USC: Stanley Havili

Vainuku the early favorite at fullback

February, 11, 2012
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."

Signing day observations

February, 2, 2012
Here are five more USC-centric observations from National Signing Day, focusing on what they will mean for the future of the Trojans. Later, we'll have a post on some news and notes Lane Kiffin revealed in his signing day press conference.

1. The star(s)

Most recruiting classes have one or two players who are recognizable names, often top-recruited quarterbacks or skill-position players from the area.

But the two most exciting players -- defensive end Leonard Williams and receiver Nelson Agholor, both from Florida -- in the Trojans' 2012 class don't fit either of those bills.

Williams' decision to choose USC didn't attract a ton of national attention, but it's clear the Trojans were both surprised and delighted at his choice. Kiffin credited defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron for sealing Williams' signature from out-of-state.

The 6-5, 270-pounder spent high school on the East coast of Florida, but he hails from L.A. and attended a camp at USC last summer. That's where USC's interest stemmed from.

Agholor is an interesting combination as an elite athletic prospect and a superb character guy. His high-school highlight film is prodigious; his press-conference performance Wednesday morning when he picked the Trojans earned him some positive attention.

Kiffin said Agholor will primarily play receiver at USC but could occasionally log some time at running back.

2. Depth issues at two spots

We wrote about the offensive line on signing day and how USC wanted to get one more lineman in the fold, but the truth is there were two other positions where the Trojans needed players more desperately than they did on the O-line.

Those spots? Defensive tackle and running back. The Trojans have only four scholarship tackles on the roster, and two of them have never played in a college game. The other two, J.R. Tavai and George Uko, have played but started a combined one game.

At running back, USC has three scholarship players and only two with any experience in Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan.

Kiffin didn't shy away from saying Wednesday that the Trojans were worried about their depth in the backfield. But, he emphasized, they chose being worried about depth over taking a prospect of questionable character or talent.

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Tyler to make trip to Notre Dame

October, 20, 2011
The Trojans set off for South Bend Thursday afternoon and Marc Tyler is coming with them.

The USC running back, who dislocated his left shoulder a week ago against Cal, has made a rapid recovery and has already been cleared for contact by team doctors. He participated in team drills during a quick non-contact practice Thursday morning.

Tyler had been USC's starter the last five games after his return from a one-game suspension, but it's unlikely he'll start Saturday against Notre Dame. Junior Curtis McNeal is expected to make his first career start in Tyler's absence.

"It feels good," Tyler said. "I'm going to be ready to play, and if they put me in or need me I'll be ready."

Tyler was cleared medically on Tuesday night, remarkably just five days after he originally suffered the injury. He attributed the faster than normal recovery to two things: (1) the location of the injury, as it was located on the back of his shoulder, not the front, and (2) his non-stop visits with the training staff since he got hurt.

On the first point, former USC fullback Stanley Havili, for example, dislocated the front of his shoulder, and that caused him on-and-off-again issues throughout his senior season as a Trojan.

Tyler said he was not seriously concerned with the possibility of his speedy return leading to problems later on.

Trojans pick 2011 captains

August, 28, 2011
Quarterback Matt Barkley was named a USC captain for the second straight season Sunday, joined by tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, defensive tackle Christian Tupou and safety T.J. McDonald to form the Trojans' set of four.

Barkley and McDonald are juniors; Ellison and Tupou are seniors. The captains were chosen by a vote of the entire roster of more than 100 Trojans.

"I kinda saw it coming, but it's an honor nonetheless," Barkley said. "I'm proud to lead these guys into battle and I know I have their respect and I'm playing for them and not for me.

"It's fun to have Rhett and T.J. and Tupou there too, guys who I look up to."

A year ago, in coach Lane Kiffin's first year with the team, the Trojans had five captains: Barkley, senior fullback Stanley Havili and senior defenders Shareece Wright, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan.

The four players this year will be asked to lead the team off the field and on it, meeting the opposition's captains at midfield for the coin toss each game.

"It's awesome," Ellison said. "I'm just excited that the team put me there, in that position.

"I just try to lead by example -- effort and stuff like that, and help guys out on the sidelines just to get their heads right."

Rhett Ellison gets mid-practice stitches

August, 13, 2011
USC tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison cut open his left hand on a special-teams drill early in Saturday's no-pads practice at Howard Jones Field, but he quickly received stitches to repair the wound and is expected to play in Sunday's scrimmage at the Coliseum.

Ellison, a senior, has been one of the Trojans' best players in fall camp this year, according to coach Lane Kiffin. Switching between tight end and fullback as the coaches attempt to figure out which position they have more talent behind him at, he's picked up the lingo and terminology in the backfield quicker than expected.

