NCF Nation: Stanley Havili
If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.
Here's where the Pac-12 players went:
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle
By Pac-12 school:
Arizona State (1)
Oregon State (3)
Washington State (1)
The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
Big Ten... 36
Big East 22
Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.
This was the tally through three rounds:
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4
In truth, it's just a wet, sticky, yucky pile. But things were pretty gross even before we made a bloody mess that reveals little.
"Steak tartare?" I say. "Sushi?" you say.
The battle for LA bragging rights ain't much to look at. USC is 7-5 and has lost two in a row. UCLA is 4-7 and has lost five of six. It's the most combined defeats for the two teams entering the game since 1999.
What is fair to say: The loser will be really, really miserable this offseason. The winner? It gets to not be the loser.
That said, the most accurate grade for both this season might be an incomplete, for it is difficult to get an accurate, big-picture measure of the state of either program.
For one, both programs had some impressive highs this season.
USC has been in and out of the rankings throughout the year, but it appeared to be there to stay after an impressive win at Arizona on Nov. 13. At that point, it was fair to predict a 10-3 finish, a strong first season for new coach Lane Kiffin by any measure, considering the circumstances.
At that point, some prematurely pinned a rose on Kiffin's nose. But then USC got blown out at Oregon State 36-7 and lost to Notre Dame 20-16 at home, thereby ending a record eight-game winning streak in the storied series.
The Trojans will lose a number of quality seniors heading into 2011 (WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristofer O'Dowd, FB Stanley Havili, CB Shareece Wright), and a couple more could enter the NFL draft a year early (OT Tyron Smith, DT Jurrell Casey).
Considering how young and thin the Trojans were this season, it's hard not to see them trending down after Kiffin's first season.
As for UCLA, the Bruins looked awful in their first two games -- a loss at Kansas State and a 35-0 drubbing at home against Stanford. But a three-game winning streak followed, topped by wins over Houston and Texas, a pair of nationally ranked teams. The defense stepped up and the pistol offense appeared to be breaking through with quarterback Kevin Prince.
Then: Splat. Prince, who was struggling in the passing game, was lost for the season to a knee injury, and the Bruins lost three in a row. They briefly seemed to recover with a win over Oregon State, which reignited bowl hopes, but they then lost by 17 at Washington and 21 at Arizona State.
The defense has been bad, but the offense has been awful. The Bruins rank 116th in the nation in passing and 103rd in scoring, and that has created a offensive coordinator controversy with Norm Chow, who is highly respected -- and highly paid -- but hasn't lived up to his reputation in Westwood.
It's hard not to see the Bruins trending down after Rick Neuheisel's third season.
So there is the suggestion of a downward trend for both, but there are variables beyond wins and losses in 2010.
USC still awaits a ruling from the NCAA Appeals Committee on severe sanctions, which included a two-year bowl ban and a docking of 30 scholarships over three years. In light of recent reports and ensuing investigations launched across the Eastern Seaboard for far worse offenses involving agents and pay-for-play schemes than what the NCAA turned up after investigating the Trojans football program for four years, it seems reasonable for the Committee to give USC a break.
Don't hold your breath, Trojans fans. But if penalties were reduced, that would provide a significant jolt of positive momentum, particularly if scholarships are restored.
With USC getting trampled by the NCAA, UCLA was supposed to take advantage, particularly in recruiting. At present, however, the Trojans rank 13th in the nation in recruiting, while the Bruins are not ranked in the top-25. USC has 16 commitments with four from the ESPNU 150. UCLA nine commitments with just one from the ESPNU 150.
But it's premature to measure recruiting classes before national signing day on Feb. 2. Recall that Neuheisel has made impressive late runs the past two years.
So, again, rain clouds hang over both programs in sunny Southern California. Neither is happy with this season. And both really, really would like to walk away from 2010 by putting a footprint on the other's forehead.
As for the big-picture trends in the rivalry? Who the heck knows?
