USC: Ross Cumming

Film study: Washington

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
4:41
PM PT
Here’s the 10th post in our “film study” series.

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

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

The fake punt

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

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

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

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

(Read full post)

Vainuku the early favorite at fullback

February, 11, 2012
2/11/12
7:42
PM PT
USC brings back a lot of talent at the skill positions in 2012, with quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Curtis McNeal and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee all returning.

But there's one spot still open as spring practice nears and official preparation for next season approaches: fullback.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin says redshirt freshman Soma Vainuku will get the first crack at replacing the departed Rhett Ellison, but he'll get competition from Simione Vehikite and Jahleel Pinner over the next several months, and potentially others, too. There are a number of Trojans with some experience playing fullback, like tight end Christian Thomas and defensive end Charles Burks.

And the interesting thing about the fullback slot this year is that it might involve quite a bit of carrying the ball -- or at least more than in past years. With only three running backs on the roster and the two experienced ones both weighing under 210 pounds, the fullback might also be the big back.

Vainuku would fit that role well.

"I would definitely embrace that," he said this week, after an unofficial team throwing session. "In high school, I was a fullback. But, really, I was pretty much a running back."

"Especially with the depth at running back for us this year, I could definitely see (running backs) coach (Kennedy) Pola asking me to get a couple reps at running back and helping them get a breather, being there for them."

There's that, and there's the aspect of pass-catching. Since he got to USC, Kiffin hasn't called for it as much as expected, but the fullback position in the Trojans' offense does have the potential to be serious safety valve -- especially considering that the team's tight ends are big-play threats more than short-route options.

"You gotta be able to catch the ball," Vainuku said. "You have to run a wheel or something a lot. You gotta be good in the flat. You gotta be elusive."

Vainuku was originally a Class of 2010 signee but didn't qualify academically and had to wait for the subsequent spring to begin classes. There was a thought that he could step right in for Stanley Havili last fall, but Kiffin made the decision in fall camp to move Ellison from tight end to fullback to give Vainuku time to develop.

Ross Cumming ended up spending significant time at the spot, too. And Vainuku used his redshirt year and excelled on the scout team.

Now, with a year in the system and a new class of early enrollees joining him last month, he's been one of a few players staying late after each of the throwing sessions and practicing his timing in the passing game with some of the walk-on quarterbacks.

"I feel comfortable right now," Vainuku said. "Having the guys come in the spring finally makes me feel old."

Where USC's draft-eligible prospects stand

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
4:18
PM PT
USC has seven players who stand at least a decent chance of being selected in April's NFL draft. With none of them participating in this week's Senior Bowl and the four who played in all-star games already done with their commitments, we figured it's time to delve into where they could be selected and what kind of players they could be at the next level -- starting with the clear-cut top prospect.

LT Matt Kalil

Kalil is going to be a top-10 pick, no doubt about it. The only question with him is how high he'll go. Some draft prognosticators have him firmly entrenched in the No. 2 overall spot of the St. Louis Rams, where new coach and USC alum Jeff Fisher would use him to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, who is said to be the reason he picked the Rams job over other options.

He could also go third, sixth, ninth or 10th -- the teams picking in those spots all need offensive tackles. And potential pick trades could leave him going at any of the other slots, too.

DE Nick Perry

All season long, Perry was projected as a second- or third-round selection. Now that draft analysts are seeing his film, though, Perry has moved right up into the thick of the first-round mix. It's gotten to the point now where it'd be a surprise if he wasn't selected in the first round -- especially after next month's NFL Combine.

Is there anyone who stands to benefit more from next month's festivities than Perry? It's doubtful. He could run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, based on what he's run in college testing. And he'll put up superb bench-press and weight-room numbers for his 6-3, 250-pound frame.

There are only two questions, then: (1) Can he play defensive end in the NFL or is he better suited to a 3-4 outside linebacker spot? (2) How come he didn't produce a bit more with the Trojans? He never had the monster year he and others predicted he would have.

DT DaJohn Harris

It looks like Harris is going to be taken fairly high, which is interesting, because the 6-4, 310-pounder never produced on a consistent basis until his senior season at USC -- and, even then, he wasn't all that consistent in 2011.

But he is exactly the type of player who could emerge into a starting-caliber defensive tackle in the league. And, based on what he did over the weekend in the East-West Shrine Game, it appears likely he'll be a third- or fourth-round selection in April's draft.

