USC: Scott Starr

Ten spring risers at USC

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
With a new coaching staff in place at USC, spring practice represented a time of opportunity more than ever for lesser-known members of the team looking to make a move up the depth chart. With that said, here are 10 players who seized that chance over the course of the 15 workouts, showing that they just might be ready to make a significant impact for the Trojans in the fall.

[+] EnlargeJabari Ruffin
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJabari Ruffin (40) was a force all spring, moving ahead of Quinton Powell at SAM linebacker.
1. TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Jr.)
With Randall Telfer sidelined for this spring because of injury, Cope-Fitzpatrick got the call with the first unit and shined in Steve Sarkisian’s tight end-friendly offense. Showcasing sure hands to go along with the ideal size that you want at the position, he caught virtually everything thrown in his direction, providing more than enough evidence to suggest that he’s primed for a breakout season.

2. OLB Scott Starr (6-2, 220, RS So.)
After battling a neck injury and being buried on the depth chart during his first two years on campus, a now-healthy Starr materialized as a perfect fit at rush end in Justin Wilcox’s new 3-4 multiple front defense. With a nonstop motor and outstanding pass-rush skills, he capped his stellar spring in the Coliseum by making a game-high six stops, including three tackles for loss and one sack.

3. OL Zach Banner (6-9, 345, RS So.)
Missing the majority of the 2013 season after undergoing surgery on both hips, Banner’s emergence was one of the big surprises. Moving into the starting lineup at right tackle during the third week of workouts, Banner played the best that he has in a Trojans uniform -- a particularly impressive feat when you consider the fact he said he wasn’t even quite back to 100 percent yet. With the promise that he showed, it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see him remain with the first group in the fall.

4. OLB Jabari Ruffin (6-3, 225, RS So.)
Like Starr, Ruffin benefited from the switch to the new defensive system in a big way. Rangy, fast and extremely aggressive at the point of attack, he’s tailor-made for the SAM linebacker position in Wilcox’s scheme. Beginning camp with the No. 2 unit, he eventually moved ahead of Quinton Powell -- another rising player -- and ran exclusively with the first-team defense during the last two weeks of spring drills.

5. CB Chris Hawkins (5-11, 185, RS Fr.)
After spending his first season at USC redshirting, a more physically developed Hawkins came into camp showcasing an improved skill set, jumping in with the No. 1 defensive group opposite Kevon Seymour. His development is crucial for a unit that struggled in coverage at times in 2013, and even with the expected return of Josh Shaw from injury in the fall, USC will need all of the capable contributors it can come up with as the unit squares off against all of those uptempo, spread-it-out Pac-12 offenses.

6. OLB Quinton Powell (6-2, 220, So.)
The fact Powell was supplanted in the starting lineup during the later stages of spring ball really speaks more about the exceptional camp that Ruffin had than anything that Powell did wrong. On the contrary, the long and athletic former Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland star continued to stand out as one of the team’s most promising young talents. A force both in coverage and up at the line of scrimmage, the competition between Powell and Ruffin is sure to be one of the most entertaining position battles of fall camp.

7. DL Delvon Simmons (6-6, 300, RS Jr.)
Forced to spend last fall on the scout team as he sat out the season after transferring from Texas Tech, where he compiled 13 starts in 2012, Simmons hit the ground running this spring from Day 1. Surprisingly mobile for a player possessing his size, expect him to make an instant impact up front for the Trojans as a member of what should be an extremely formidable defensive line group.

8. DL Claude Pelon (6-5, 285, RS Jr.)
Transferring to USC from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College in January, Pelon struggled at times early in camp as he adjusted to the lightning-fast tempo of practice, but once he got into shape he really asserted himself as someone to keep an eye on. In fact, perhaps no player improved more during the 15 practices than he did. A powerfully built athlete, he amassed three tackles for loss, including two sacks, in the spring game, and he’s only going to get better.