UCLA: While individuals played big roles -- linebacker Akeem Ayers, the offensive line, quarterback Kevin Prince, free safety Rahim Moore, running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, etc. -- the Bruins shocking 34-12 domination of Texas was a total team effort and should be credited as such.
Stanley Havili: Havili, USC's fullback, had four carries for 80 yards, including a 59-yard TD in the Trojans' 50-16 win at Washington State. He also caught five passes for 107 yards -- including a 58 yarder -- with a TD.
Nate Whitaker: Playing against his old team, Notre Dame, he tied a Stanford record with five field goals: 24, 41, 36, 33 and 29 yards during the Cardinal's 37-14 win.
Juron Criner: He wasn't supposed to play due to a turf toe, but in a game devoid of offense, Criner made the two biggest plays on Arizona's 77-yard, game-winning TD drive against California. First, he hauled in a 51-yard pass from Nick Foles. Then, on third down, he caught a 3-yard TD from Foles to give the Wildcats a 10-9 win.
John Boyett: The Oregon safety had a game-high 11 tackles and an interception he returned 39 yards for a TD. He also had three pass breakups in the 42-31 win at Arizona State.
The latest out of Heritage Hall: USC cornerback T.J. Bryant underwent surgery on his cheekbone Thursday as a result of a fight with fullback Stanley Havili.
Got to be honest: Havili, a fifth-year senior, is one of the last guys I'd guess would take a poke at a teammate. But these are strange times at USC, which just can't seem to stay out of the news.
This from the story:
The fight broke out near the end of a players-only workout last Friday, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said. The players were finishing a relay drill when an argument escalated into a physical confrontation. Bryant, who was competing for a starting job this fall, is expected to miss three to four weeks. The Trojans open their season in Hawaii on Sept. 2.
Bryant was considered slightly behind Torin Harris for the starting cornerback spot opposite Shareece Wright, but an "OR" was between them on the depth chart, meaning it was a tight competition. And when you're replacing all four members of the secondary, any loss hurts.
The big question, however, is this a "boys will be boys" incident, only with big boys who can obviously cause a lot of damage when fists fly? Or does this suggest some rifts among the players -- specifically between players who want to work hard and other who might view extra effort in conditioning as a waste of time due to NCAA sanctions?
"This was a situation where Stanley tried to step in to get guys to finish without the coaches being there. He was showing leadership to get guys to finish at a level he's used to. My understanding is there was a back-and-forth and some pushing. Obviously, it didn't end well."
Doesn't that sound like Kiffin is saying Havili was unhappy with Bryant's effort and when Bryant fired back at Havili's "encouragement" things escalated?
That said, having covered college football for a while and talked to many players through the years, I realize there actually are plenty of fights among teammates. Think about it: 100 guys ages 18 to 23 -- 85 on scholarship -- together much of the day. There are going to be altercations. Only most of the time, a guy doesn't need surgery afterward so it doesn't become a news story.
Isolated incident or not? Check back on Sept. 2.
The LA Times tells the tale. And the Orange County Register. And LA Daily News.
That commitment is Seantrel Henderson, the nation's No. 1 offensive lineman, who will wait to sign until after USC meets with the NCAA later this month.
Lane Kiffin's first class after the departure of Pete Carroll was stronger than just about everybody thought it would be.
The Trojans had three top needs. They hit a grand slam at receiver and tight end. They did fairly well at defensive back. They fell short at linebacker.
Top prospects: Robert Woods is the nation's No. 1 receiver. Markeith Ambles was No. 4. Kyle Prater was No. 9. Xavier Grimble leads a list of three top-10 tight ends. Help is coming for quarterback Matt Barkley. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Trojans signed the No. 2 guy, Jesse Scroggins.
Under the radar: Not really a USC category. Fullback Soma Vainuku, recruited as a linebacker by a number of schools, signed as a fullback, perhaps positioning himself as the next Stanley Havili.