(Read full post)

End of year awards

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
10:20
PM PT
USC quarterback Matt Barkley led a group of Trojan honorees from the school's annual awards banquet Monday night, as he was named the team's 2011 MVP. Other top award-winners included Christian Tupou as most inspirational player, fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison as the winner of the leadership award and offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry as the offensive and defensive linemen of the year.

Here are the rest of the winners:
Perimeter Players of the Year: wide receiver Robert Woods (offense), safety T.J. McDonald (defense)
Special Teams Player of the Year: fullback Ross Cumming
Service Team Players of the Year: offensive guard Cyrus Hobbi (offense), linebacker Anthony Sarao (defense)
Player of the Game vs. Notre Dame: cornerback Nickell Robey
Player of the Game vs. UCLA: wide receiver Marqise Lee
Jack Oakie “Rise and Shine” Award (year’s longest run): running back Curtis McNeal (79 yards vs. Washington)
Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award (overall academic achievement): linebacker Augusto Alonso
Bob Chandler Award (underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character): linebacker Hayes Pullard
John McKay Award (underclassman with the most competitive spirit): Robey
Joe Collins Walk-on Award: punter Kyle Negrete
Courage Award: McNeal
Co-Lifters Award: Ellison, safety Jawanza Starling

Coach Speak: Week 12

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
1:05
AM PT
Notes and quotes from Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin's conference call Sunday looking back at USC’s 38-35 win over Oregon in Eugene and looking forward to the season-ending matchup against UCLA:
  • Kiffin had mostly positive things to say about his team's victory, as to be expected, but he did harp on one part of the game as an area for improvement in the coming years: the fourth quarter. He was displeased with how USC allowed the Ducks to score 21 straight points beginning with De'Anthony Thomas' kickoff return for a touchdown late in the third. "That was shades of last year, what we were doing offensively there," he said. But he ultimately concluded that it was sort of par for the course when dealing with coach Chip Kelly and Oregon. "Any time that you end the nation's longest home winning streak, it's tough to complain," Kiffin said.
  • On the topic of Kelly, Kiffin said the Ducks' head coach was "very classy" to come into the USC locker room following the game and congratulate USC assistant coach Monte Kiffin. The two didn't meet on the field in the postgame aftermath because the Trojans' defensive playcaller operates in the upstairs coaches' box during the game.
  • Kiffin was proud of his team for not getting caught up in the hype of having NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. in attendance. Oregon hosted the players on their sideline during the game in what bore multiple similarities to USC and the Pete Carroll era -- as a couple of USC players pointed out after the game -- but the Trojans weren't negatively distracted in any way. "I think it was great for us, really,” Kiffin said.
  • After subtly calling quarterback Matt Barkley a Heisman Trophy candidate in his postgame news conference Saturday, Kiffin expanded more on that topic Sunday, saying the third-year signal-caller should certainly finish in the top-5 of the voting come the end of the regular season. "If you look at the way he's played in big games and you don't vote based off sanctions and probations and dark clouds, I don't know how he's not in New York," Kiffin said. "If anything, it should help him, that he's had all this stuff around him, and he's still succeeded."
  • After shying away from commenting on ranking-related questions all season long, Kiffin has started to perk up about the Associated Press poll of late. Last week he called out a voter from Tennessee for leaving the Trojans out of the top 25 when they were ranked 18th nationally; Sunday he said he didn't understand why USC was one spot behind Oregon (10th to 9th) despite beating them the night before the latest ranking was released. "The polls are confusing to me," Kiffin said. "You would think if you beat someone 24 hours ago at their place, you'd be ahead of them."
  • Asked about a questionable first-half intentional grounding call on Barkley, Kiffin first said he didn't want to be fined "$10,000 more," then carefully commented while trying to avoid directly criticizing the Pac-12 officiating. "I'm not [being] negative," he said. "I'm just saying I've never seen that at any level of football...Have you?"
  • Injury updates: Several players got hurt during Saturday's game, but Kiffin said he didn't think anyone would be held out of Saturday's UCLA game based on weekend injuries. Among those who came out for a time were linebackers Dion Bailey (ankle) and Lamar Dawson (ankle), fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison and fullback Ross Cumming, defensive tackle Christian Tupou and safety Drew McAllister.
  • Amid reports and rumors that UCLA will break out alternate all-white jerseys for Saturday's game, Kiffin said the Trojans would be sporting their traditional home uniforms at the Coliseum. "I don't really care what they wear," he said.