9. OL Khaliel Rodgers (6-3, 310, RS Fr.)
Taking advantage of Aundrey Walker’s absence because of injury, Rodgers stepped in at right guard with the starting unit and remained there throughout spring ball. Strong and stout with a nasty demeanor when he’s on the field, he performed well enough to show that if Walker doesn’t return to form after having been away so long, Rodgers is a steady option who can certainly get the job done.

10. OL Toa Lobendahn (6-3, 290, Fr.)
An early enrollee, Lobendahn neither looked nor played like a player just a few months removed from high school. Lining up as the No. 2 center initially, he moved over to left guard, where he ran with the No. 1 unit throughout the last four weeks of drills. A versatile lineman with strong fundamentals, what was most impressive was the way he was able to hold his own physically against the more veteran players. Things will get a whole lot more interesting in the fall when USC adds injured guards Walker and Jordan Simmons back into the equation, as well as a host of freshmen, but Lobendahn got a jump on the competition by making a big statement with his play this spring.

The best of spring football at USC 

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
Here’s our look back at the Trojans’ progress during spring.


[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsWill Nelson Agholor become the latest standout receiver at USC?
Garry Paskwietz: Nelson Agholor
Johnny Curren: Agholor
Greg Katz: Agholor, Hayes Pullard

Curren: From the start of spring ball to last Saturday’s finish no other player performed at such a sky-high level, and with such consistency, as Agholor. A practice didn’t ever seem to go by without the talented junior coming up with at least one highlight catch that caught everyone’s attention. An already solid player heading into the spring, he got even better and appears poised to take his place as the next great USC wide receiver.

Biggest surprise

GP: Zach Banner
JC: Scott Starr
GK: Banner

Katz: It has to be redshirt freshman offensive right tackle Zach Banner, who came out of nowhere -- thanks to the wonders of hip surgery -- to claim the starting position. He probably surprised not only his teammates with his newfound agility but himself as well. Still a work in progress, he is not only turning into a grizzly bear on roller skates but potentially a future All-Pac-12 selection. When Banner is able to stay at pad level, it’s like a tsunami of human girth stream rolling a mismatched opponent.

Trojans front seven rounding into form

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans get back to the practice field on Tuesday afternoon after taking a week off for spring break, and the development of a talented defensive front seven will be on display.

In particular, there are several players who had previously played limited roles but could now be looking to step into bigger roles after what they’ve shown through the initial spring sessions.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsAntwaun Woods could have an expanded role in 2014.
Along the line, Antwaun Woods appears ready to solidify his status as a nose tackle capable of a full-time starting spot. Woods does have 10 career starts under his belt -- to go along with 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks -- but his contribution was limited last year because he came out of games when the Trojans used their nickel package.

Now Woods has bulked up to 315 pounds, and with his 6-foot frame, he has what USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox calls “natural leverage.”

Not only has Woods made physical progress, he is also showing a more vocal leadership style in practice. During the first day in pads, there was a team drill held late in the day and Woods was front and center in the middle of the line getting his defensive mates fired up and challenging the offense. That's a side not previously seen from Woods and a sign of his veteran status within the team, something that could help provide a solid anchor in the middle of the Trojans D-line.

On the outside -- at either the OLB spot or stand-up DE spot depending on the alignment -- is a trio of long and athletic players in Quinton Powell, Scott Starr and Jabari Ruffin.

In the 4-3, Starr is the stand-up end in much the same role Clay Matthews played late in his USC career. He has very good pursuit speed when he gets into the backfield. Looking for his first start, Starr had 11 tackles in 2013 in a reserve role.

Powell and Ruffin are currently battling at the spot opposite Starr, an outside linebacker position where Sarkisian hopes to take advantage of their physical dimensions to cause problems for opposing quarterbacks in passing lanes. Ruffin has one start under his belt -- the 2013 season opener against Hawaii -- and has 22 career tackles. Powell made his share of impactful hits last season as a true freshman, primarily on special teams, and ended the season with 20 tackles.

The early returns from the opening week of spring indicate that the Trojans front seven could be one of the best in the conference, and it looks like these players will have a much bigger role in the coming year.

Injuries raise questions, provide chances

March, 20, 2013
The Trojans are navigating through their share of injuries this spring. But at this time of year, as long as the injuries are not serious, they can offer a mixed blessing of sorts.

