USC: Reggie Bush

USC's political imprisonment ends Tuesday

June, 9, 2014
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USC officially will be done with NCAA sanctions on Tuesday, so the Los Angeles Times published a package this weekend looking back and projecting forward, talking to -- or getting turned down for interviews by -- some of the key players in the most egregious miscarriage of justice in the history of NCAA enforcement.

It's not inaccurate to say the NCAA's indefensible and farcical ruling against USC football is a notable part of the organization humiliating and entirely justified downward momentum over the past four or so years, both in terms of public perception and in the courtroom, as well as the movement for autonomy among the Big Five conferences.

The NCAA is incapable of fairly and consistently policing its member organizations. That's as good a reason as any to diminish its power.

From the Times:
As many of you know, I've ranted and raved about the USC case numerous times through the years -- such as this and this and this. While some have implied that the source of my strong feelings on the matter emerges from some sort of USC/Pac-12 bias, that's simply inaccurate. It's always been about facts and fairness. Truth is, it's been a pretty easy argument to win -- over and over again.

That said: This feels like a great week for the Pac-12 blog. I am weary of the whole mess. Too often it disturbed my typical Zen-like equilibrium.

USC has spent the last four years getting justifiably mad. The Trojans best course going forward is to get even.

Pac-12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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We're looking back at the BCS era, which lasted from 1998 to 2013, so it made sense to make an all-Pac-12 BCS-era team.

Here's our shot at it. You surely will be outraged over the player from your team who got left out.

With our evaluation, NFL careers came into play with only the offensive linemen because they are so difficult to compare.

Offense

[+] EnlargeMatt Leinart
Jeff Lewis/USA TODAY SportsFormer USC QB Matt Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, threw 99 career TD passes.
QB Matt Leinart, USC: Nearly won three national titles. Won 2004 Heisman Trophy and placed third in 2005. Threw 99 career TD passes.

RB Reggie Bush, USC: The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was one of the most dynamic players in college football history. (Bush returned the Heisman in 2012.)

RB LaMichael James, Oregon: Two-time first-team All-Pac-12, 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous All-American finished his career ranked second in Pac-12 history in rushing yards (5,082) and TDs (53). Nips other stellar RBs such as Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Stanford's Toby Gerhart and USC's LenDale White.

WR Mike Hass, Oregon State: Two-time first-team All-Pac-12 and 2005 Biletnikoff Award winner was the first Pac-12 player to record three consecutive seasons over 1,000 yards receiving. His 3,924 receiving yards ranks third all time in the conference. This, of course, could have been fellow Beaver Brandin Cooks or USC's Marqise Lee, who both also won the Biletnikoff Award.

WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC: A two-time consensus All-American, he set the Pac-12 standard with 41 touchdown receptions.

TE Marcedes Lewis, UCLA: A 2005 consensus All-American and John Mackey Award winner as the nation's best tight end. Caught 21 career TD passes.

OL David Yankey, Stanford: A unanimous All-American in 2013, he was a consensus All-American and Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-12's best offensive lineman in 2012.

OL Sam Baker, USC: A 2006 consensus All-American and three-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

OL Ryan Kalil, USC: Won the 2006 Morris Trophy. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

OL David DeCastro, Stanford: A unanimous All-American in 2011 and two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

OL Alex Mack, California: A two-time winner of the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best offensive lineman (2007 & 2008).

K Kai Forbath, UCLA: Consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award winner in 2009. Made 84.16 percent of his field goals, which is nearly 5 percent better than any other kicker in conference history.

Defense

LB Rey Maualuga, USC: Was a consensus All-American and won the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player in 2008. Three-time first-team All-Pac-12.

LB Trent Murphy, Stanford: 2013 consensus All-American and two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

LB Anthony Barr, UCLA: Consensus All-American 2013 and two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

DL Will Sutton, Arizona State: Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Morris Trophy winner in 2012 and 2013. Consensus All-American in 2012.

DL Haloti Ngata, Oregon: A consensus All-American and Morris Trophy winner in 2005.

DL Rien Long, Washington State: Won the Outland Trophy and was a consensus All-American in 2002.

DL Terrell Suggs, Arizona State: A unanimous All-American in 2002 after setting NCAA single-season record with 24 sacks. Won the Lombardi Trophy. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

CB Chris McAlister, Arizona: Unanimous All-American in 1998. Three-time first-team All-Pac-12.