Cumming nominated for walk-on award

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
8:42
PM PT
USC senior fullback/linebacker Ross Cumming was announced Tuesday as one of 50 FBS players nominated for the Bulsworth Trophy, an annual award given out to players who began their college careers as walk-ons.

Cumming is one of seven Pac-12 players among the nominees, including UCLA cornerback Andrew Abbott, Stanford receiver Griff Whalen and Colorado defensive back Travis Sandersfeld.

The 24-year-old Cumming spent two years at Naval Academy preparatory school in 2006 and 2007 before being medically discharged, then earned preferred walk-on status at USC in the summer of 2008 to enroll at the school. He played on special teams his first two seasons with the Trojans and then, as he picked up some duties as a backup linebacker, earned a scholarship in August 2010.

This year, he has taken significant snaps at fullback and on special teams. He leads the Trojans with 15 special-teams tackles and has also recorded two catches for 16 yards on offense.

The Burlsworth Trophy, in its second season of existence, is named in honor of former Arkansas offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth. He walked on to the Razorbacks squad without a scholarship offer and became a three-year starter and all-American by the time his college career was done.

He was then selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft but killed in a car
accident 11 days later.

The first-ever award went to Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford after the 2010 season.

The story behind the fake punt

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
7:09
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Negrete came to the line of scrimmage knowing he might get his first-ever chance to execute a fake punt for the Trojans, but whether he'd punt or run for it all depended on what one of his teammates yelled out once they lined up.

It was midway through the second quarter, with the Trojans facing a 4th-and-9 at their own 45-yard line. USC was up 7-3.

Then fullback Ross Cumming, playing the right guard spot on the Trojans' punt team, picked up the Huskies' front and called for the fake when he saw a ton of potential open area where Negrete would be running.

So Negrete got the snap from Chris Pousson and took off running, sprinting down the left side of the field for a 35-yard gain. He was supposed to slide after he secured the first down, but the former linebacker flattened a Washington defender and ran over to the USC sideline to celebrate with his teammates after the big gain.

Five plays later, USC scored its second touchdown of the game and the rout was on. Negrete's run ended up being the game-changer in an eventual 40-17 Trojans win at the Coliseum.

"It took our energy level from here," said cornerback Nickell Robey, holding his hand in front of his face, "to here," reaching up as far as he could. "As a team, it took us all the way to the top. Our momentum was great."

Here's how it happened: As soon as Matt Barkley's third-down pass to Robert Woods went incomplete, USC head coach Lane Kiffin started thinking about how he was in an ideal situation to call one of the fake punts the Trojans practiced so frequently leading up to this game.

He consulted with special teams coach John Baxter, found he agreed with him, and told the punt team to go for it if they saw Washington not lined up in a punt-block formation.

Cumming's the quarterback of the punt unit, so, a few seconds before the snap, he looked up and saw what he was hoping to see. He got just that and told the other 10 members -- in code, of course -- to prepare for the fake. Tight ends Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Rhett Ellison led the way for Negrete's block by taking out the three Huskies who did rush the line upon the snap, and Negrete wasn't touched until he was halfway down the field.

(Read full post)

Examining Rhett Ellison's production

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
2:52
PM PT
In USC's last four games, tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison has gained a total of four yards on five touches -- four catches for nine yards and a solitary rush for a loss of five yards.

He's done other things well, but, production-wise, his statistics are far off the pace the Trojans expected from one of two senior starters on the offense this season. Ellison, one of four team captains, has dropped a number of balls -- at least one in five of seven games -- and he appeared to drop a would-be touchdown in the second quarter of the Notre Dame game, when Matt Barkley targeted him on second down at the 10-yard line and delivered an on-target ball.

Two plays later, USC was forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal.

Still, USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Ellison has been an asset because of his blocking abilities.

"Well, Rhett’s played great," Kiffin said Wednesday when asked to pinpoint some of his struggles. "He’s had to play so many different positions that sometimes the timing’s a little bit off just because he's playing all those positions that he does. He’s very valuable for us."

Kiffin also refused to blame the Notre Dame drop on Ellison, saying a better throw would have resulted in a completion and a different defensive package from the Irish would have as well.