When one player is forced to sit on the sideline, it gives another player the chance for extended reps with the hope of showing the coaches he is ready for a bigger role. For the injured player, there is still plenty of time to return either in spring or in fall camp before the season begins. As quarterback Max Wittek noted after a recent knee injury, “you never want this to happen, but if it’s going to happen, better to have it happen now.”

[+] EnlargeRedd_Silas
AP Photo/Grant HindsleySilas Redd's knee injury opens the door for other USC tailbacks to impress this spring.
Wittek is perhaps the most notable USC injury right now, primarily because he is engaged in a battle for the starting quarterback spot. Wittek suffered the knee sprain on March 9 prior to a scrimmage at the Coliseum and has been out ever since. He is expected to return when the Trojans practice on March 26. Cody Kessler has played well with Wittek out and any small gains by either player can end up meaning a lot in a competition that is so close.

On the same day that Wittek got hurt, Marqise Lee also went down with a “minor” knee injury and has been held out as well. There isn’t as much of an impact here as Lee certainly isn’t in any competition for his starting job. If anything, his absence gave the other receivers a chance to step up and the overall group is doing well from top to bottom. Right now, Nelson Agholor appears to be the clear leader for the starting spot opposite Lee.

A recent loss came with the news that Silas Redd would undergo surgery this week for a torn meniscus. Redd is the established senior starter at tailback, but he has only been on the USC campus for eight months, so any time spent on the field was beneficial. Instead, Redd will be out until fall camp and the Trojans are further limited at tailback with Tre Madden still not cleared for full contact due to his knee rehab. That means the remaining spring practices will be huge for guys like D.J. Morgan, Buck Allen and maybe even Justin Davis, although it remains to be seen how much a recent broken finger will hamper him.

The offensive line had been fairly healthy until the news that Chad Wheeler will miss the rest of spring with a knee injury. Wheeler had added bulk and was progressing nicely as the No. 2 left tackle.

On the defensive side of the ball, injuries are really impacting the interior depth on the line and the safety positions.

There are three linemen who have missed all of spring: J.R. Tavai, Greg Townsend and Cody Temple. All three figure to provide important depth at the three interior spots of the 5-2 defense, so it’s vital to get them back on the field. Right now, the Trojans have Kenny Bigelow as a legit reserve at nose tackle, but the other spots are being manned by players out of position such as Charles Burks. Scott Starr is also out of action until fall, and he is expected to be a key reserve behind Morgan Breslin.

[+] EnlargeDion Bailey
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAs Dion Bailey recovers from shoulder surgery, the question of whether he'll play safety or linebacker in 2013 remains unanswered.
In the secondary, the Trojans have a lot of talent but not much is going to be settled until the coaches figure out where to put Dion Bailey. Most speculation centers around Bailey ending up at safety rather than linebacker, but he won’t be available for spring after recent shoulder surgery. So Josh Shaw, Demetrius Wright and Su’a Cravens are auditioning for starting spots. Gerald Bowman could also be in that mix, but he is also out this spring. This means it’s likely the safety rotation won’t be determined until well into fall camp.

At corner, the top player through the early part of spring was Kevon Seymour, but he has missed the last couple of days with an ankle injury. Devian Shelton is also out with a foot injury. That means extended reps for Torin Harris, Anthony Brown and Ryan Henderson, as well as the freshman Chris Hawkins.

USC coach Lane Kiffin said after Saturday’s scrimmage that the time off for spring break this week was coming at a good time for a team looking to get a few bodies back. The Trojans return to the practice field next Tuesday and having some of those injured players on the field will go a long way toward helping to determine starting spots.

Kiffin also acknowledged that the extra hitting in practices so far this spring -- done to achieve his goal of returning to a more physical style of play -- has played a part in having so many injuries. He said the team will continue to practice with full hitting for the rest of spring but gave no word on if there will be any changes in philosophy beyond that point.

Freshman Ruffin will likely redshirt

September, 26, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Freshman defender Jabari Ruffin will most likely redshirt the 2012 season at USC, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin announced this week.