CB Antoine Cason, Arizona: Won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back in 2007. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

S Troy Polamalu, USC: Two-time All-Pac-10 and consensus All-American in 2002.

S Taylor Mays, USC: A three-time All-American, he was a consensus All-American in 2008. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

P Bryan Anger, California: A three-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and two-time Ray Guy semifinalist.

Marqise Lee vaults himself into Heisman race

November, 10, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin loves talking about storylines.

After every game, he will grab a final stats sheet, flip through it a couple of times before addressing the media and invariably at some point will say, “The storyline today would have to be …”

Some days it will be the offense. Others it will be the defense. But more often than not this season, it has been Marqise Lee.

Kiffin was momentarily speechless as he tried to describe Lee’s performance on Saturday after the USC Trojans’ 38-17 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils. Lee finished with 161 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. It was actually a fairly pedestrian total when you look at the absurd totals Lee had put up the previous two weeks. But as Kiffin leaned back in his chair, he shook his head at the game Lee had. It wasn’t so much Lee’s performance that impressed the coach as much as it was the fact Lee was even able to play.

“I was to the point of thinking there was just some really bad karma going on this week,” Kiffin said. “About 45 minutes before the game, Marqise comes into my locker room and he’s freaking out because his face is all swollen. He had an allergic reaction to something. I’m thinking this really can’t be happening right now.”

Lee’s face was swollen after he ate something that apparently didn't agree with him the night before, and it was getting worse as kickoff approached. “It was like I was in a boxing match and I lost,” Lee said. “My eyes were almost closed.”

USC’s medical staff gave Lee some medication and iced his eyes, which improved the swelling and allowed him to see better. But he still required an intravenous injection at the half.

“I feel like I wasn’t running as fast as I could,” Lee said with a smile after the game. “They actually caught me a couple of times.”

Lee’s smile came after he was asked about a double-reverse in the fourth quarter that will likely be his “Heisman Moment” if he ends up being the first USC receiver to go to New York for the Heisman award ceremony.

With about seven minutes left in the game, Matt Barkley faked a handoff to Curtis McNeal and tossed the ball to Lee, who reversed field when he saw a group of Sun Devils defenders waiting for him. Lee swerved through the defense to gain 38 yards using “Matrix”-like moves the Coliseum perhaps hasn’t seen since Reggie Bush. After the game, Lee was still upset he didn’t score on the play.

“You kind of expect greatness from him and whenever he touches the ball,” Barkley said. “That reverse, when he reversed the reverse, was pretty special. He’s the catalyst to moving that ball.”

While most of the preseason hype for the Heisman Trophy was centered on Barkley after he returned for his senior year, it has been his favorite target this season who has gained the most traction recently. Even USC’s athletics department, which had pushed Barkley for the award before the season, has switched gears and has started to back Lee.

This week the school released a YouTube video that began with the question, “Who is the best player in college football?” The query was followed by Lee’s highlights and stats played to “Revolution 9” and “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles. The video ended with the Twitter hashtag #BELEEVE, which USC hopes will be trending the last three weeks of the season as the Trojans prepare for the UCLA Bruins, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and a potential rematch with the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game.

If Lee’s next three games are anywhere close to the quality of his past three games, it would be hard to imagine him not getting an invite to New York, which is something Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett never got. In fact, no USC receiver has ever finished higher than seventh in the Heisman voting. That should change this season.

Lee’s 161 receiving yards on Saturday, combined with 345 against Arizona and 157 against Oregon last week, gave him 663 receiving yards in a three-game stretch -- the most ever over three games in USC history. He actually broke his own three-game receiving yards school record of 608 he set in USC’s last two games in 2011 and the first in 2012.

His performances against Arizona and Oregon didn't receive as much attention as they should have, because USC lost both games. But he was the only reason the Trojans were in position to win both contests in the fourth quarter. Against Arizona, Lee finished with 16 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns, and ended up with 469 all-purpose yards. His 345 receiving yards easily broke the Pac-12 record and was the fifth most in FBS history. Lee then had 408 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against Oregon the following week.

That Lee “only” had 227 all-purpose yards against Arizona State on Saturday speaks to the difference Lee has made in the way teams play USC. The Sun Devils consistently pooch kicked the ball when Lee lined up as the returner. While Lee finished with no kick or punt returns, USC’s average starting field position was its 42-yard line. (Lee had 66 yards rushing to complete his total for the afternoon.)