Issues? It's hard to quibble with the nation's No. 7 recruiting class, particularly when the school was dealing with a coaching transition to Kiffin from Carroll, but there are two things. First, linebacker was a need area that wasn't sufficiently addressed. Second, the Trojans lost out on a number of prospects to rival UCLA, most notably safety Dietrich Riley and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt
Notes: Kiffin said he expects linebacker Glen Stanley, the lone JC transfer, to play immediately... USC signed players from five states... Kiffin took a shot at the players who picked UCLA over USC in his signing day press conference: "I think, I've been gone three years but much hasn't changed. As you meet the kids there is a sense and I was reminded of the kids that go to UCLA and the kids that come to USC, and to be back here, I watched it over the weekend just to see if it's the same, and it's really still the same. I guess we waste time continuing to recruit them, we know within the first 10 minutes whether they're the type of guys that want to play here or there."
You may notice a lot of USC and UCLA players. You might remember that the LA schools posted the conference's only two wins.
QB Matt Barkley, USC: Barkley completed 27 of 37 throws for 350 yards with two touchdowns against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. He also had two interceptions.
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford: Against an Oklahoma defense ganging up on him, he rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a Sun Bowl loss.
RB Stanley Havili, USC: He only rushed for 2 yards, but he also he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns.
WR Damian Williams, USC: He caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards.
WR Damola Adeniji, Oregon State: He caught seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Beavers' Las Vegas Bowl loss to BYU.
TE Anthony Miller, California: He led Cal with five receptions for 55 yards in the Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah.
OL Chris Marinelli, Stanford: The offense was without its starting quarterback, but Gerhart gained 133 yards and the Sooners only had one sack.
OL Mike Tepper, California: Cal's pass protection wasn't great against Utah, but running back Shane Vereen finished with 122 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
OL Charles Brown, USC: The Trojans didn't run terribly well vs. Boston College, but they only yielded one sack and gave Barkley plenty of time to throw.
OL Jake Dean, UCLA: He was thrust into the starting lineup after starting center after Kai Maiava was ruled academically ineligible, and the Bruins yielded only one sack vs. Temple.
OL Chase Beeler, Stanford: See Marinelli.
K Kai Forbath, UCLA: He kicked field goals of 40 and 42 yards.
DE Kenny Rowe, Oregon: He set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State.
DT Jurrell Casey, USC: Casey had five tackles, a sack and a 22-yard return of a fumble.
DT Brian Price, UCLA: Price started slowly vs. Temple but he dominated the second half and finished with five tackles, with one coming for a loss.
DE Tyson Alualu, California: Alualu had five tackles, with 1.5 coming for a loss.
LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Ayers led the Bruins with nine tackles, two for a loss, and his leaping interception at the Temple 2-yard line, which he returned for a TD, was the play of the Pac-10 bowl season.
LB Kyle Bosworth, UCLA: He finished with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks.
LB Eddie Young, California: Young had seven tackles and returned an interception 31 yards for a TD.
CB Shareece Wright, USC: In his first game back after academic ineligibility, Wright grabbed a key interception.
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA: Verner had seven tackles, two for a loss, and a pass breakup.
S Rahim Moore, UCLA: Moore had four tackles and an interception.
S Taylor Mays, USC: Mays had five tackles for a Trojans defense that shut down Boston College in the second half.
P David Green, Stanford: He averaged 44 yards on six punts, three of which were downed inside the Sooners' 20-yard line.
But there were some good things that shouldn't be overlooked.
Best performance, defensive player: Oregon's undersized but quick defensive end Kenny Rowe set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State. He finished the season with 11.5 sacks, which led the Pac-10.
Best performance, offensive player: In his final game in a USC uniform, receiver Damian Williams caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards in the Trojans' 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. It's fair to say that Williams was USC's most consistent player over the entire season.