Ruffin, from nearby Downey, has not played in any of the Trojans' first four games. He began as a linebacker at USC but has been working at defensive end in recent weeks after the school lost Devon Kennard and DeVante Wilson for the season with injuries.

"We're just looking at some things with him up front and some pass-rush stuff, for next year, because he's so talented," Kiffin said Tuesday.

A 6-4, 230-pounder, Ruffin had 99 tackles and two sacks in his senior season of high school, after which he earned Super Prep All-American honors.

USC is now without the services of both of its freshman linebackers on scholarship, as Kiffin announced on Sunday that middle linebacker Scott Starr will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury.

Starr played in the first three games of the season.

Starr, Garness out for 2012 season

September, 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC linebacker Scott Starr and offensive lineman David Garness will miss the rest of the 2012 season, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin announced Sunday.

Starr, a true freshman from nearby Norco, Calif., will apply for a medical redshirt after experiencing neck problems. Kiffin expects the redshirt to be granted because Starr played in only three games.

The NCAA-mandated maximum for a medical redshirt is 30 percent of a team’s games. With three being 25 percent, any more games Starr participates in would cost him a year of eligibility.

Starr was listed as sophomore Lamar Dawson’s primary backup at middle linebacker but had been playing primarily special teams this season.

Garness, a junior-college transfer who hails from Anchorage, Alaska, has been with the Trojans since January 2011 but has not appeared in a game. He redshirted last season and will undergo back surgery.

Five of USC’s 75 scholarship players are expected to miss the entire 2012 season: Starr and Garness, along with sophomore tailback Tre Madden, freshman defensive end DeVante Wilson and senior end Devon Kennard.

It’s possible Kennard could make a late-season return from a pectoral muscle tear that he suffered in late July.

USC, ranked No. 13 in the AP poll following a weekend win over Cal, plays at Utah on Oct. 4 after its only bye of the season this week.

Postgame notes: USC beats Cal

September, 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- No. 13 USC Trojans beat California Golden Bears for the ninth straight season on Saturday at the Coliseum, 27-9. Here are news, notes and quotes from the game that won't make it into our other coverage from the day:

Seven sacks

Coach Lane Kiffin likes to begin his postgame news conferences after USC wins by telling reporters what the "story of the day" was.

Sometimes, he's right on target; sometimes he's not. He was exactly right with his opening comments this time.

"I think that the game was won at the line of scrimmage," Kiffin said, pointing out that his Trojans had seven sacks to Cal's zero.

That really was the single biggest reason USC beat Cal on Saturday, the single biggest reason the Trojans were able to put last week's upset loss at Stanford behind them despite a decidedly less-than-perfect performance on offense and in the secondary.

"They came around today," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said of his unit.

USC's linebackers have been the defense's strength over the last season-plus, and it's not necessarily any different now, but the Trojans' linemen really made the three 'backers look good Saturday.

"It's great when the linemen are rotating, staying fresh and keeping their linemen off us linebackers," said middle linebacker Lamar Dawson. "Then we can make plays."

Weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard said the linemen forced Cal quarterback Zach Maynard into some unusual mistakes.

Defensive end Wes Horton, who played at full strength for the first time this season, said the Trojans noticed in meetings this week that Cal's offensive linemen wouldn't be difficult to beat if schemed correctly.

"They were OK," Horton said. "It was a matter of creating the right moves to beat them."

Horton and fellow end Morgan Breslin certainly found them -- Breslin was credited with three sacks, the most by a USC defender since Rey Maualuga's 2008 Rose Bowl performance against Illinois.