Not only has Lee made a difference on offense and special teams, he has started to take practice snaps on defense as well. Lee was put into the game as a safety in the first quarter when Arizona State lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1. His presence on the field may have caused the Sun Devils to call an audible, which resulted in a delay of game, and ASU eventually punted.

Lee would actually like to get more snaps on defense over the next two weeks. He was primarily recruited as a safety out of Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., where he was a receiver for only one season of high school football.

“I’ll never forget how to play defense,” Lee said. “They kept me close and kept me ready to go in, but the defense played so great that I didn’t have to go in.”

As much as Barkley would have liked to be in the Heisman conversation at the end of the season, he smiles when Lee’s name is mentioned as a candidate and is more than happy to throw his support behind his teammate.

“He’s every bit deserving,” Barkley said. “He’s the best player at his position. He’s done some tremendous things this year with the ball, as a receiver and as a kick returner. We’ll see how this pans out over the next couple of weeks, but he deserves to be in the conversation.”

The evolution of the Trojans

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
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Remember what the feeling was like around this USC team in late September and early October, when the Trojans lost by 21 points to Arizona State and then followed it up by barely beating lowly Arizona at home?

Suffice to say, it was nothing like the feeling around the same team following Saturday's 50-0 win over UCLA. By season's end, Lane Kiffin and his staff molded USC from a middling Pac-12 squad into a top-10 team in a matter of weeks and, in the process, instilled a ton of hope for the future of the program.

So, what did they do? What changed so drastically?

It starts on defense. The biggest problems USC had in the early part of the season -- against the Arizona schools and against Utah earlier on as well -- all traced back to defense. Even then, Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were working just fine together. They got better, sure, as part of an expected progression.

The defense went from terrible to quite good, all in about eight weeks. Monte Kiffin's unit gave up 43 points to Arizona State and 0 to UCLA. It gave up 41 to Arizona and, later in the year, a combined 34 to two legitimate teams in Notre Dame and Washington.

Three smaller developments this season helped that process.

USC's defensive line started to produce pressure in the passing game as the year went on, Nick Perry finishing with 9.5 sacks and Wes Horton and Devon Kennard adding six more.

The Trojans also made the right adjustment at middle linebacker when they moved Lamar Dawson into the starting lineup and pushed Chris Galippo to the bench, motivating Galippo to come in as a super-sub of sorts in the final few games and play some of his best football.

And cornerbacks Nickell Robey and Isiah Wiley -- the latter being probably the team's biggest in-season surprise -- evolved into players who could take on receivers one-on-one in a pinch, giving the Trojans so many more options than in the past in trying to defend high-octane offenses.

And that's just on defense. Offensively, USC benefited handsomely from Curtis McNeal finally getting serious chances to carry the ball. He rushed for at least 74 yards in the eight games he got seven carries or more. And McNeal and fellow runner Marc Tyler were arguably USC's best 1-2 punch out of the backfield since Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

John Baxter's special teams unit was a difference-maker throughout the year, but even moreso later when teams realized how likely they were to get their field goals blocked by the Trojans. Game tapes show how many kickers purposely avoided the outstretched arms of Matt Kalil and subsequently missed because of it. When Woods was healthy enough to return kicks, he did so well. When he wasn't, McNeal and Lee handled the duties just fine.

But enough about the unit-by-unit breakdowns. Those matter, but the single biggest reason why USC finished its regular season 10-2 and ranked ninth in the Associated Press poll is this: The players played hard throughout the year, whether because of Lane Kiffin's many motivating techniques or because they did it for themselves.

There were no letdown games, and now USC looks ahead at a 2012 season where it will face an relatively easy schedule and a potential preseason top-10 ranking.

Kiffin has clearly gained the fans' trust -- and his players' trust, too, if that was ever in doubt. Now the question is: Can he complete the evolution from middle-tier Pac-12 team to serious national-championship contender?

It's possible.

Reggie Bush Owes An Explanation

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
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Trevor Matich says the Trojans have had an outstanding year and Reggie Bush needs to tell them why they aren't playing in the postseason.


McNeal to start at RB

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
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Whether or not Marc Tyler is able to suit up Friday against Colorado with his dislocated shoulder, Curtis McNeal will make the first start of his college career at running back against the Buffaloes, coach Lane Kiffin announced Wednesday.

The decision comes on the heels of McNeal's career-high 145-yard performance against Stanford on Saturday, in which he scored two touchdowns but fumbled the ball on the goal line in the third overtime to give the Cardinal the ball and the victory. Tyler started the game but got hurt on the first play from scrimmage and did not return.