Worst performance, period: There was nothing good about Arizona's 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nothing. Feel free, though, to look at this box score and try to find something.
Best play: With UCLA trailing Temple 21-20 in the fourth quarter, and the Owls pinned on their 8-yard line, Bruins outside linebacker Akeem Ayers -- after falling down on his initial pass-rush burst -- leaped into the air and intercepted Vaughn Charlton's pass and gamboled 2 yards into the end zone.
Worst play: Trailing 19-17 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from Ohio State's 18-yard line. A huge hole opened. But running back LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a high handoff from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Buckeyes recovered the fumble and dominated the rest of the game.
Worst play, II: After BYU tied Oregon State 7-7 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, the Beavers took over at their 40-yard line. On second down, running back Jacquizz Rodgers couldn't handle a backward pass from Sean Canfield, and Matt Bauman returned the loose ball 34 yards for a touchdown. That was the first fumble of Rodgers' career, and the Cougars dominated the game from then on.
Best performance under tough circumstances: Oklahoma knew Stanford had no passing offense without quarterback Andrew Luck. So it ganged up on running back Toby Gerhart. Nonetheless, the Heisman Trophy runner-up rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a rugged effort in the Sun Bowl loss.
Worst pass defense: California made Utah true freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn look like an All-American in the Poinsettia Bowl. Against what was supposed to be one of the nation's best secondaries heading into the season, Wynn completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns. He shook off an early pick-six to run the Bears ragged.
Best second-half defense: UCLA held Temple to 41 yards and zero points in the second half of the EagleBank Bowl.
Worst performance you didn't see coming: Canfield, Oregon State's quarterback, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors this season. He has been invited to the Senior Bowl and is going to have an NFL career. Nonetheless, he had a horrible Las Vegas Bowl and was outplayed by BYU's Max Hall, who threw three touchdown passes. Canfield completed just 19 of 40 passes for 168 yards with an interception and no touchdowns, and he seemed completely befuddled by a strong wind and the Cougars' secondary.
Best unsung performance: USC fullback Stanley Havili always seems to sneak up on folks. In the Trojans' win over Boston College, he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns, including a 53-yard jaunt on a screen pass. He also had a critical tackle after one of Matt Barkley's two interceptions.
The Pac-10 thereby improves to 1-2 in the bowl season.
And USC gets to walk away from its season with a 9-4 record, which is not so bad anywhere else outside Heritage Hall.
How the game was won: USC's defense, terrible in the second quarter, put the clamps down, pitching a second-half shutout, while quarterback Matt Barkley reversed a late-season slide by leaning on receiver Damian Williams and fullback Stanley Havili to make big plays.
Turning point: With 13 minutes left in the game, and USC only leading 17-13, cornerback Shareece Wright, who was academically ineligible until the bowl season, grabbed an interception at midfield. On the next play, Barkley found Williams deep over the middle for 48 yards to the Eagles 1-yard line. Wright made the catch despite being surrounded by three defenders. A play later, Barkley snuck in for the touchdown and the final margin.
Stat of the game: Zero. That's how many points the Eagles scored in the second half after they dominated the second quarter and scored all 13 of their points.
Player of the game: Williams was the best player on the field catching 12 passes for 189 yards, though one catch on the sideline -- a 38 yarder that set up the Trojans second touchdown -- was curiously ruled in bounds when, golly, it sure didn't look that way (someone feel free to explain that one to me).
Unsung hero of the game: USC fullback Havili always seems to catch opposing defenses off-guard. Havili scored the Trojans first two touchdowns, the first when he transformed a short dump from Barkley into a 53-yard touchdown.
What it means: The Trojans' worst season since 2001 ends on a high note, despite speculation that indifference and off-field turmoil would combine to produce a flat performance. It means the Trojans head into the off-season with a modicum of positive momentum. And it wasn't hard to see the promise of some of USC's young players, particularly Barkley. The USC dynasty done? Maybe. Or maybe not. We'll see in 2010.