(Read full post)

Game-time updates: USC-Cal

September, 22, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- We're just about set to go here at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for No. 13 USC against Cal. Here are some last-minute updates as we approach the 3 p.m. PT kickoff:
  • It looks as if USC's offensive line will be assembled differently this week than it was against Stanford. Khaled Holmes, who missed last week's game, was announced as the starting center on the Coliseum video board and also warmed up there in pregame drills. Abe Markowitz practiced as the left guard pregame and appears to be the starter there this week.
  • Here's something interesting: Andre Heidari warmed up before the game and looked like his normal self, converting kicks from 50 yards with ease and knocking down consecutive 40 yarders with Matt Barkley serving as the holder. Heidari has missed the last two games. Alex Wood, who has kicked in his place, is wearing a different number for the third straight week, now sporting No. 8 after beginning with No. 6 and then switching to No. 48 against Stanford.
  • Receiver George Farmer, defensive end J.R. Tavai and linebacker Scott Starr are not in uniform for today's game, according to USC's official site. That means the Trojans will be shorthanded on the defensive line once again, with Tavai now out for his second straight contest.
  • The lower half of the student section at the Coliseum filled up well before kickoff, but the rest of the seats were largely empty as the start of the game approached. A game-time temperature of 87 degrees might have something to do with that.

We'll have extensive postgame coverage after today's game on

On a quest for turnovers

August, 20, 2012
Of the teams who finished in the top 10 of last season's end-of-year AP Poll, nine finished with a positive turnover margin, an average of more than +10 each. No. 2 LSU forced 20 more turnovers than it committed; No. 3 Oklahoma State did even better with 21.

Then there was No. 6 USC, the only top 10 team to not finish on the positive side of the record books. The Trojans turned the ball over 18 times and forced only 17 turnovers for a margin 0f -1, roughly average nationally and horrendous considering their 10-2 record. The other six teams who posted the same margins include the likes of Cal, Ball State and Louisville.

So it's a positive sign, then, that the Trojans forced five turnovers in their Sunday scrimmage at the Coliseum, although it'd be even more positive if it didn't come at the expense of their offensive counterparts. Matt Barkley and Max Wittek each threw two picks and Silas Redd was stripped of the ball, with freshman Scott Starr responsible for two of the interceptions and T.J. McDonald, George Uko and Kevon Seymour all producing one each.

McDonald, who will be a captain this season, said the defenders' play was a direct result of repetitive requests from the Trojans' coaches to focus on playmaking.

"The higher the turnover ratio, the better the team," McDonald said on Sunday. "That's one thing we've been trying to enforce: get turnovers."

(Read full post)

First-team linebacking crew out hurt

August, 13, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Dion Bailey's left arm was in a sling. Lamar Dawson's right foot was in a boot. And Hayes Pullard showed up two hours into practice wearing sneakers.

The Trojans' entire first-team linebacking crew was out of commission on Monday, with exact injuries unknown because of Lane Kiffin's new policy that prevents players from revealing anything about their injuries.

And into their places stepped Tony Burnett, Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao -- none of whom have ever played a single snap of a collegiate game at linebacker.

The injuries to Bailey and Pullard seem fairly minor. Bailey characterized his as a "few bumps and bruises" and Pullard actually said he wasn't hurt at all. But Dawson's troubles could be more serious, as evidenced by the contingency plan USC has put into place the last few days.

Pullard, while healthy, has been practicing at middle linebacker so he can play there if Dawson stays out. And Sarao has been running with the first team on the weak side, which is Pullard's regular spot.

(Read full post)

Fall camp practice No. 7 notes

August, 11, 2012
Here are news and notes from USC's Saturday practices that won't make it into our other coverage of the day.

Injury updates

During the latter half of the Trojans' first two-a-day of the 2012 season, Aundrey Walker continued to sit out with an arm issue of some sort and Lamar Dawson did not attend practice with an unspecified injury.

Torin Harris did not practice after injuring his hamstring on Friday.

Woods, Agholor and Farmer also sit out

Receiver Robert Woods got the afternoon off for the Trojans after practicing in the morning. It sounds as if it'll be standard practice for the rest of USC's two-a-days this camp.

Freshman Nelson Agholor exited the afternoon practice early because of an unknown ailment and stayed on the sideline getting treatment throughout the session.

Sophomore George Farmer, still nursing his injured hamstring, sat out of team drills after participating in individual drills. He has yet to participate in team drills this fall.