As a fullback, Ellison also allows the Trojans more short-pass options, although Kiffin didn't call many plays designed to get Stanley Havili the ball from that spot in 2010. Ellison caught 21 balls for 239 yards and three touchdowns last season as the Trojans' No. 1 tight end and had 10 total catches in his first two years suiting up for USC.

A 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, Ellison's bigger than normal for the fullback position. But playing him there allows Kiffin and Co. to get some of their talented second-year tight ends on the field and keeps them from rushing freshman Soma Vainuku onto the field right away at fullback.

He's played a little bit there in the past while subbing in for an injured Havili.

Fall camp practice No. 7 tidbits

August, 10, 2011

Here's what went on at Howard Jones Field on Wednesday morning, for the first half of the Trojans' first two-a-day session of the fall and seventh practice overall:

Ellison enjoying fullback

On the first day of practice last week, senior Rhett Ellison surprised some by spending some time at fullback rather than his usual position of tight end.

But by now, a week into camp, it's no longer a surprise. Ellison's trying out both positions and focusing on fullback, with the reasoning being the Trojans already know what they have in him as a tight end. And, they say, they don't entirely know what they have in him as a fullback just yet.

He started two games at the position in 2008 while Stanley Havili was injured, but he has worked almost exclusively at tight end. And the Trojans have three talented second-year tight ends on scholarship in Christian Thomas, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, and no scholarship returners at fullback, only first-year players Soma Vainuku and Charles Burks.

So Ellison's playing fullback -- and, really, a variation of what's commonly referred to as H-back, as he has been moved around a lot in various sets.

"It's new," Ellison said of the position after Wednesday's morning session. "And it's been a lot of fun just trying to learn it and figure it out."

Always known as a smart player, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ellison says he is having some troubling figuring it out and picking up the different things he's now required to know, but not enough to the point where's he worried about it.

"Just understanding defenses in the grand scheme of things," Ellison said when asked what he's working on most. "Just everything. You have to understand everything from the defensive line techniques to the linebacker stacks, where the safeties are rotating, the corners ... all that kind of stuff, as opposed to a tight end, where you just have to worry about half of the line of scrimmage, pretty much."

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NFL Combine recap

March, 3, 2011
The annual athletic workout headquarters that is the NFL Combine finished Tuesday in Indianapolis. Here's a recap of what the eight former Trojans participating in the festivities did over the five days of competition:

Allen Bradford, RB, 5-11, 242 pounds

Bradford weighed in at a fairly remarkable 242 pounds, which made him the 4th-heaviest running back out of 39 participants at the position, and the three guys in front of him -- Georgia's Shaun Chapas, Pittsburgh's Henry Hynoski and Stanford's Owen Marecic -- were all college fullbacks. His 40-yard dash time of 4.58 wasn't spectacular, but it was a respectable 15th out of the 39 prospects. His 28 bench-press repetitions at 225 pounds were third-best among all offensive players at the combine, and reports had him looking better than expected in the passing drills.

What'll he probably try to do is lower his 40-time a few hundredths of a second for USC's Pro Day later this month. If he can't do that, he runs the risk of being pigeonholed into the fullback spot at the next level.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 254 pounds

There were high expectations for Cameron in some circles, but the converted receiver came out and exceeded them over the weekend in Indy. He ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of any tight end (4.59) and recorded the second-highest vertical jump (37.5 inches) too. He won the 3-cone drill and also finished in the top five in the bench press and the broad jump and reportedly caught nearly everything thrown his way in pass-catching drills.

Cameron could have just played his way into a mid-round selection. At the very least, he'll be listed as a top sleeper pick on a ton of internet mock drafts over the next couple months.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey's 40 times had a wide variance, running as fast as 4.93 and as slow as 5.17. His overall time of 5.06 wasn't good enough to put him in the Top 15 in that category among defensive linemen, and none of his drill times were even close, either. For that, Casey probably goes down as someone who hurt himself a tad at the combine, although he wasn't really expected to wow anybody in the weight room to begin with. His stock is on the low end now, though, with most mock drafts sticking him around the second or third round.

Stanley Havili, FB, 6-0, 227 pounds

Havili did not work out at the combine, for reasons that are not currently clear. He did undergo shoulder surgery shortly after the end of the 2010 season and was sporting a sling on it in January, so he could be waiting until Pro Day to work out for NFL scouts. He did weigh in at 227 pounds, slightly more than the weight he played at while at USC but probably not enough to ease teams' doubts that he's too small to play fullback in the NFL.

