USC: Taylor Mays

Pac-12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
10:00
AM PT
We're looking back at the BCS era, which lasted from 1998 to 2013, so it made sense to make an all-Pac-12 BCS-era team.

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

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

Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 performers, No. 10: McDonald

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
1:39
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After concluding our series on the top 10 moments of USC's 2011 football season, we begin this week with a new series on the Trojans' top 10 performers this season. With one player per day Monday-Friday, the list will last until Friday, Dec. 23.

We'll rank the players based on a number of factors, heavily valuing production but also considering preseason expectations, off-the-field contributions and alternative options at each player's respective positions. Look at it as not so much of a 10 best players list, but a finalists list for a team-MVP trophy. Overall value is considered.

First on the list at No. 10 is safety T.J. McDonald.

A junior in his second season starting for the Trojans in 2011, McDonald was expected to be a leader and performed as such, leading the team with three interceptions and adding a secondary-high 67 tackles. He started 11 of USC's 12 games and entered the game he didn't start in the second half, forced to sit out the first 30 minutes by the Pac-12.

He didn't have an absolutely standout year -- the numbers show that. But McDonald fairly quietly put up a solid season and put himself into position to be one of the top safeties selected in April's NFL draft if he chooses to make himself eligible. He stands to go around the second round right now, although there's believed to be a good chance he chooses to return to school.

McDonald did have one long-lasting off-field controversy that probably pushed him back a spot or two on this list when he picked up three personal-foul penalties in the September loss to Arizona State, costing the Trojans 45 yards, and then got called for another in a crucial moment in the fourth quarter against Stanford. The foul against the Cardinal was killer, giving Andrew Luck the second chance he needed to send the game into overtime.

Sure, the calls can be debated -- the Stanford one has to at least be called questionable -- but, in the end, McDonald was whistled and has to be judged as such.

As for his on-field performance, he showed some signs in the middle of the season of morphing into a Taylor Mays-type safety, meaning he'd go for the big hit above all else and frequently whiff on regular tackles and potential turnovers. But his final three games after the Colorado suspension were some of his best.

He and cornerback Nickell Robey, who will make a later appearance on this list, made up a defensive backs corps that needed work at the start of the year and got progressively better.

For that, McDonald earns a spot on this list of the Trojans' most valuable players -- even if just by a hair.

Check back Tuesday for the Trojans' ninth most valuable player, who happens to also play defense.

Game-time updates: Notre Dame

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
6:15
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- We're just about set to go here at Notre Dame Stadium for the Trojans' 4:30 p.m. PT game against the Fighting Irish. Here are a couple of last-minute things worthy of an update before kickoff:
  • Marc Tyler is in uniform and participated in all of the Trojans' warmups prior to the game. It'll be either him or Curtis McNeal getting the start for USC at running back, with McNeal likely to pick up the majority of the carries. Look for George Farmer to get some chances as well. Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have little to no idea what his running style's like.
  • As we reported Friday, running back Dillon Baxter did not accompany the team to South Bend. Neither did cornerback Torin Harris, who's out with a shoulder injury. With him out, Tony Burnett and Isiah Wiley will have to take all the second and third corner snaps, supplanting one-side starter Nickell Robey.
  • Also in uniform for the game is redshirt freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who returned to practice last week after missing the first five games with a thumb injury. This is his first game in uniform this season. Freshman receiver Marqise Lee, who sprained the AC joint in his shoulder last week against Cal, warmed up with the rest of the team as well.
  • Notre Dame's helmets are gold, and they are very shiny. The things stand out from a mile away. In pregame warmups, the Irish are sporting navy blue jerseys and gold pants, but they might not be wearing those once the game starts, if past precedent is any indication. It'll be interesting to see how what sort of role the uniforms play in this game. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to have glare produced off the helmets affect Matt Barkley's vision in the pocket. The Trojans are wearing their standard road whites.
  • It'll be entirely dark at kickoff, for the first time since 1990. Kickoff temperature is projected to be 56 degrees, but it should drop to as low as about 46 by the fourth quarter. Also, in attendance tonight are former Trojans Taylor Mays and Rey Maualuga, who now play for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

Join us here on the USC Report on ESPNLA.com beginning at 4:30 p.m. PT as Mark Saxon and I keep you updated throughout the game in Trojans Live!, an interactive live chat where we provide updates on game action and answer any and all questions.