Ellison spent most of his first four years at USC as a tight end but practiced at fullback during fall camp when the Trojans realized they had less talent there than at tight end. But he struggled catching balls out of the backfield, so USC moved linebacker Ross Cumming to fullback, which has worked well. But Ellison's still struggling to catch balls from the tight end spot.

(Read full post)

Making the midseason transition

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
5:32
PM PT


With 35 seconds left in the first half of USC's 48-41 win over Arizona on Saturday, the Trojans approached the line at the Arizona 38 holding a 24-12 lead but facing a key fourth-and-two situation.

A conversion would put them into position to extend their lead to 15 with a field goal or even 19 with a touchdown. A turnover on downs would give the Wildcats the ball with enough time to cull together a few plays to get into field-goal range.

Coach Lane Kiffin called a short pass play, but quarterback Matt Barkley's first three reads were covered tightly by Arizona defenders. So he delivered the ball to the right side of the field, to a little-known backup fullback named Ross Cumming.

Cumming corralled the pass, notched the first down and got out of bounds, allowing the Trojans to get a field goal four plays later and go into halftime with a more comfortable lead.

"Really good job by him staying alive on the sideline and Matt’s progression to be able to get to the fourth guy was big," Kiffin said before joking that Cumming wasn't "way up on the ladder" of Barkley's options at the line of scrimmage

A converted linebacker who switched positions midseason and has long excelled at special teams as a Trojan, Cumming's first week at fullback was a success. Having him there allows USC to keep Rhett Ellison at his more comfortable tight end position, and still maintain a veteran presence in the backfield.

“I wish we had done it earlier," Kiffin said of Cumming's move. "It’s just an example of a guy staying around here, understanding the systems, understanding techniques.

"What we teach on special teams can really carry over to offense and defense, sometimes regardless of position, and Ross is a great example of that to be able to step in and contribute.”

Cumming, a senior and former walk-on, is a special-teamer for this team, first and foremost. He starts on all four of those units. But he also played a few snaps against Syracuse and Arizona State at tight end, and, when it was revealed that Christian Thomas was going to miss the rest of the year, it was thought that Cumming would remain there for the rest of the year.

(Read full post)

Thomas, Simmons out for season

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
1:47
PM PT
Two of USC’s key backups, tight end Christian Thomas and linebacker Marquis Simmons, will undergo season-ending surgeries and miss the rest of the year, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin announced Wednesday.

Thomas, a sophomore from Palmdale, has been bothered by hip problems for much of the year. He was kept out of most of fall camp because of the injury but played on special teams against Syracuse before re-aggravating his hip.

Simmons, a redshirt sophomore from Compton, played in the first two games against Minnesota and Utah but hasn’t practiced since with a neck injury. He has worn a neck brace to practice the past two weeks and watched the sessions from the sideline.

“It’s that time of year when injuries start to mount,” Kiffin said. “A lot of times it’s the down-the-line guys that affect you with your service teams and stuff, so we need guys to step up all over the place.”

The Trojans will rely on freshman Tre Madden to replace Simmons as the backup strongside linebacker and senior Ross Cumming to fill in for Thomas as the No. 3 tight end.

Kiffin also announced that offensive linemen Abe Markowitz (foot) and Giovanni Di Poalo (shoulder) had undergone season-ending surgeries, as expected.

McNeal volunteers to play special teams

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
9:15
PM PT


There's only four days left until the season opener and the USC Trojans still haven't picked out a starting running back for the Minnesota game.

So what did Curtis McNeal, one of the competitors for that spot, do recently? He asked special-teams coordinator John Baxter if he could get as involved as possible on that unit, including not only kick and punt returning but gunning and all the other normal duties of special-teamers.

"I volunteered to play any position on special teams," McNeal said Tuesday. "Coach Baxter said they're going to throw me in the game, so I'm going to play whatever he throws me at."

At 5-7, 180 pounds with legitimate speed, McNeal has always been under consideration for the returner spots. But his somewhat-slight frame could also make him a valuable participant on various special-teams units, and you can bet that Baxter will explore every single possibility for the best fit for McNeal.

Other big-time contributors to special teams for the Trojans include linebacker/tight end Ross Cumming, cornerback Tony Burnett, safety Demetrius Wright and tight end Rhett Ellison. USC uses more regular contributors to offense and defense on its special-teams units than most programs normally do.