Ronald Johnson, WR, 5-11, 199 pounds

Johnson finished with an official 40-time of 4.46, which tied for ninth-best among all receivers at the combine. He didn't participate in most of the other drills, but he did bench a respectable 16 repetitions. Johnson probably helped himself some with his measurements, though, as some scouts probably expected him to measure in smaller and lighter than those numbers.

He played at 185 in college, so the weight increase represents a significant improvement.

Kristofer O'Dowd, C, 6-4, 304 pounds

O’Dowd, a four-year starter who some scouts think has already reached his peak, finished tied for first among offensive linemen in the vertical jump (32.5) and tied for seventh in the 20-yard shuttle (4.59). He also ranked fifth in the bench press (31) and seventh in the 40-yard dash (5.16) and also finished in the top 10 in the broad jump.

So, yes, O'Dowd clearly helped himself.

Tyron Smith, RT, 6-5, 307 pounds

Smith didn't do anything besides the bench press -- and weigh in. But those two activities were plenty enough to create some buzz around him for Pro Day, as Smith weighed in at a hefty 307 pounds, 22 more than his listed playing weight during the 2010 season. He also did 29 bench-press reps.

Shareece Wright, CB, 5-11, 185 pounds

Wright ran a solid 4.46 40-yard dash time, which tied for seventh-best among cornerbacks, and recorded a 34.5 inch vertical jump and 9'5" broad jump. Reports had him looking polished during defensive back drills, which is a good sign for Wright, as one major criticism of him during his senior season was that he simply wasn't enough of a ballhawk for the next level.

USC's Pro Day is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on March 30, four weeks from today. A number of Trojans who didn't get combine invites are expected to work out for NFL scouts at USC's pro day, including linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, quarterback Mitch Mustain, running back C.J. Gable and receiver David Ausberry. Kicker Joe Houston, punter Jacob Harfman and offensive guards Butch Lewis and Zach Heberer are also possibilities.

NFL combine preview

February, 23, 2011
The NFL combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Eight USC prospects have earned invites to the festivities and will attempt to showcase their talents to the bevy of coaches and scouts in attendance.

Let's take a look at each prospect, with an eye on draft position and potential workouts where they could excel during this next week. They're sorted in alphabetical order, with listed height and weights from their USC biographies. Keep in mind that these measurements will probably be heavily adjusted in the next week after players are officially measured by the NFL:

Allen Bradford, RB, 6-0, 235 pounds

Bradford has the body type NFL teams like to see in a big, bruising runner, but his speed is questionable at best. His goal in Indianapolis, then, is simple: run a 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds or faster to show scouts and coaches he can be more than just an occasional ball carrier.

Another necessary task to prove that: perform well in catching drills. Bradford caught only eight passes in four years at USC and has serious questions attached to his pass-play skills.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 245 pounds

Cameron screams workout warrior in every sense of the phrase. He never produced much of anything while at USC -- he totaled 16 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD in two seasons, plus a redshirt year -- but always possessed the potential to start, the potential to be a great pass-catching weapon.

He still has that potential. Teams know he's quicker, more agile and in possession of better hands than the average tight end prospect. Where he needs to prove himself is in blocking, so he'll need to let loose on the weights and display that he has all of the necessary footwork down pat.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey has been criticized by scouts recently for not having an ideal body type. He's short and squatty, they say, and not a premiere athlete.

What's wrong with that? Casey is, regardless of natural athletic ability, one of the best run-stopping tackles in this draft, without a doubt. He won't be a 10-sack guy at the next level, but he's quick and smart enough to warrant selection as an early second-rounder. To do that, he's got to make a team fall in love with his motor and line-specific skills, so the defensive line drills will be big for him this week.

Showing up with a more chiseled upper body wouldn't hurt, either.

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Football: Jurrell Casey named USC's MVP

December, 12, 2010
Junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was named USC's Most Valuable Player at the team's annual banquet Sunday at the Galen Center.

Casey, a two-year starter for the Trojans who also earned All-Pac-10 First Team honors this season, led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss. He also won the defensive version of the Lineman of the Year award for the second consecutive season. The offensive linemen winner was junior Tyron Smith.

Both Smith and Casey are currently in the process of deciding whether or not to return to USC for their senior seasons or enter early into the 2011 NFL Draft.

Other Sunday winners included senior fullback Stanley Havili as Most Inspirational Player, linebacker Chris Galippo as Special Teams Player of the Year and freshmen D.J. Morgan and George Uko as Service Team Players of the Year.