Second safety spot the most scrambled

August, 18, 2011
8/18/11
11:56
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There are quite a few position battles in USC's fall camp this year, including at offensive guard, at receiver, at corner and even at tight end, now, with Rhett Ellison spending most of his time playing fullback.

But arguably the most interesting battle of the fall is at strong safety, where the Trojans have four legitimate competitors for only one spot in Demetrius Wright, Drew McAllister, Jawanza Starling and Marshall Jones.

And the most interesting thing about it? All the players are at different levels of their career and all are different types of players.

And it's hard to separate them.

"It's hard to tell with us," McAllister said Thursday, when asked how this competition compares with past ones he has been a part of. "It's a little bit different than before with older guys like Taylor [Mays] and Kevin [Ellison]. Those guys were older than I was and then when Kevin went down I got to play a little bit.

"Now it's different because we have a bunch of guys who are right around the same age, but I think it's good because we all get to compete against each other in practice, day in and day out. That kind of makes everybody better."

McAllister's point about guys being around the same age isn't exactly correct -- Jones, currently out because of a knee injury, is in his fifth year at USC, McAllister in his fourth, Starling in his third and Wright in his second. But it still stands, because it is a lot different than it was before when Mays and Ellison were Trojans.

(Read full post)

Questions for camp, No. 7: 2nd safety?

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
4:46
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Only six days remain until fall camp begins for the Trojans on Aug. 4. We've been previewing the biggest questions that USC hopes to answer in the monthlong period between camp and the season opener in a series since last week. Read the first six questions-and-answers here.

The seventh is this: with T.J. McDonald entrenched at free safety in his second year starting for the Trojans, who will emerge to start across from him?

It's the most open position on the field for the Trojans: strong safety.

Any one of four players -- Marshall Jones, Jawanza Starling, Drew McAllister and Demetrius Wright -- could win the job. Jones was the early favorite after spring practice, earning placement above the other three on the end-of-spring depth chart, but that positioning was reworked in the depth chart released earlier this month by the Trojans. It's interesting, really -- at the end of spring, Starling and McAllister were listed at free safety, backing up McDonald, and Wright was Jones' only backup at strong safety.

They're all equal now. Jones is the senior with the most experience, Starling the junior with a combination of experience and smarts, McAllister the injury-prone play-maker and Wright the fresh-faced sophomore who might have had the best spring of them all.

To lay out the recent history at the safety position for USC, Taylor Mays held down free safety for four straight years, between 2006-2009. Kevin Ellison started across from him at strong safety from 2006-2008 and then gave way to Will Harris in 20009. Ellison and Harris were both physical types, more of enforcers than playmakers, and, except for his final years, Mays was counted on to be the playmaker.

Remember, then, that in Monte Kiffin's defense, the safeties' roles are switched. So what Mays did as free safety is now the strong safety's job, what Ellison, Harris and, going back further, Troy Polamalu, did at strong safety is now the free safety's job.

What does that all tell you? Nothing for certain, but it does support a couple potential theories. The first is that McAllister, while the clear dark horse as a player who hasn't been fully healthy in almost two years, would make some sense as a counterpart to McDonald, simply because of his ability to corral the football. The second, contradicting the first, is that there is no clear pattern to what the team will ask its safeties to do. There are no precedents any of those four must fit.

So, how else are the Kiffins going to decide who wins the job? By fall camp performance, of course.

Lane Kiffin has established a clear precedent regarding that: play better than the rest, and you'll play more than the rest. Starling beat out Jones last camp and earned the right to start the first nine games before he injured his hamstring and Jones supplanted him in the final month. He also has not been afraid to admit mistakes with evaluating his personnel, as evidenced by the depth-chart switch with these players and, recently, Devon Kennard's move back to defensive end.