Tuerk might be next in line to start

Since Walker, USC's projected left tackle, went down earlier this week, the Trojans have used walk-on Nathan Guertler as the first-team left-tackle in drills.

That changed Saturday, when freshman Max Tuerk shifted over to the left side for a considerable portion of the afternoon practice. He had previously been working on the right side, where he was impressing coach Lane Kiffin and the coaching staff. Fellow freshman Zach Banner was moved from left to right tackle in a corresponding move.

Kiffin said Tuerk was "naturally" going to struggle but expressed hope that he'd get the hang of the position sooner rather than later.

If Walker's not healthy in two or three weeks, it seems as if Tuerk is the next candidate to assume a starting role -- whether that'll be on the left side, as a direct replacement, or on the right side, with Kevin Graf sliding over to the left.

Kiffin said he doesn't have a specific date in mind when Walker has to be back to start on Sept. 1 against Hawaii.

"I don't think there's ever a certain date for things," Kiffin said. "You just have to know what the issue is. I think he'll -- I think we'll -- be fine."

Pullard works at middle linebacker

As Kiffin said would happen earlier this week, redshirt sophomore linebacker Hayes Pullard worked some at middle linebacker.

He earned positive reviews. If Dawson continues to be out for any sort of extended period, USC's backup option would be to start Anthony Sarao on the weak side and move Pullard over to the middle.

That might actually be the plan to give Dawson a break sometimes, too, because the only other option is true freshman Scott Starr.

Final notes: USC's morning and afternoon practices both checked in at less than two hours each. ... Junior defensive end Morgan Breslin capped off the day with a leaping interception of Max Wittek in the final play of the afternoon practice. ... The Trojans have three more two-a-days scheduled this month.

Fall camp practice No. 3 notes

August, 9, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Here are more notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice coverage, which included stories on Curtis McNeal, George Farmer and Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.

Injury updates

Left tackle Aundrey Walker and middle linebacker Lamar Dawson missed most of practice with unspecified injuries. Walk-on Nathan Guertler filled in for Walker and freshman Scott Starr replaced Dawson.

Kiffin indicated that weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard would move to the middle spot and redshirt freshman Anthony Sarao would step in for Pullard before Starr would replace Dawson in a game situation. He was unclear on the contingency plan at left tackle, saying Guertler would be the backup "as of right now."

Center Khaled Holmes and receiver Robert Woods (ankle) continued to be very limited in practice, and cornerback Brian Baucham continued to sit out. Receivers Victor Blackwell and Farmer both sat out all of practice.

Cornerback Isiah Wiley and linebacker Marquis Simmons are expected to be out another week while they await their summer-school grades and find out about their eligibility for the coming season.

Flournoy ahead of everybody else

With Blackwell and Farmer on the sideline and freshman Nelson Agholor still adjusting to the speed of the game, coach Lane Kiffin said fourth-year junior De'Von Flournoy is "way ahead" of his competition in the race to be the No. 3 receiver behind Woods and Marqise Lee.

"Nelson has worked hard but he's still just trying to learn it," Kiffin said. "Just like spring, Flournoy is doing really well and very consistent."

Wright standing out

Kiffin said junior safety Demetrius Wright has been the best non-starter on the defense through three practices.

"He's made a ton of plays and had a phenomenal attitude and great approach to the game," Kiffin said. "He's a guy going into his third year who seems to have turned the corner."

Wright is competing with senior Jawanza Starling for the opportunity to start at strong safety next to T.J. McDonald.

Ideally, Kiffin said, Wright and Starling would rotate on defense and on special teams this season to keep both players fresh. And even McDonald would do the same thing with Drew McAllister and/or Josh Shaw.

Final notes: Freshmen Max Tuerk and Leonard Williams earned praise from coach Lane Kiffin for their play thus far in camp. Kiffin said Tuerk has made "very few mental mistakes." ... Freshmen cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton, who have run some with the second-team defense, were also credited by Kiffin. ... Players had indicated earlier this week that practices would be shorter this camp than in past years, but Wednesday's session checked in at roughly three hours long. ... The Trojans will scrimmage at the Coliseum on Friday afternoon. Kiffin said he was unsure whether or not they would tackle during it.