Now what for USC?
|Steve Dykes/Getty Images|
|Pete Caroll’s Trojans need to rebound strongly if they still want to be in the BCS bowl race.|
Yes, the little people are thrilled.
Every other team in the country has suffered many, many, many double-digit defeats since 2001. Seems like it's about time the Trojans suffered their second.
Of course, there will be blustering about the Trojans being overrated despite the fact they have accomplished more this season than just about any other team in the nation, posting three wins over teams ranked in the current BCS standings, all of them on the road.
Oregon is better than USC. No question. That doesn't mean the Trojans aren't a top-10 team.
And if USC wins the rest of its games and finishes 10-2 -- and Oregon takes care of business and wins the Pac-10 title -- the odds are good that the Trojans still will earn the conference a second BCS bowl berth.
So despair not USC fans!
Or maybe you should.
That defense that gave up (clear throat) 613 yards on Saturday is banged up. Linebacker Malcolm Smith suffered a shoulder injury and won't play this weekend at Arizona State and could be out for weeks. Middle linebacker Chris Galippo and backup strong side linebacker Jarvis Jones suffered neck sprains against the Ducks, which could be issues for a while even if they can play Saturday. Defensive lineman Armond Armstead fractured his wrist. Defensive end Everson Griffen is experiencing turf toe, another injury that could linger for weeks.
And more than a few folks are wondering if if All-American safety Taylor Mays' is hurting. Mays, who missed the Washington loss with a sprained knee, didn't look like himself against the Ducks.
Meanwhile, on offense, fullback Stanley Havili (shoulder) and tight end Anthony McCoy (ankle) should be considered questionable for the trip to Tempe. Both veterans were missed at Oregon.
The performance at Oregon made this manifest: It's possible that there actually are limits to USC's talent and depth. That losing eight A-list defensive starters and a quarterback who was the fifth-overall NFL draft pick can, in fact, be an issue, just as starting a true freshman quarterback has a downside no matter how poised, talented and intelligent that quarterback is.
And don't forget the coaching turnover the Trojans have gone through over the past season: two new coordinators, a new quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller and a new defensive line coach. Sometimes new voices complicate a team's culture and dynamic.
The defensive implosion still feels shocking, though, particularly because five games into the season it looked like the Trojans had merely reloaded.
Entering the Notre Dame game on Oct. 17, the Trojans ranked sixth in the nation in total defense (238.6 yards per game), fourth in scoring defense (8.6 ppg), fifth in run defense (64.8 ypg) and hadn't allowed a touchdown pass.
Three games later, the Trojans rank 36th in the nation in total defense (331.88), 27th in scoring (19.13), 44th in run defense (118.75) and have given up six TD passes.
If those numbers hold steady, this will be Pete Carroll's worst defense since 2005 -- the worst in his nine-year tenure -- which is surprising considering how good that team was.
The breakdowns against Notre Dame and Oregon State mostly happened after the Trojans grabbed big leads, so a letdown was a possible explanation, though a repeated loss of focus doesn't speak well of the Trojans players and coaches.
But the way Oregon dominated the second half suggested the Trojans might not be in great physical shape. The Ducks players said they wore down USC and who could argue? After three consecutive poor fourth quarters, maybe the Trojans need to do some more cardio.
Some might point to a lack of heart. Oregon punched the Trojans in the mouth, and the Trojans didn't respond.
That, however, will be measured going forward, starting at Arizona State.
USC should be plenty motivated by its now-myriad doubters. Folks have taken shots at USC for years while not believing their own words. Everybody -- deep down -- knew what USC was: The team that always would be favored over everyone else on a neutral field.
Now there are actually legitimate grounds to question how good USC is. An unprecedented string of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles is in serious peril.
Therein lies another potential consolation prize for USC. Remember: You Trojans are tired of bludgeoning Big Ten teams in the Rose Bowl.