McDonald and Starling, for what it's worth, are good friends and worked fairly well together in the secondary when they lined up across from each other.

That's it for today. Monday we question who will join Nickell Robey in the secondary before moving on to off-the-field stuff in the final two questions in our series.

Postgame extras: Armstead's shoulder may be a problem, more

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
12:14
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Video interviews with Armond Armstead and T.J. McDonald, plus several quotes that stood out from the Trojans after USC's 32-21 win over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium:

Coach Lane Kiffin, on the Trojans' three failed two-point conversion attempts: "It kills some momentum. But there are certain looks on our two-point conversions where we're going to go for it. They're not all going to work, but we'd like to think that when we make those decisions the percentages are in our favor. That's why we're making the decision. Like anything in football, it doesn't always go as planned."

Cornerback Nickell Robey, on his pass-interference penalty: "I didn't like that call. I thought that was a bad call by the refs on that one. It clearly looked like I had the interception. It was like he got me more than I got him." On the coaches' thoughts of it: "They just said it was a bad call by the refs. They agreed right with me, on my side 100 percent."

Receiver Robert Woods, on his 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown: "It helped the team. It picked us up, and it helped the team get going. I knew I had it when I first hit the hole -- from the first block you could tell it was open right away."

Left tackle Matt Kalil, on the offensive line's performance against the Gophers compared to the Virginia game: "We could always improve, but I felt like, assignment-wise, we were executing a lot better than last game. We took advantage of a lot of big plays and I think we're just gonna keep improving from this point on."

Receiver Ronald Johnson, on if he was thinking about the possibility of a flag on his 53-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter: "Definitely. I looked back, no flags, and it was great. I was thinking like, 'Oh, I hope nobody holds, I hope nobody holds.' But we did good though. We did good as a unit."

Linebacker Malcolm Smith, on whether it makes his job easier to have the defensive line pressuring the quarterback and disrupting the run lanes, as it did Saturday: "It makes it pretty easy. I know when two or three guys are blocking me that guys missed their assignment and our guys are in the backfield, so we definitely like that -- getting tackles for loss and all that, team activity."

***

Armstead missed a good amount of practice last week because of what was at first an unspecified injury -- later clarified to be a shoulder injury, and now even later clarified to be an AC sprain of his left shoulder.

Armstead, a junior, said the injury was bothering him a good deal in the second half of Saturday's game but expects not to miss any game action because of it. He did indicate it was a possibility he would miss more practice this week as well.

See what else Armstead had to say in the TCF Bank Stadium halls after the game:



McDonald played solidly again Saturday, although he spent much of the game playing as a glorified linebacker -- resembling Taylor Mays' 2009 season a bit, in fact.

See what the sophomore safety had to say about that after the game and also hear his thoughts on his teammate Jawanza Starling's first career interception, the defense's continued improvement and more:

5 fall camp questions

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
9:21
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With USC beginning fall camp tomorrow afternoon, here are five burning questions the Trojans will hope to answer before they head to Hawaii for the Sept. 2 season opener.

1. What will the short-term effects of the bowl-less season be?

Will the team's motivation be lessened? Will the newfound underdog status for the Trojans be a blessing or a curse?

We won't truly know the answers to these questions until maybe late September (or perhaps a bit earlier, in an extreme case), but we can sure speculate. And fall camp will tell us a lot about this team's mindset.

Lane Kiffin insisted at Pac-10 media day last week that the Trojans were ready to deal with detractors on the field and also underscored an us-against-the-world mentality his Trojans have taken up for 2010.

Kiffin also mentioned a need for USC's coaching staff and players to be "extremely smart and intelligent" about the way they practice.

The Trojans must do things a little bit differently than they have been done before if they are to experience success in 2010.

2. Who will be the team's leaders?

We know sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley will step up and provide leadership throughout camp, but who will the other leaders be?