The rest of the list of award-winners, as announced at the banquet:

Player of the Game versus UCLA: running back Allen Bradford

Jack Oakie “Rise and Shine” Award (year’s longest run): Bradford
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): wide receiver Robert Woods

John McKay Award (underclassman with the most competitive spirit): Woods
Joe Collins Walk-on Award: safety Tony Burnett

Courage Award: defensive tackle Christian Tupou

Co-Lifters Award: Tupou, Havili

Postgame thoughts: UCLA

December, 5, 2010
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.

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Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

December, 1, 2010
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Matt Barkley took another step forward in his recovery from the high-ankle sprain he suffered 11 days ago against Oregon State. Mitch Mustain continued to take the majority of the quarterback reps in team drills as Barkley sat out for that period, but the sophomore signal-caller made good throws earlier in practice. "Hopefully it stays at this rate every day, and three days from now it'll be three times better," Barkley said afterward. "I felt a lot better than yesterday and was able to do a lot more movements. Added Coach Lane Kiffin: "He continues to look better every day. He’s throwing the ball fine and his movement is coming around. I would anticipate him playing.”
  • Injury report: defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, safety T.J. McDonald (shoulder) and cornerbacks Brian Baucham (neck/shoulder) and Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice. Right tackle Tyron Smith (knee), fullback Stanley Havili and Barkley (ankle) were limited. Smith returned to the practice field after missing all of last week's practices and the Notre Dame game, but Butch Lewis continued to take the majority of first-team snaps.
  • Kiffin was asked quite a bit about UCLA and the nature of the rivalry between the two schools. In his opening statement, he made a great point in saying that "records mean nothing in [the game,] as we have seen before." He also remarked he was indeed surprised by UCLA's lack of success this season: "I would have thought that they would have with the coaching staff and their ability to recruit," he said. "But I think this sport, you just can’t plan everything out. When I look at their roster, they have a lot of young guys and a really bright future.”

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Postgame thoughts: Oregon State

November, 20, 2010
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Notes, quotes and video from USC's 36-7 loss to Oregon State on Saturday night at Reser Stadium:
  • After emphasizing all week the importance of not underestimating the Beavers, the Trojans did just that -- presenting perhaps their poorest performance of the 2010 season in the same, familiar locale in Oregon. Afterward, they admitted to succumbing to letting up the pressure a little bit, boasting two consecutive wins against the Arizona schools compared to Oregon State's consecutive losses to Pac-10 cellar-dwellers UCLA and Washington State. "I think we took them lightly," said USC left tackle Matt Kalil, who played poorly as the Trojan offensive line gave up four sacks. "And that's what happens if you don't take a team seriously -- they catch you off-guard like this. They got us today." Other players disagreed with Kalil, including defensive end Wes Horton and safety T.J. McDonald. But cornerback Shareece Wright had a telling quote when asked if USC took OSU lightly: "There are some players that probably did, but I didn't."
  • The difference in approaches to the game became glaringly obvious afterward, in speaking with players and coaches from USC and Oregon State. Take a look at the variation in comments about the teams' practice performances this week -- especially earlier on, when most of the play-installing and scouting gets done. USC's perspective, from Kalil: "It just goes back to practice, like Coach Kiff said. It was our worst Tuesday and our worst Wednesday practice, and it showed up." And Oregon State's, from coach Mike Riley: "That's what we asked everybody to do...Take advantage of Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s practice and get ready for the game. I’m really proud of them. They did a great job of overcoming a lot to get to that performance.” USC redshirt senior fullback Stanley Havili has talked up the correlation between practices and games over and over this season; he summed it up well postgame. See a video interview with him further down in this post for more.
  • Senior quarterback Mitch Mustain replaced Matt Barkley when the sophomore suffered a high-ankle sprain on the penultimate play of the first half. Taking his first meaningful snaps since his freshman year at Arkansas, Mustain didn't make many mistakes but didn't create any plays for the Trojans either -- completing 8-of-17 passes for 60 yards. Barkley hadn't been playing well either, going 10-of-19 for 75 yards, no touchdowns and a pick-six. Said Mustain of his day: "It felt good. I expected to come online a little bit quicker than what I did those first two drives, where I missed a couple of critical throws. It was really just a matter of getting my feet settled and feeling comfortable."
  • Jacquizz Rodgers did not run all over USC's defense. He gained 128 yards, but they were hard-earned ones, coming on 26 carries -- averaging out to fewer than five yards a carry. His best game against the Trojans remains the 2008 shocker here in Corvallis, when he ran for 186 yards and two scores. Said Wright: "He wasn't anything special."
  • On Rodgers, the junior runner offered some interesting perspective on why the Trojans can't manage to win a game in the state of Oregon, even bringing up the Beavers' cross-state rivals the Ducks in the process: “It’s been five years since SC has won in Oregon, including (games against) the Ducks," he said. "I guess they just struggle whenever they come up here. Guys get pumped up for that game even though we are supposed to approach every game the same. With the history SC has, guys are just looking to knock them off and make history against them.”
  • Injury updates: middle linebacker Chris Galippo started the game for USC but left with a concussion before the end of the first quarter, replaced for the duration of the game by Devon Kennard. Speaking coherently afterward, Galippo said he expects to be able to play next week against Notre Dame. Running back Marc Tyler got the start but barely got started before he got hurt and had to exit the game with a re-injury of the sprained ankle that was also bothering him against Arizona. He finished the game with 34 yards on 11 carries. Right tackle Tyron Smith hurt his knee and did not finish the game.
  • Final notes: Freshman running back Dillon Baxter did not make the trip up to Oregon because of contact with a student-agent at USC on Thursday. USC self-reported the violation and is hoping the NCAA will reinstate Baxter in time for him to play in the Trojans' final two games. ...The score at halftime of the 2008 game between the Trojans and Beavers in Corvallis? 21-0. Saturday's halftime score? 20-0. ...C.J. Gable led USC in rushing yards with 57 on 10 carries and also scored the Trojans' only touchdown.