(Read the full story here.)

5 things to watch: USC-Notre Dame

October, 21, 2011
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1. The lights and the rivalry: It's the first time in 21 years they'll be kicking off under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium, as if they needed anything else to help hype up this game. This will certainly do the trick. Neither USC nor Notre Dame are ranked, but both schools are on the cusp of it, and it appears like Saturday's high-stakes game will be fairly well-matched -- even though the Irish are favored by close to 10 points in some sportsbooks. South Bend isn't exactly built for night games, so it will be interesting to see how the Domers handle the unusual late kickoff, in terms of tailgating and the overall atmosphere around the stadium.

NDUSC2. Tyler, McNeal and the running backs: The injured Marc Tyler made the trip to South Bend with the Trojans and is a game-time decision for Saturday's game, but whether or not he's able to play Curtis McNeal is still going to most likely make his first career start. The 5-7, 180-pound back has proven consistently capable of gaining five or six yards per carry this season, and that's exactly what USC will need him to do against an Irish defense that has played quite well for the last month. And who are the Trojans going to use as McNeal's second-stringer if Tyler can't go? It seems like the smart money should be on freshman George Farmer, who made his collegiate debut last week against Cal and fumbled on his fourth carry.

3. Interceptions and turnovers: Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees is certainly a poised player and one with a proven record of leading his team to wins, but another thing he's also proven is that he's liable to throw the occasional interception. USC capitalized on the last turnover-prone quarterback it faced in Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, and that really took the Bears out of the game last week. Can the Trojans do the same against Rees, who hasn't thrown a pick for two straight weeks now, the longest stretch of his career thus far? Their defense functions a heck of a lot better when its producing turnovers, even if it's just one or two a game. If the Irish hang on to the ball, it's hard to envision a scenario where USC outscores them outright and wins the contest.

4. Recruiting implications: There are 16 prospects visiting Notre Dame this weekend, all of whom will be attending the game -- a virtually unprecedented number that will have massive implications for the Irish 2012 recruiting class and potentially USC's as well. Many of the players visiting South Bend are also being recruited by USC and some are considering scheduling official visits with the Trojans. Of course, USC and Notre Dame have done battle on a number of top prospects in the past, and, based off previous years, the winner of this game would presumably get a sizable jump on the loser with those players. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin mentioned this week that Reggie Bush was at the 2002 USC-Notre Dame game at the Coliseum when quarterback Carson Palmer went off for 425 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-13 win. Before that game, Bush had been regarded as a Notre Dame leaner.

5. Floyd vs. Woods: It's one of the best matchups yet this year of two top players at one position going head-to-head. Both players have been prolific this season -- Robert Woods slightly more but Michael Floyd's numbers impressive all the same. Who will do a better job of leading their offense? Woods obviously has a better-regarded quarterback in Matt Barkley delivering him the ball, but Floyd has found success against the Trojans in the past and is coming off a two-game stretch where he's averaged nine catches, 106 yards and a touchdown. And last Thursday's game against Cal was Woods' worst of the season, with the sophomore wideout pulling in just five balls for 36 yards.

Video: Lane Kiffin after Thursday's practice

October, 20, 2011
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Here's Trojans coach Lane Kiffin talking over some last-minute things before USC's departure to South Bend later Thursday, including Notre Dame's two-pronged backfield, his team's status as an underdog entering into the game and other key topics.

See the video here:

Kiffin chimes in on Miami case

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
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Asked after USC's Wednesday's morning practice if he had a quick, one- or two-word reaction to this week's Yahoo! Sports investigation of the Miami Hurricanes football program, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin responded with a brisk jab at the NCAA and those involved.

"It would take me a lot more than one or two words," he said, before finishing his session with the media and departing the practice field.

The investigation has alleged 72 Miami football players received extra benefits from convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro between the years 2002 and 2010. The Hurricanes' athletic director during most of that time was Paul Dee, a lawyer and longtime Miami staffer who chaired the Committee of Infractions while investigating USC's NCAA case last year.

The Trojans, of course, received a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year period in relation to alleged extra benefits received by former running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo.

Skill positions 'look like they used to'

August, 6, 2011
8/06/11
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The answer, one of the more meaningful Lane Kiffin's provided in his first year and a half at USC, came in response to an innocuous question on the likelihood that freshman phenom George Farmer would be able to get on the field at receiver right away in 2011.