If we had to guess now, running back Allen Bradford and cornerback Shareece Wright -- teammates since their early years at Colton H.S. -- will lead the team in the fall, both by example and by speaking up. Bradford has earned the respect of his teammates by paying his dues and sitting on the bench for much of his first three years at USC, and Wright has similarly faced hardships while with the Trojans.

At media day last week, Kiffin said that he had his players vote on the top five Trojans, based on "what Trojans should be, on and off the field, including practice intensity."

He said senior Christian Tupou, who will miss the season with torn ligaments in his left knee, was the No. 1 choice on the list. Kiffin said he couldn't remember the rest, but said fullback Stanley Havili and Barkley were on there "for sure."

Havili is another potential leader.

3. Who will win USC's two key position battles at tight end and middle linebacker?

The Mike linebacker spot is the higher-profile battle, but both positions are important -- and, perhaps more importantly, up for grabs in fall camp.

At middle linebacker, Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard are the only two competitors. At tight end, the list is nearly endless: senior Jordan Cameron, juniors Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison and freshmen Xavier Grimble, Christian Thomas and Randall Telfer, with senior David Ausberry also a possibility.

Kennard was moved over to the middle from the strong side prior to spring practice, whereas Galippo came in to USC as a middle linebacker and started every game of the 2009 season at the spot. Towards the end of spring practice this year, the coaching staff experimented with Galippo at the other linebacker positions.

It seems that could be his role on this team.

Cameron, a converted receiver, was the star at the position during spring practice, but that was largely because Ayles was in and out of practice with a variety of injuries and Ellison missed the entire spring while recovering from mononucleosis.

Those three will compete in the fall to be the starter and will also be joined by the freshmen trio. Of the three, Grimble will probably pose the biggest challenge to the returnees -- in no small part because of his 6-5, 241-pound frame.

As for the eventual winners at each position, our money is on Ayles and Kennard. Ayles has the best combination of talent and experience of any of the six tight ends; Kennard was moved over to the middle for a reason.

4. Can Kiffin really commit to a one- or two-back system given USC's resources?


The Trojans will have a host of talented running backs available, but Kiffin seems intent on using only two of them.

At his end-of-spring meeting with the media, the first-year coach notably said he was not an advocate of the tailback-by-committee system and added that he planned on giving most of the work to one or two players in the backfield.

We can safely assume that senior Allen Bradford -- listed on the end-of-spring depth chart as the starter -- will get his carries, but who else will get chances to run the ball? Who will be left out?

We'll find out during fall camp when Kiffin allocates the second-team snaps at running back. The candidates to be Bradford's primary backup are senior C.J. Gable, junior Marc Tyler, sophomore Curtis McNeal and freshmen Dillon Baxter and D.J. Morgan. Assuming Morgan is a redshirt candidate because of a torn ACL suffered last November, that leaves four players, each of whom possess distinctly different running styles out of the backfield.

What do we think will happen? Gable and Tyler will battle for backup carries, Baxter will get used in a variety of ways, and McNeal may get lost in the shuffle.

5. How steep of a learning curve will there be for the Trojans' youngest position group on the field -- the secondary?

With USC's likely starters at the four spots in the defensive backfield carrying just three collective starts, a definite lack of experience in the back four will certainly harm the defense as a whole -- the question is how much.

That depends, primarily, on the play of a pair of sophomore safeties: Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald. With the safety spots switched in USC's hybrid Cover-2 system, Starling is the likely starter at strong safety; McDonald at free. Both saw limited action in 2009 as special-teamers; both will be seeing a lot more than that in 2010, even if they end up beaten out by Drew McAllister for one of the spots.

They are different players, surely. Starling is the more cerebral safety who could stand to pack a bit more punch, McDonald essentially a light-weight, ultra-lanky linebacker. The two will need to work well together for the Trojans' defense to be successful in the long term, against the passing attacks of teams like Washington and Arizona.

When senior safety Taylor Mays missed the Washington game in 2009 with a knee injury and McAllister was forced to step in, there was a clear disconnect between McAllister and Will Harris, the strong safety.

USC lost that game, 16-13.