See what Havili had to say after the game about the Beavers' all-around performance, USC's inability to win in the state of Oregon and more:

Wednesday practice report: Breakdown

November, 17, 2010
Notes, quotes and video from Wednesday's practice:
  • Trojans coach Lane Kiffin criticized his team after what he said was a lackluster session Wednesday, saying that a lack of intensity has been present in both practices preparing for Oregon State this week. Added Kiffin: "I don’t know whether it’s feeling good about themselves after a couple of wins, and they don't remember why we’ve played well lately is because we’ve practiced extremely well. Very disappointing, but there’s still enough time for us to get right and get ready to go up there.” Kiffin did say the usual leaders -- among them junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and fullback Stanley Havili -- continued to practice well, but the team as a whole didn't, he said. "Right now, our practicing isn't on par with where it should be," senior center Kristofer O'Dowd said. "The good thing is we have a couple days to narrow in on what we need to do and focus on that."
  • Injury report: cornerback T.J. Bryant (left shoulder) and Torin Harris, strong safety Jawanza Starling (hamstring), tight end Blake Ayles (concussion), receiver Brice Butler and center Abe Markowitz (foot) did not practice; defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo (ankle) was limited. Starling could return later this week, Kiffin said; Ayles said after the Arizona game that he'd be back by now from a head injury but is obviously still out. Bryant visited with team doctors Wednesday and underwent an MRI but did not yet know results after Wednesday's practice. He said he would know more Thursday: "I might have to have another surgery; I might not. We'll see when I go get the results." Bryant couldn't clarify exactly what the injury was or what surgery would do to it, but he said it involved his labrum, it had happened in high school and it has continued to bother him while he has been at USC. "I re-injure it every year, every time we practice," he said. "It consistently gets injured."

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Postgame thoughts: Arizona

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


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

See what he had to say:


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

See all of what he said:

USC-Arizona State grades

November, 6, 2010

Barkley was just OK, with no star-studded throws and a few mistakes. His second pick was not his fault -- rather, it looked like receiver David Ausberry's -- but his first interception in the end zone was a crucial error that cost USC dearly.


Dillon Baxter got the start he had been waiting all season for, but he did very little with it. Marc Tyler was much, much better in relief, but the Trojans' ground game was still a bit limited. Stanley Havili and Allen Bradford both looked banged up.


The main five USC defensive linemen -- Jurrell Casey and Wes Horton especially -- played well defensively for USC, but this one looked like another "down" in what has been a series of up-and-down performances from the Trojan offensive line. Barkley had limited time on many occasions.


Actually not an awful performance by the Trojans, with both the run and pass defenses limiting the opposition for most of the game. ASU had only 19 offensive points. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, returning from a knee injury, had a key pick six.


Joe Houston missed two short field goals in the first half and the Trojans gave up a kickoff return touchdown to the Sun Devils. T.J. McDonald's blocked punt and Torin Harris' two-point return are really the only things keeping this unit from an 'F.'


Were the Trojans motivated to play this game? Heading into it they said they were, but it sure didn't seem like it early on. But Lane Kiffin's squad did turn it up some in the second half, and the coach's playcalling was fairly interesting.



C. Kessler452315382639
J. Allen27614895.411
J. Davis1295954.64
N. Agholor104131312.612
J. Smith5472413.45