So what if USC gets off the floor, towels off its bloody face and whips the remaining teams on its schedule?
Then it will go to another BCS bowl and earn an opportunity to make a simple statement: We're still USC.
EUGENE, Ore. -- Lots of black in the stands. Some green. Flashes of that bright, Oregon-yellow, too.
On my walk to the stadium, though, I saw a guy in a pink tutu riding a pink toy pony.
Yes, I did a double-take.
A number of former Ducks players are in town, including Dennis Dixon, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Saw him last night during a Pac-10 blog investigation at Taylor's bar. There are rumors he's a huge fan of the Pac-10 blog, though I may have started that rumor.
Oregon isn't wearing all-black, as some thought it might. It's wearing dark green jerseys and black pants with dark green helmets.
But maybe the Ducks will change when they go back to their locker room before emerging for the kickoff.
USC is in white and gold. No surprise.
I've been eyeballing USC fullback Stanley Havili, but I can't tell whether his shoulder injury might keep him out of the game. He's expected to try to play.
The Trojans are following the Ducks into the locker room. The nearly all-black garbed student section is giving them an Autzen "hello." Earlier, they chanted a greeting to the Trojans that I am not allowed to share because this is a family blog.
It surely passed through most USC observers minds while watching Allen Bradford (finally) have his breakout game against Oregon State last weekend. As Bradford and his 235 pounds ran over and around the Beavers defense for 147 yards on 15 carries, the potential metaphor and then comparison was obvious.
He's thunder to speedy Joe McKnight's lightning.
|Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
|USC running back Allen Bradford finally had a breakout game last Saturday against Oregon State.|
Bradford, a redshirt junior, has waited a long time for that many touches in a game. And it's been a frustrating wait. So maybe it's understandable that he's not eager to embrace a metaphor or a comparison. He'd just -- please and thanks -- like to keep getting opportunities to do his thing.
"Me and Joe will never be Reggie and LenDale," Bradford said. "All we can be is Joe and Allen, so that's what we're going to be."
Oregon coach Chip Kelly is fairly impressed with Joe and Allen. His Ducks are playing well on defense, but the Trojans will bring a lot of weapons to their trick-or-treat road trip to Autzen Stadium on Saturday night (8 p.m. EST, ABC).
Thunder and lightning?
"With their stable of running backs, they've got thunder and lightning and hurricane, typhoon -- you name any storm, they've got it," Kelly said.
It's a good line -- Kelly has at least one of those a week -- but it's not completely true. At least not presently. After all the talk the previous few years about the Trojans embarrassment of riches at tailback, a recession has hit Heritage Hall.
Stafon Johnson suffered a season-ending throat injury in a weight room accident. Marc Tyler is out for the season with a toe injury. Curtis McNeal has been riddled with injuries. C.J. Gable, who started 11 games last year, has been nicked up and in the doghouse for unexplained reasons. Fullback Stanley Havili is questionable for Saturday with a shoulder injury.
McKnight always seems to be nursing some woe, too. He severely cut his hand against Oregon State.
Still, no matter why Bradford got his opportunity, he's glad he got it. And, yes, it was an inspired performance.
"(Receiver) Damian Williams just looked at me in my eyes (before the game) and said, 'Are you ready! Let's ball out!'" Bradford said, describing the pregame scene. "He saw the look on my face. He knew something was going to happen. Then we see Stafon -- we have this handshake we do before every game -- and it made me think about how blessed I am and how unfortunate it is for Stafon to go through that."
The 147 yards was a career-high for Bradford, as were the 15 carries, which are more carries than he's had during any of his previous two seasons. He appeared poised to make his mark in 2008, but a hip injury ended that possibility after two games and he took a redshirt year.
What Bradford has mostly done throughout his career is look impressive in his uniform -- he's built like a crate of bricks -- and impressive in practice. The reporters who regularly cover USC spend plenty of their downtime debating the relative merits of USC's running backs, and Bradford's remarkable runs during practices often earned him high marks.