A functioning Starling-McDonald tandem -- with key development toward that coming in fall camp -- will be key to the Trojans' defensive success in 2010, assuming that Wright and a combination of T.J. Bryant, Torin Harris and Brian Baucham can hold down the fort at cornerback.

The day after: What we learned about the Trojans at media day

July, 30, 2010
7/30/10
5:56
PM PT
Here are three things we learned about USC at Thursday's Pac-10 media day and what they translate to when it comes to the Trojans' future:

1. Lane Kiffin is feeling more comfortable in his post as the Trojans' first-year coach.

It wasn't really that Kiffin wasn't comfortable in his first public appearances this time around at USC -- although that could certainly be argued, with how he tentatively talked at his opening news conference and how his post-practice reports in the spring would often be short and not-so-sweet -- it was that he wasn't himself, wasn't the outspoken, attention-hungry coach college football fans had grown accustomed to.

The confidence was always there, but something else wasn't: a sense of real excitement, an actual smile.

But he was smiling Thursday, finally. He smiled when he was on the podium alongside sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, he smiled making the rounds of television interviews and he smiled while eating lunch with a horde of reporters asking non-stop questions. He finally appears to be enjoying his job, cracking jokes with both Barkley and reporters as the day went on.

Maybe that comes with the time of the year, with camp starting on Wednesday. Whatever the reason, it's a good thing for USC.

2. USC is no longer the favorite to win the Pac-10.

Yes, this was expected after the Trojans finished 9-4 in 2009 and then changed administrations and lost a boatload of talent in a short period of time, but Thursday's festivities officially put the underdog stamp on USC's 2010 season.

It wasn't just the media poll -- though, yes, USC was voted second for the first time in nine years, signaling that change in power atop the Pac-10 conference -- it was the general aura around the Trojans' appearance at the podium. In 2009 in particular, the event seemed to drag on until Pete Carroll and Taylor Mays hit the stage, representing USC. Thursday, Kiffin and Barkley were just another pair to hit the stage.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly dismissed the poll during his media session Thursday, saying, "I learned from last year's poll that we shouldn't put much stock in it." But the poll speaks for itself in terms of results: 2009 was the first time in 10 years the media didn't pick the conference's winner in July.

If that doesn't seal the underdog deal for you, maybe this will. Here's Kiffin when he asked if he was surprised that the Trojans were not first in the media poll: "I wouldn't have [voted USC first] either. I was actually surprised we were second."

3. The USC-UCLA rivalry is still not what it used to -- and could -- be, but it's heading there.

First, a quote from Barkley on the Bruins, as told to the Orange County Register: "I know we beat them last year, and we're going to do the same this year."

It's important to note in this situation that Barkley is ultra-savvy when it comes to the media, always watching his words and toning down what he says before it even comes out of his mouth. So when he says something like that, well, you take note.

Yes, it's not completely out of context for the rivalry, especially considering the Trojans' relative domination of the Bruins over the last few years. Still, any guarantee of a victory is a bold statement -- especially considering the circumstances that will surround this December's edition of the game.

To be held on the same field where Barkley made today's comments, the game will be USC's last of the season, while UCLA could very well be fighting for bowl-game contention.

The day after: McDonald talks safety spots

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
1:38
PM PT


Sophomore safety T.J. McDonald was a safety-in-training last year behind departed seniors Will Harris and Taylor Mays, and the 6-foot-2, 205-pound McDonald trained well. Coach Lane Kiffin has praised McDonald often throughout spring practice.

Through 13 spring practices, he looks to be the favorite at strong safety, opposite likely free safety Jawanza Starling. The two sophomores have formed a bond in the defensive backfield and in the film room, as McDonald detailed after practice Tuesday. McDonald also talked about the overall youth in the defensive backfield and learning from Harris and Mays:

Brown, Williams, Thomas selected; Griffen still waiting

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
8:23
PM PT
Four Trojans found their way into the NFL on the second day of the draft, although one highly-rated USC prospect has still yet to be taken.