"That position's starting to get really deep," Kiffin said by way of explaining why Farmer may not be able to do what some expect of him. "I think our young skilled guys on offense are starting to look like what they used to here.

"Now we've gotta continue to do that for two more years and that's when you get back to what you saw before."

Those are big, powerful words from the Trojans' second-year coach, making reference to guys like Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams. In the past, he typically used big, powerful words only when discussing a dire issue with USC's depth or some other negative-sounding matter.

Not anymore. He's more positive now. But it's fairly easy to be positive when you add five receivers into the mix in the fall, all of whom weren't able to participate in spring practice.

In pass-catchers Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, George Farmer, Marqise Lee and Victor Blackwell, Kiffin has just that -- an infusion of young talent across the board on offense. Butler missed the spring while contemplating a transfer; Prater was recovering from a broken foot. The other three, incoming freshmen, just arrived on campus over the summer.

Said Kiffin: "That’s like adding three rookies and two free agents that already know our system."

There's also running back Amir Carlisle, a 5-10, 180-pound freshman who has been the surprise of camp thus far, darting through the defense on a number of occasions both Thursday and Friday. He's had his not-so-good moments, too, running laps for fumbling and whatnot, but, in general, he's been very impressive.

"Amir Carlisle flashed again today," Kiffin said Friday. "That’s great to see. It’s a position that you always want depth at and he’s a great kid, a 4.0 student very serious about being a student-athlete.

"We’re excited to have him and excited to see his approach to the game too."

Other young skill position players include freshmen quarterbacks Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. All three have been in the program for at least a semester now, Scroggins for two. Tallahassee, Fla. running back Javorious 'Buck' Allen is also expected to arrive on campus soon, at which point he could take some carries away from Carlisle.

But the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are indeed a positive at this point, with the young players restocking units that had been low on depth earlier in the Kiffin regime. There are still similar issues at other positions on the field, but, at arguably the most important spots on the field (0r the most exciting, at least), USC shouldn't have many problems.

And Kiffin is, well, happy about it.

"You feel better, because there were so many times in the spring where, as much as you tried to stay positive, it was discouraging," he said Friday.

Reggie Bush talks USC on SportsCenter

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
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Former USC running back Reggie Bush sat down for an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez that aired on SportsCenter on Monday, answering questions concerning his puzzling offseason tweets and where he sees his future with the New Orleans Saints.

He also talked briefly and in broad terms about off-the-field issues in his three-year career at USC, which, of course, resulted in a two-year postseason ban for the current football team and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years. The Trojans also were forced to vacate all of their wins from the 2005 season, when Bush competed and was later determined to be ineligible.

Asked about what he's learned from everything that's happened since his days at USC, Bush was non-committal.

"I don't know," he told Dominguez. "I definitely would say that I'm a better person now for a lot of the things that happened in the past. You live and you learn, and you try to move on, and that's what I'm trying to do.

"All this stuff that happens at USC, it kills me. It eats me up every day."

Bush, 26, is in Los Angeles this week. He's been back to the site of his college career frequently during the NFL offseason for camps and community appearances, but he's yet to return to the USC campus, where all items commemorating his time with the Trojans have been removed from Heritage Hall.

Still, he says he retains favorable memories of his collegiate career.

"I went to USC," Bush said. "I still love USC. I still have a passion for it.

"What can I do other than try to move on and focus on the positives of it?"
For the past week, we tackled 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.

[+] EnlargeDillon Baxter
Bob Stanton/Icon SMIDillon Baxter's potential is there. Getting the potential on the field and utilizing it is the key.
Thursday's question involved how to replace the departed Jurrell Casey and Tyron Smith. Today, we present the last of our five questions: What role -- if any -- will Dillon Baxter have with the 2011 Trojans?

There's still a few hours left in this year, but it's safe to say USC running back Dillon Baxter has already exceeded his quota of news items in 2010.

First came former coach Pete Carroll's departure in January, after which the then-committed Baxter said he would seriously reconsider his choice of schools. Then, after he stuck with his early enrollment to USC and began participating in spring practice, he found his way onto YouTube in April with a rip-roaring 51-yard run on Howard Jones Field that has gathered almost two million views to date. That day, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin compared Baxter to former USC back Reggie Bush.

Baxter, 19, later riled some of his teammates up with his ultra-confident demeanor during players-only on-field workouts during the summer months. When fall training camp began in mid-August, Kiffin began downplaying Baxter's capabilities some, beginning the he-has-a-lot-to-learn refrain that would be heard many, many times before the season was over.