But reporters don't make the depth chart.
"He's always had bright spots but he's really showed great consistency the last few weeks," coach Pete Carroll said.
Now that he's (finally) getting the ball, it might not be surprising that Bradford is disinclined to complain. He's not real clear on how often he asked the coaches why he wasn't getting playing time, though word is it happened on a regular basis. Early in his career, there was talk of him moving to fullback or even linebacker.
And, yes, Bradford, a Parade Magazine and USA Today first-team prep All-American in 2005, admits his eye did wander.
"Yeah, I thought about transferring plenty of times," he said.
But a number of current and former teammates, such as linebacker Thomas Williams and safety Kevin Ellison, talked him out of it.
And Bradford knew there were some areas where he fell short. Top of the list: blocking. A running back who can't stay in the game to block on a passing play is a liability -- it's a tell for an opposing defensive coordinator.
It might seem strange that a physically imposing player would struggle with blocking -- the 205-pound Gable, for example, is better at it than Bradford -- but it's actually not about muscle. Or even want-to. To make the right block, a running back has to be able to read the defense, sniff out a blitz and then used the proper technique to meet the on-coming charge.
"There's a lot of technical aspects to it," Carroll said. "It's not just being big and tough. It's much more than that."
Bradford's blocking is still a work in progress. But it's better.
He seems comfortable with the new attention. And carries. Another big performance inside raucous Autzen Stadium in a game that features Rose Bowl and potential national championship implications might become more than a breakout.
It could thunder an arrival.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Not to brag, but I know everybody.
Yes, I'm so cool that I can practically recite every Pac-10 team's starting lineup. Practically. At least by September.
[I see all of you mustering Chevy Chase's perfectly mocking, "God, I admire you," from Fletch at this moment.]
Ergo, today's topic: Out of nowhere.
Rory Cavaille, WR, Oregon: Cavaille moved up the pecking order when Aaron Pflugrad decided to transfer. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound senior and former walk-on has caught just six career passes. But he's smart -- he was honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic last year -- and he has good hands. The Ducks get an influx of talent at receiver from their 2008 recruiting class, but Cavaille apparently has played his way into the mix.
D.J. Shoemate, FB, USC: Pete Carroll loves fullbacks -- just ask him about Stanley Havili sometime (if you have an extra half hour) -- and Carroll loved Shoemate, a sophomore, after spring practices, telling the Orange County Register that he was the spring's most-improved player. Shoemate isn't a complete mystery, of course. He was a marquee recruit and he started the Rose Bowl when Havili was academically ineligible, but he has moved around a bit, seeing action before at receiver and tailback.
Kai Maiava, C, UCLA: The Bruins' offensive line is loaded with questions, but Maiava is a firm answer. Barring injury, he will start at center. He sat out last season after transferring from Colorado and missed half of spring ball with an ankle injury, but he's shown enough already to solidify his standing. As for his football bloodlines, yes, he's former USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava's brother and his uncle is pro wrestler/actor "The Rock" (Dwayne Johnson).
David Pa'aluhi, LB, Oregon State: Pa'aluhi wasn't a complete unknown -- the sophomore was impressive enough to top the depth chart entering spring -- but my guess is that, outside of folks who follow the Beavers, he's going to draw a "Who?" at least until the games start. First thing to know: Don't pick a fight with him. He's a mixed martial arts guy. Second, he's fast, reportedly running the 40 under 4.5. And he's got upside, considering he started playing football his senior year of high school.
Alex Debniak, RB-LB, Stanford: Coach Jim Harbaugh gushed about Debniak this spring as a guy who could see significant action at strongside linebacker and running back. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore appeared in eight games as a true freshman and finished with four total tackles. He and Will Powers were practically an either-or at linebacker this spring.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Three days until the next Pac-10 bowl game. Be strong.