After safety Taylor Mays was picked midway through the second round by the 49ers, offensive tackle Charles Brown went to the Saints with the 64th overall pick. Wide receiver Damian Williams and cornerback Kevin Thomas were each selected in the third round — to the Titans and Colts, respectively.

For more on each player, check out analysis here.

USC defensive end Everson Griffen, projected as a first-rounder in many mock drafts and a consensus top-50 player overall, curiously wasn't chosen among the first 98 selections.

Mays picked by 49ers, sounds off on Carroll

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
6:10
PM PT
Safety Taylor Mays became the first USC player selected in the 2010 NFL draft when the San Francisco 49ers picked him in the second round with the 49th overall pick. Mays was projected by most as top-15 pick following his junior season, but he chose to return for his senior year with a stated goal of becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

That didn't quite work out for him. Now, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder enters into an interesting situation in San Francisco, where the 49ers already boast two (somewhat) solid starters at safety. Mays will surely be compared often to former Trojan and 49er safety Ronnie Lott over the next few months, but Mays has some work to do before he even reaches the starting 11 in San Francisco.

If ex-USC coach Pete Carroll had a protege during his final few years with the Trojans, it was Mays. But when Carroll had the opportunity to take him at the No. 14 spot in the first round, he passed and chose Texas safety Earl Thomas instead.

Mays sounded off on that decision today.

"It was interesting," Mays told the San Francisco media following his selection. "I thought from the relationship that we have, the things he had told me about, what I needed to be aware of through the draft process, things I needed to do, I felt like he told me the complete opposite of the actions that he took, which was alarming."

Carroll praised Mays' decision to return for another season last year and incessantly praised Mays throughout last season.

It seems Mays also took issue with what the Seahawks coach told him in private.

"I understand it's a business, but with it being a business, you have to be honest," Mays said. "That's all I was asking for."

Carroll was asked about the thinking behind choosing Thomas over Mays. He told reporters Thomas' abilities were too tempting to take the known quantity in Mays.

"We thought he was the best guy in the draft at doing that kind of stuff," Carroll said. "So he was unique, but the other side of it is, yeah I love Taylor Mays and everything that he stands for and all that.

"Unfortunately, it didn't work out.''

The two will match up twice a year in the NFC West, including Week 1 in Seattle.

No Trojans selected in first round

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
11:21
PM PT
The first 32 picks of the 2010 NFL Draft came and went Thursday, and no USC players were picked.

NFL teams passed on the likes of safety Taylor Mays, defensive end Everson Griffen and offensive tackle Charles Brown — all of whom had been projected by some experts to be first-round material. Instead, the Trojans are sitting and waiting for the second round to begin Friday at 3 p.m..

Tweeted outgoing USC receiver Damian Williams, commony projected as a second-rounder: "Not gonna lie pretty upset right now but it's all good. Me and T Mays got 31 reasons to ball this year. Whoever gets us we starving!!! Night."

USC was also held out of the first round in 2007. In that draft, receiver Dwayne Jarrett was the first Trojan picked, at No. 45 by the Panthers. But the consensus this year seemed to be that at least two of the Mays-Griffen-Brown triumvirate would go among the top 32 — and if not two, then at least one.

But NFL teams had other plans. Still, the Trojans have plenty of hope. Brown, Griffen, Mays and Williams are all likely to be selected early in the second round Friday. And running back Joe McKnight, cornerback Kevin Thomas and tight end Anthony McCoy have solid chances to go in the second or third round. Rounds 4-7 — where ex-Trojans like Jeff Byers and Stafon Johnson are likely to be picked — starts up Saturday at 7 a.m.

"I think we're gonna do pretty good," current USC receiver Ronald Johnson said earlier Thursday of the Trojans' collective draft hopes. "We have a lot people that could go first round and a lot of people that could go late first round or early second round."