Fall camp: Five final questions

August, 6, 2012
For the first time since 2008, the USC Trojans enter into a season with real national championship aspirations. The university and program has dealt with similar expectations on numerous occasions in the past, but it undeniably feels a little different this time around.

Maybe it's because it all happened sooner than expected after many predicted a significantly longer downturn during a period of NCAA sanctions. Maybe it's because the digital age has increased player-fan interaction exponentially and many current Trojans are far better known by the general public than most 2000's-era players.

Or maybe it's a collision of several factors, including the last-minute recruitment of Penn State's top player, running back Silas Redd, after the Nittany Lions were sanctioned by the NCAA. But there's certainly a lot of interest in USC's 2012 season.

For all intents and purposes, that season starts today, Aug. 6, with the opening of the Trojans' training camp and the season now just 26 days away. In previewing the upcoming season, we've touched all the bases, looking at potential stumbling blocks and examining each position's current depth chart. We're looking at previous opponents now.

Here, we take one last look at the five biggest questions the Trojans hope to have resolved by their Sept. 1 season opener.

1. How will Matt Barkley and USC deal with those increased expectations?

If there's a player to have in place when facing a season like this, Matt Barkley is a pretty good choice. The seasoned senior acts like an adult off field and plays like one on it, with limited mistakes and impressive overall poise.

He'll be the emotional leader of the team, as he has been for two-plus years now. But one guy can't control collective sentiment. We'll get a better sense in the next two to three weeks of how USC's other contributors are handling the increased pressure that's coming their way starting tonight.

(Read full post)

Fall camp position preview: Linebackers

August, 4, 2012
Hayes PullardRic Tapia/Icon SMIHayes Pullard has played a bit under the radar, but he could be USC's most valuable linebacker.
To prepare for the start of the 2012 USC campaign, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster all this week. We began Monday with quarterbacks and continued Tuesday with running backs, Wednesday with receivers and tight ends, Thursday with offensive linemen and Friday with defensive linemen.

Today, we look at the linebackers.

For each position, we’re starting with a projected current depth chart, going off the end-of-spring depth chart as released by Lane Kiffin, and discussing what needs to be resolved by Sept. 1.


1. Dion Bailey, redshirt sophomore
2. Tony Burnett, redshirt senior
3. Marquis Simmons, redshirt junior
4. Jabari Ruffin, freshman


1. Lamar Dawson, sophomore
2. Scott Starr, freshman
3. Will Andrew, redshirt junior
4. Dallas Kelley, senior


1. Hayes Pullard, redshirt sophomore
2. Anthony Sarao, redshirt freshman

(Read full post)

More details on the Haiti trip

May, 9, 2012
We wrote in April about Matt Barkley and his family's plans to bring several USC Trojans with them to Haiti this summer for a house-building trip in the earthquake-torn Caribbean country.

Those plans are ongoing, and the trip is nearing. Here's the updated list of players going and a brief itinerary of what the group will do in Haiti this month with Hope Force International.

The full list of participants includes Barkley, T.J. McDonald, Devon Kennard, Dion Bailey, Robert Woods, Khaled Holmes, Nickell Robey, Hayes Pullard, Kyle Negrete, Scott Starr, Josh Shaw, Cyrus Hobbi, Kevin Greene, Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Luke Freeman.

The 14 players who originally planned to go are all still going, and McDonald and Bailey joined the group later. Barkley's parents and siblings are also attending.

They will leave at midnight on May 12th, so late this Friday night, meaning a few of the players walking in Friday's commencement ceremony will essentially be going straight from school to the foreign country. They return a week from today, on the 16th.

They're staying in the beachside town of Leogane, 20 miles west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Leogane was at the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and had 80 to 90 percent of its buildings damaged.

The plan is to build four houses for four family in the small village of Sous Savanne and to visit an orphanage and school there and help out too.



C. Kessler100718468
J. Allen603185.31
J. Davis26602.31
N. Agholor232129.23
J. Smith1117015.50