Then, roughly a week after the start of camp, Baxter was suspended for the season opener against Hawaii. The only reasoning provided by Kiffin and the school was that both Baxter and fellow freshman receiver Markeith Ambles, who also did the drills for one practice, were simply "late."

Asked to explain why Baxter's punishment was worse than Ambles', Kiffin characterized Ambles' mess-up as a mistake and Baxter's as a deliberate decision -- a telling comment, especially when considering that Ambles left the team in November for good after being suspended earlier that month.

But Baxter would return to the field, of course, and he showed flashes of his YouTube-quality skills in his debut against Virginia and games against Washington State and Arizona State. But he was largely kept under wraps and never experienced the so-called "breakout game" many expected from him.

Fast-forward to mid-November -- although some interesting things in the Baxter saga did happen during that time, including his admittance that he had gone "through the motions" for a time at USC and an occasional dig directed at Baxter from Kiffin. On the Thursday of the Oregon State game week, Baxter showed up late to practice and was reported ill by Kiffin afterward. The next day, it was revealed he did not make the trip to Corvallis, Ore. because of potential contact with a student-agent.

We know what happened after that.

Baxter would later regain his eligibility and play in the final two games of the season against Notre Dame and UCLA, where he carried the ball a combined two times for four yards. He did throw a five-yard touchdown pass to Rhett Ellison against the Bruins, but that very well might have been the highlight of his freshman season with the Trojans -- something nobody expected.

So, tumultuous describes Baxter's 2010. But what can we expect from his 2011?

(Read full post)

Postgame thoughts: UCLA

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
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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)

RENTON, Wash. -- There are reminders of USC littered throughout the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seattle Seahawks’ practice facility. Much like during Pete Carroll’s time at the school, there are “I’m In!” signs that players and coaches tap before entering the weight room and practice field. An “Always Compete” sign hangs below the scoreboard on the practice field, and a copy of Carroll’s new book, “Win Forever,” is in the lobby.

Before "Competition Wednesday," a practice theme holdover from Carroll’s USC days, he was reminded of an aspect of his time at USC he’d just as soon forget. On Tuesday, Reggie Bush forfeited the Heisman Trophy he won five years ago and on Wednesday the Heisman Trust announced the 2005 award would remain vacated.

“Reggie’s got to do what he’s got to do on this stuff and make his determination,” Carroll said. “I support whatever he’s doing. I’m sure he’s figured it out and he’s living it. I’m not really focused on it. There’s nothing I can really do about that. All of our attention is on Denver and getting ready for the game. I wish him the best and hope they figure it all out.”

In the Seahawks’ locker room before practice, the three former USC players on the active roster -- linebacker Lofa Tatupu, wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy -- said they were disappointed by the news and still considered Bush the best player in the country in 2005 when he won the Heisman Trophy by a landslide.

“It’s sad that it’s come to this,” Tatupu said. “In my opinion he was the best football player that year and that will last in everyone’s memories. I don’t think he really needs a trophy to validate that. He doesn’t need the hardware to know that he was the nation’s best player. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is.”

Bush became the first player in the 75-year history of the Heisman Trophy to return the award. Williams believes Bush’s gesture should win him back some supporters.

“It takes good values of a person to give something like that back,” Williams said. “Hopefully the public and the media and everybody will let this guy get on and live his life.

“I respect him for giving it back and doing what he felt was right. I feel sorry for him that he had to deal with this situation. He’s a good dude. I don’t take anything away from him as a person. I hope people take this as a gesture of him trying to right the ship.”

USC has distanced itself from Bush, removing all pictures and mentions of him on campus and at the Coliseum.

“He made a mistake but I still think he’s a Trojan and he’s done so much great for that school and can still make a positive impact there,” Williams said. “I know people in their anger are sweeping him and everything he did under the rug but hopefully this is the first step toward one day rebuilding that relationship.”

Video: Pat Haden speaks out on Reggie Bush situation

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
5:58
PM PT
USC athletic director Pat Haden spoke to the media Tuesday, addressing the news that former Trojan running back Reggie Bush will return his Heisman Trophy back to the Heisman Trophy Trust.

Haden, on the job for only slighter longer than 40 days at USC, has already had to deal with more than his fair share of newsworthy items coming out of Heritage Hall.

See what the former Trojan quarterback had to say about Tuesday's issue:

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