Most of that can be attributed to Baxter.

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.

Ross Cumming has quite the story

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
9:16
PM PT

Courtesy of USC
Ross Cumming has traveled a long road to get to where he is at USC.

USC linebacker Ross Cumming earned a scholarship during training camp this fall and came down with two key onside kick recoveries this season, saving the day for the Trojans against both Hawaii and Virginia.

His story has a lot more to it than just that, though.

The redshirt junior has hopped through plenty more obstacles on his way to becoming a key special-teamer for the Trojans.

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
10:55
PM PT
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Coach Lane Kiffin was impressed with the Trojans' effort during practice Wednesday -- at least as far as the defense is concerned. Kiffin spotlighted the defense for a good practice, one in which they forced three turnovers, but also talked about the possibility that USC may have to resort to untested backups on the defensive line against the Gophers on Saturday.
  • On that note, listed as limited on the injury report were defensive linemen Nick Perry and Armond Armstead, although Perry did seem to participate in a fair amount of on-field drills and Armstead was moving around a bit on the sideline. Tight end Jordan Cameron and linebacker Marquis Simmons also appeared on the limited list, but Cameron was involved in a great deal of practice and looks to be on track to play against Minnesota.
  • Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, on his move to nose tackle for the Virginia game and whether he enjoyed the switch: "First game back at nose this year, I didn't like it (very much.) I played pretty well, but I couldn't make as many plays as I did when I was at the (three-technique spot). But, if I would've gotten in a little bit more of a rhythm I'm pretty sure I would've got something done."
  • And about what his role will be on Saturday considering a likely influx of new players on the line if Perry and Armstead are unable to go because of their injuries: "Yeah, it'll just be a little different, because you got the young guys coming in and you're trying to get them to remember their plays, remember to get their jobs done. But I'm pretty sure they'll be back and ready to play for us this week. And I'm pretty sure the young guys are gonna get their things together so when they get in there they can do the job also."
  • Linebackers coach Joe Barry was asked if -- given middle linebacker Devon Kennard's obvious improvement since he first moved to the position in the spring -- it's sometimes possible to see improvement in Kennard's game from the first half to the second half of a game: "I don't know if I'd go that extreme, but except for two or three plays, I don't think he played bad against Hawaii. I think he played pretty solid. I thought he played even better the Virginia game than he did the Hawaii game. And, as a coach when you're coaching a young player, that's all you want: daily improvement, every game improvement. And Devon -- and all the other guys that have played as well -- is doing that right now.
  • On-field highlights: Linebacker Ross Cumming picked off a Mitch Mustain pass and took it back the other way for a score during seven-on-seven drills, and defensive backs Demetrius Wright and Daniel Harper collided in an awkward way near the goal line when a receiver split between them to make a touchdown grab, but both got up just fine.
  • Final notes: Thursday at 2:15 p.m. will be the Trojans' final practice of game week, followed by a trip to Minnesota. ... Kiffin, on whether he considers Minnesota his home after spending three of his high-school years there while father coached for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings: "Well I've got a lot of homes, we moved like 17 times. Everywhere we play seems to be a home."

***

Kiffin spoke to the media following Wednesday's practice, addressing a number of current issues facing the team.

See what he had to say:



***

Running back Dillon Baxter finally made his debut Saturday against Virginia and was successful in doing so, gaining 49 yards on the ground on nine carries. He seems certain that he will get more touches in USC's offense this week against Minnesota -- more than the 11 he did against the Cavaliers.

See what he had to say on that topic and about his role in the Trojans' developing running back tandem alongside Marc Tyler.

LB Ross Cumming on his scholarship

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
10:05
PM PT
Trojans linebacker Ross Cumming earned a scholarship last week, validating two years' worth of work for the 22-year-old who was medically discharged from a Naval Academy prep school in 2007 and forced to fight his way back into USC as a walk-on and special-teamer.

Hear -- and see -- how Cumming described how the ceremony went down, how he feels he has earned the trust of the new coaching staff, and more in a one-on-one video interview taken after Sunday's practice:

SPONSORED HEADLINES

2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler452315382639
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen27614895.411
J. Davis1295954.64
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
N. Agholor104131312.612
J. Smith5472413.45
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense158.2294.6452.8
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring35.123.811.3