Pro Day notes

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
4:27
PM PT
We'll have video interviews from a number of Trojans who participated in Wednesday's Pro Day soon, but here are a few highlights to carry you through the wait:
  • The fastest Trojan was cornerback Kevin Thomas, who registered an official 4.43 time in the 40-yard dash. Other impressive times came from defensive end Everson Griffen (4.59, significantly better than his 4.66 at the NFL Combine) and offensive lineman Alex Parsons (4.90, would have been the third-best time for a lineman at the combine). Safety Taylor Mays didn't run the 40.
  • Mays did perform favorably in individual workouts, though, making several plays in defensive back drills. His ball skills have been questioned, and he admitted that in interviews with the media afterward. He also said — to questions that he may isolate himself as a player and not be "coachable" at the next level — that he was always receptive to coaching at USC.
  • Impressive strength performances: 38 reps of 225 pounds from offensive lineman Nick Howell, 35 from safety Will Harris and 32 from defensive tackle Averell Spicer, who looked particularly good.
  • Justin Hart and Adam Goodman also did timed drills and individual workouts. Other participants who didn't play for USC last year included Hershel Dennis, Omar Nazel, Ryan Powdrell, and Michael Coleman. Dennis also appeared at Pro Day last year. He ran a 4.65 40 today.
  • Running back Joe McKnight struggled in both the short and long shuttles, tripping up twice on the latter version. He said his camp decided he had no need to run the 40 this time after recording a 4.47 at the combine. Receiver Damian Williams didn't participate in the short shuttle but impressed scouts in attendance with his long shuttle performance.
  • Speaking of scouts, there were significantly less NFL crowding Cromwell Field this year as compared to previous years. The likely reason? Texas, boasting prospects like Colt McCoy and Sergio Kindle, held its Pro Day today as well. The only head coach spotted was Carolina's John Fox, who was also reportedly at UCLA's Pro Day on Tuesday.
  • Harris wasn't invited to the combine. He said he took it as a slight and came into Pro Day with a chip on his shoulder. He ran a 4.59 40 and impressed in other workouts. "I'm very happy with my performance," he said.
  • Offensive lineman Charles Brownhurt his hamstring on his second 40-yard dash attempt and didn't take part in anything else. His official 40 time was a 5.25; Howell, a reserve on the line in 2009, ran a 5.07. His father, former USC great Pat Howell, was in attendance. Offensive guard Jeff Byers ran a 5.09 and looked decent.
  • In a stark contrast from last year, when former coach Pete Carroll was all over the field motivating players and talking to NFL personnel, new head coach Lane Kiffin was nowhere to be seen.

Pro Day preview

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
7:38
AM PT
We'll have full reports later on in the day, but in the meantime, here's what to watch for in today's USC Pro Day, which is scheduled to start at around 11 a.m. on Cromwell Field — rain or shine:
  • Thirteen Trojans from last year's squad with NFL Draft hopes will participate. If past years are any indication, we'll also see a number of former players come out of the woodwork to appear in minor roles. Last March, former tight end Dominique Byrd appeared at Pro Day and caught passes from Mark Sanchez in workouts and signed with the Arizona Cardinals two months later. As for 2009 Trojans, well:
  • Safeties Taylor Mays and Will Harris will gather a lot of interest — for different reasons. Mays was a polarizing figure at the NFL Combine last month with his 40-yard dash time and impressive performances in the bench press, vertical jump and broad jump, but somewhat disappointing showing in individual workouts. His NFL.com scouting report reads: "He can be inconsistent with his angles and technique but relies on his great athleticism to recover and make the play." A good performance in safety-specific workouts would help him. Mays said Tuesday he would not run the 40 at today's event. Harris started all of last season and some of 2008 but didn't get an invitation to the combine. He could impress scouts in a workout setting.
  • Offensive linemen Charles Brown, Jeff Byers, Nick Howell and Alex Parsons will all work out. Brown has a reasonable shot at going in the first round of the NFL Draft, but is perceived by some as being somewhat soft. He could help himself by displaying a mean streak in workouts and in the weight room today. Any boosts in athleticism and/or agility Byers shows will benefit his reputation as a slower, older prospect. Parsons didn't shine in any workout areas at the combine. If he could show excellence in any specific activity or workout, it would help his draft prospects significantly. Howell was not invited to the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game but did play in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game. He will need a marquee performance to get drafted in April.
  • Cornerbacks Josh Pinkard and Kevin Thomas face similar questions. Pinkard has great size but likely needs a sub 4.6 40-yard dash time to be thought of as a corner at the next level rather than a safety. At 6-foot and 192 pounds, Thomas has fine size but would do well to display improved footwork in workouts.
  • Receiver Damian Williams has nothing to prove when it comes to route-running — scouts know him as a premier receiver in that aspect. Where he could help himself out would be in the 40. At just 197 pounds, Williams could go a long way toward soothing scouts' thoughts that he is a little too slow for his small frame to succeed in the NFL if he were to run under 4.50 in the 40-yard dash.
  • Running backs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson are in different spots. Johnson is fully recovered from the tragic throat injury that derailed his 2009 season and performed decently at the combine. His size and speed combination is projectable to the next level, but right now he stands as a mid-round pick. McKnight ran a 4.47 at the combine, so the speed is there. He put up solid numbers receiving in his time at USC, and will likely display that pass-catching ability today, which could entice scouts.
  • The story with tight end Anthony McCoy is that he will always put up great numbers and measurables — but not great production. He had just 46 catches in his four-year USC career. Reads his NFL.com scouting report: "McCoy is a good looking tight end that does not quite play up to his numbers." His initial quickness on routes is also a question mark.
  • Defensive end Everson Griffen doesn't have much to prove. He's a known workout warrior; what scouts worry about is his game film. While his NFL.com scouting report terms him "not an impact player" as a pass rusher, he needs to show today that he is in fact just that as a defensive end. If he does so, a first-round selection could be in his future.