- Miami couldn't stop California's Jahvid Best, and a Miami columnist raises an eyebrow at the Bears' play calling. Jake Curtis does an outstanding job tying a bow on Cal's season and Emerald Bowl win.
- Oregon and Oklahoma State are similar in one way: They both benefit hugely from a sugar daddy booster. Good news for the Ducks: Running back Jeremiah Johnson returned to practice.
- With no Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State needs Ryan McCants to step up. Big. And there's little question where the Beavers' defense will be focused.
- It appears USC won't have fullback Stanley Havili or safety Kevin Ellison for the Rose Bowl, which is two big hits. Here's a reason for quarterback Mark Sanchez to return for his senior season. Know how USC has, at times, struggled against mobile quarterbacks? Interesting tidbit from this story on Penn State:
With backup quarterback Pat Devlin's departure to Division I-AA Delaware earlier this month, [quarterback Daryll] Clark likely won't run as much against USC. If he were to be injured in the Rose Bowl, the Lions would be down to wide receiver Derrick Williams, who has taken direct snaps from the shotgun in the Wildcat formation, and Paul Cianciolo, who has played in just three games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Helmet stickers for those who stood out during the weekend's games.
Oregon's rushing offense: Oregon piled up 304 yards rushing -- averaging 7.1 yards per run -- against Arizona State without any player eclipsing the 100-yard benchmark. The Ducks scored five rushing touchdowns and have 30 on the season, a total that is tops in the nation. They average 279 yards a game, which ranks fifth.
Stafon Johnson: He's USC's most consistently effective back but he never seems to complain about having to share the football. He rushed for 83 yards on 19 tough carries in the Trojans 17-10 win over Arizona and also had a 54-yard punt return. But his best play was a spectacular cut block of a blitzing Wildcats safety right in front of quarterback Mark Sanchez that allowed Sanchez to throw a touchdown pass to a wide open Stanley Havili. That touchdown proved to be the winning margin.
Jahvid Best: While he was sporting a bulbous protective brace on his injured elbow, Jahvid Best regained his status as the Pac-10's most explosive running back. He rushed for 115 yards on 17 carries in the win over UCLA, and his spectacular 34-yard touchdown scamper gave the Bears the lead for good.
Rey Maualuga: Maualuga hasn't always been his dominant self this season, in large part due to nagging injuries. But he was a force in the middle of USC's dominant defensive effort in the win over Arizona. He recorded a team-high nine tackles -- eight solo -- and frequently delivered his trademark reverberating blows.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
LOS ANGELES -- Some quick hits at the half:
- It became clear at USC practices that both FB Stanley Havili and RB Joe McKnight were big parts of the game plan.
- McKnight has rushed five times for 49 yards -- his 24-yard run on the TD drive gave USC the ball on the Buckeyes 26 -- and Havili has caught two passes for 47 yards and a TD.
- The Buckeyes answered but another good drive -- which even featured a 13-yard run from Terrelle Pryor -- was killed by a pair of holding calls. The result was a missed 46-yard field goal.
- Ohio State isn't haven't much trouble getting first downs. The Buckeyes have 11 with three minutes left before the half.
- Maybe I'm wrong and the Trojans are going to blow this thing open.
- It is worth noting that the Buckeyes have outgained USC 156 yards to 149 as of the pick-six.
- Also, Pryor is going to be a weapon. He's 2 for 3 for 23 yards and has rushed six times for 41 yards.
- Turnovers are killers against the Trojans. New exhibit: Boeckman fumbles on a sack from Clay Matthews and the Trojans, now winning the turnover battle 2-0, take over on the Buckeyes 28 with a minute left before the half.
- Joe McKnight goes 15 yards on a third and 7 for a first down on the 20. He's averaging over 11 yards per carry and has 82 yards rushing.
- The Buckeyes probably won't feel physically overwhelmed it the locker room.
- Still think this might turn out to be interesting but my confidence is not as high as it was a hour and a half ago.