiffin had to say on Monday:

Sunday practice report: Breakdown

August, 29, 2010
8/29/10
4:13
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Sunday's practice:
  • A fairly light practice was also a fairly good one for the Trojans on Sunday, as the energy that seemingly had been lacking earlier in the week was palpable on Howard Jones Field. Coach Lane Kiffin indicated it was largely because of the closeness of the season opener -- only four days away -- and said he was particularly impressed because the squad had just completed what he termed a "heavy lift" before heading out to the field in shorts and completing a solid practice. "I think they're really turning towards the game, getting their minds right," Kiffin said.
  • Freshman defensive back Patrick Hall has been suspended indefinitely from the Trojans for unspecified reasons. Said Kiffin of the situation: "We have a team of 99 percent of the guys right now that are fully committed to being a championship student-athlete on the field and off the field,” Kiffin said. “We didn’t feel like Patrick was doing that."
  • Redshirt sophomore receiver Brice Butler was the standout player on the day, pulling down three touchdown catches with another scoring catch called back because of a questionable offensive pass interference call. Said Kiffin of Butler: "He had a great day. By far the best day since I've been here -- easily. He was all over the place making big-time catches." Kiffin went on to compare Butler's situation to running back Allen Bradford's, in that both players were expected to start at their positions at the beginning of fall camp and lost out to surprise candidates but have responded well to the inherent challenge in losing their starting spot.
  • Injury update: left guard Butch Lewis was again the only player characterized as "full" in Kiffin's new injury report system. A host of players were termed "limited," those being right guard Khaled Holmes, defensive end Nick Perry, cornerback T.J. Bryant, safety Drew McAllister, quarterback Mitch Mustain, and running back D.J. Morgan. Out were linebackers Hayes Pullard and Marquis Simmons, tight end Xavier Grimble and -- in a surprise -- offensive guard Michael Reardon. Reardon's injury was not disclosed, but he was considered the probable starter if Holmes (neck) is unable to start against Hawaii.
  • Kiffin, on whether he will have his father (and assistant head coach) Monte Kiffin observe games and call plays from the press box or the field: "We're still looking at that. We've had some conversations about the differences. You come down in the NFL because the press box is of basically no value because you have the pictures of the sidelines. Here you don't. He actually went up in preseason game four to experiment with it, so we'll decide here shortly."
  • Final notes: The Trojans will practice twice more before leaving for Hawaii -- Monday at 4 p.m. (in what probably will be their last Monday practice of the 2010 season) and Tuesday at 2 p.m. ... Kiffin said the Trojans voted on team captains during a Sunday morning team meeting. The selections have not been finalized yet, he said, and will be announced tonight or Monday. ... Music played during certain sessions of practice on Howard Jones Field featured an unusual addition Sunday: crosstown rival UCLA's fight song.

***

Kiffin addressed the media following Sunday's practice, giving his new, streamlined injury updates, talking on the Hall situation, and praising his players for an energetic practice performance.

Hear what the coach had to say:



***

Left tackle Matt Kalil missed the first five practices of fall camp because of a lingering hamstring injury suffered during summer throwing sessions. Since his return, he has been a rock as a bookend blocker for quarterback Matt Barkley.

Kalil talked after Sunday's practice about the offensive line as a whole and also shed some light on the running back situation behind him, with Marc Tyler beating out Bradford and co. to start against Hawaii.

Hear what the redshirt sophomore had to say Sunday:

Saturday practice report: Breakdown

August, 28, 2010
8/28/10
7:09
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Saturday's morning practice:
  • USC coach Lane Kiffin has instituted a new policy for reporting injuries. Only three descriptions will be provided for each injured player -- full, limited, or out -- and there will be no expanding on the extent of the injury from player or coach. It went into effect Saturday.
  • Left guard Butch Lewis was the only player characterized as "full" -- Kiffin expects him to start Thursday's season opener against Hawaii. Safety Drew McAllister was "limited," as were right guard Khaled Holmes, defensive end Nick Perry, quarterback Mitch Mustain, cornerback T.J. Bryant, defensive back Patrick Hall, and freshman running back D.J. Morgan. Freshman tight end Xavier Grimble was out, as were linebackers Marquis Simmons and Hayes Pullard. Kiffin indicated that both Pullard (knee) and Simmons (appendectomy) could return to the field within five or so weeks.
  • Freshman safety Demetrius Wright was cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center late Friday, per Kiffin, and returned to the practice field Saturday. Quarterback Jesse Scroggins -- the other player sent home by the NCAA -- was cleared Thursday and is listed as the third-string quarterback for the Hawaii game.
  • On-field highlight: Robert Woods, who has struggled some since Kiffin declared him the leader to start at split end a week or so ago, had a very solid practice. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder pulled in about a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley in the back end of the end zone and made it look fairly easy.
  • Woods beat out Brice Butler -- among others -- to start opposite Ronald Johnson in a race Kiffin described Saturday as close. The coach similarly described the battle at middle linebacker, where true sophomore Devon Kennard beat out redshirt junior Chris Galippo to be the quarterback of the defense.
  • Galippo will be the primary backup at all three linebacker spots, Kiffin said Saturday, and will also play on special teams. "It's not like Chris isn't gonna play or anything," senior Michael Morgan, the starter at strongside linebacker, said Saturday. "Chris is a smart guy. He understands the scheme, our defense. He can do 'em all." Morgan added that Galippo was down upon first learning the news but soon realized that he will stilll be counted on to play and contribute in multiple spots on the field.
  • There are five days until the first game, making Saturday akin to a typical Monday during the season. Barkley said it felt like game week: "It definitely does. With what we're practicing, the plays we're doing, and the meetings we're having, it definitely feels like game week. I like it -- I love it. You can definitely tell that a game's coming up."
  • Final notes: The Trojans practice Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and Monday at 4 p.m. They'll then practice at 2 p.m. on Tuesday before departing for Hawaii later that evening. ...One surprise on the depth chart released Friday evening: walk-on quarterback John Manoogian -- just 6-foot and 205 pounds, will be the backup to scholarship long snapper Chris Pousson.

***

Kiffin spoke to the media after Saturday's practice and gave his new briefing on the injury situation. The coach also addressed the process for making decisions for the position battles and a variety of other topics.

Hear what he had to say:

Marc Tyler will start at running back for the Trojans against Hawaii, a remarkable climb for the redshirt junior who opened up fall camp earlier this month as the back with the fewest practice reps -- far behind projected starter Allen Bradford. The always candid Tyler spoke at length Saturday about his thought process upon learning his status with the team at the start of fall, how he felt , and what he thinks he needs to do from here on out:

Hear what Tyler had to say:

Monday evening practice report

August, 17, 2010
8/17/10
12:33
AM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Monday's under-the-lights practice:
  • The light two-a-days format Lane Kiffin is using so far in fall camp is having its intended purpose, as the Trojans have largely stayed away from injuries over the last several days. Kiffin had no major ailments to report during his post-practice meeting with the media, although sophomore linebacker Devon Kennard was limited in practice with a minor toe injury.
  • Two injured players -- safety Marshall Jones and receiver De'Von Flournoy -- returned to the practice field Monday, looking fully recovered. Jones (groin) made his return in dramatic fashion, intercepting a pass from Mitch Mustain and taking it back the other way for a touchdown. Flournoy made a couple quality catches in scrimmage drills.
  • Offensive guard Butch Lewis is still nursing an strained groin muscle, despite his stated expectations of returning to practice Monday. Kiffin said the staff expects him to be out for another week. As for defensive end Nick Perry (high-ankle sprain), Kiffin expects him to be out another two-plus weeks, putting him right on track to suit up for the season opener at Hawaii on Sept. 2.
  • Freshman defensive back Patrick Hall, who tore his ACL in his lone practice with the Trojans in 2009 and didn't enroll until the spring, has not fully recovered from the injury, Kiffin said: "His rehab has not gone as well as hoped. He's not there yet." Hall may play either cornerback or safety, and Kiffin also has not ruled out running back as a potential landing spot for him.
  • Kiffin, joking about how much time he and his staff spend worrying about their depth issues across the field: "Not much, because we don't have any. There's nothing to talk about." He went on to say, positively, that the Trojans actually "are getting some guys back."
  • Final notes: Tuesday's practice will again be under the lights. It's scheduled for 6 p.m...Kiffin said he hopes to make a decision on who will start at middle linebacker between Chris Galippo and Kennard after the third "preseason game" of the fall. With that scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, expect a possible announcement Monday or Tuesday.

***

Kiffin's mood has appeared to improve as the injuries have subsided. Monday evening, he even cracked a joke or two in response to reporters' questions. Hear everything Kiffin had to say in his post-practice media briefing:



***

Linebacker Shane Horton has provided valuable depth for the Trojans throughout fall camp as a weakside linebacker with starting experience. A redshirt junior, Horton switched positions from safety in fall camp a year ago. With that in mind, he provides an interesting perspective on Kennard's switch from defensive end to linebacker.

Horton is also being counted on as a leader for some of the younger linebackers. Hear everything he had to say in a video taken after Monday's practice, including his response to Kiffin's comment that the Trojans are trying to turn the linebackers from a weakness into a strength:

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