Recapping Tuesday

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
12:22
AM PT
The NFL combine ends in Indianapolis, a baseball win in Long Beach and previewing Thursday's matchup with Arizona State. All in Tuesday's links and notes:
  • Controversy over the 40-yard dash time of USC safety Taylor Mays highlighted the final day of the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Mays' unofficial time was first reported by NFL Network to be a 4.24 — which would tie Chris Johnson's 2008 time as the best of the past 10 years. But Mays' official time came back a 4.43, making for an almost unheard-of discrepancy between unofficial and official times. Either way, Mays' time was tops among all defensive backs. Other stats for Mays: 24 reps of 225 pounds and a 41-inch vertical. Defensive end Everson Griffen also recorded an impressive 4.66 time in the 40.
  • More football news: Chris Kiffin has been hired as a defensive administrative assistant for his brother at USC, sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones is not yet cleared for spring practice, and the new USC coaching staff worked with its players for the first time today. The workout was one of six allowed by the NCAA before spring practice, which begins for the Trojans on March 30.
  • The Arizona Republic's Doug Haller reports Arizona State, USC's opponent Thursday night, struggled against California on Saturday — and struggled so much that it reminded the Sun Devils of their 47-37 loss to the Trojans in January. From Haller's weekend rewind: "U is for USC, which Derek Glasser said is the only previous game he could remember when ASU's big guns -- Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and himself -- couldn't hit an outside shot. 'When that happens, we got no shot at winning,' he said."
  • In baseball, USC beat the Dirtbags of Long Beach State 10-5 in Long Beach late Tuesday. In a practice only seen in college baseball, coach Chad Kreuter switched around his order to put his power hitter — sophomore Ricky Oropesa — leading off and his contact hitters batting second and third. Kreuter told me before the season he was considering batting Oropesa first everyday, because of the chance to get him an extra at-bat. Tuesday's lineup change didn't net Oropesa that at-bat, but the first baseman did go one for four with a walk and a home run. Alex Sherrod and Ashton Kent also homered as part of a seven-run third inning for the Trojans.
  • And lastly, former Trojans Matt Leinart and Ryan Kalil will appear at a presentation Wednesday just off campus at the USC Catholic Center. The 5:30 p.m. program, titled "Giving It All On and Off the Field," is free to those who e-mail their reservation to beverly@catholictrojan.org or by calling (213) 749-5341.

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