Pac-12: Kyle Moore

USC spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC Trojans
2008 overall record: 12-1

2008 conference record: 8-1

Returning starters

Offense 9, defense 3, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

WR Damian Williams, C Kristofer O'Dowd, OT Charles Brown, OG Jeff Byers, TB Stafon Johnson, TB Joe McKnight, FS Taylor Mays, CB Josh Pinkard, DE Everson Griffen.

Key losses

QB Mark Sanchez, LB Rey Maualuga, LB Brian Cushing, DE Clay Matthews, DT Fili Moala, SS Kevin Ellison.

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Stafon Johnson* (705)
Passing: Mark Sanchez (3,207)
Receiving: Damian Williams (869)
Tackles: Rey Maualuga (79)
Sacks: Kyle Moore (5)
Interceptions: Cary Harris, Drew McAllister*, Kevin Thomas* (3)

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 San Jose State
Sep. 12 at Ohio State
Sep. 19 at Washington
Sep. 26 Washington State
Oct. 3 at California
Oct. 17 at Notre Dame
Oct. 24 Oregon State
Oct. 31 at Oregon
Nov. 7 at Arizona State
Nov. 14 Stanford
Nov. 28 UCLA
Dec. 5 Arizona

Spring answers

1. Reload at LB: Sure, the Trojans lost three first-day NFL draft picks at linebacker, but it's hard to find anyone around the program worried about the position. With Chris Galippo in the middle, and Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith flanking him, this unit will be faster than last year. That said, incoming freshmen Frankie Telford and Jarvis Jones may be able to work their way into the rotation.

2. Griffen steps up: Defensive end Everson Griffen has always been a spectacular talent, but his focus and work ethic haven't been consistent. Until this spring, at least, when Griffen joined Smith as the defense's standout player. He leads a young defensive line that flashed brilliance at times this spring.

3. If the QBs come through ...: With nine starters back and depth at every position, the Trojans' offense doesn't appear to have any weaknesses. Of course, the guy who's going to distribute the ball -- either Aaron Corp or Matt Barkley -- will be making his second career start at Ohio State, which gets a qualified, "Yikes!"

Fall questions

1. Is Barkley really in this? While coach Pete Carroll has long shown no fear starting -- or at least playing -- true freshmen, he has yet to do that at quarterback, where a pattern of sitting for three years and learning the system has been established. Corp emerged from spring the clear leader at the position, but Barkley flashed passing talent that's hard to ignore. Can Barkley really beat out Corp, and if he doesn't will he be the backup and burn his redshirt in 2009?

2. How will the tailback rotation go? With Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler making statements this spring -- particularly McNeal -- it appears that the Trojans are again a six-headed monster at tailback. There's just one ball, but there's Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable, with Gable presently the favorite to get his carries cut due to fumbling issues. Or will McKnight's inability to stay healthy -- at least during practices -- suddenly be recognized as a problem?

3. Who's the kicker? Joe Houston seemed to emerge with a small lead over Jordan Congdon at kicker, but touted JC transfer Jacob Harfman arrives in the fall, and Harfman could end up kicking and punting.

Big East nips Pac-10 for draft lead

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
10:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

[Note this is a corrected post... apologies for not factoring in the underrated Big East].

The Big East nipped the Pac-10 for the lead among conferences in the 2009 NFL draft.

The eight-team Big East supplied 27 total players in the draft, or 3.4 players per team. The Pac-10 supplied 32 selections (3.2 players per team). The 12-team SEC was third with 37 selections overall, or 3.1 per team. The 12-team ACC was third with 33 (2.8 per team).

Last year, the Pac-10's led with 3.4 per team vs. 2.92 per team for the SEC and ACC (2.75).

USC led the way with 11 players selected, including three in the first round, though many are shaking their heads of linebacker Rey Maualuga's tumble into the second round. Every draft-eligible Trojan who started last season was picked.

Oregon State was second with seven players selected and Oregon was third with six. Arizona State, with a pair of seventh-round selections, maintained a 45-year streak with at least one player drafted.

Not all the news was good: Stanford, UCLA and Washington each had no players selected.

Here's the complete list

Arizona

Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville, second
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville, fourth

Arizona State

Troy Nolan, S, Houston, seventh
Paul Fanaika, OG, Philadelphia, seventh

California

Alex Mack, C, Cleveland, first
Zach Follett, LB, Detroit, seventh
Cameron Morrah, TE, seventh

Oregon

Patrick Chung, S, New England, second
Jairus Byrd, CB, Buffalo, second
Max Unger, C, Seattle, second
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Philadelphia, fifth
Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Pittsburgh, sixth
Nick Reed, DE, Seattle, seventh

Oregon State

Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo, second
Keenan Lewis, CB, Pittsburgh, third
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas, fourth
Slade Norris, OLB, Oakland, fourth
Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, fifth
Al Afalava, S, Chicago, sixth
Sammie Stroughter, WR, Tampa Bay, seventh

Stanford

NONE

UCLA

NONE

USC

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, first (No. 5)
Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston, first (No. 15)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay, first (No. 26)
Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, second
Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis, second
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, third
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, fourth
Kyle Moore, DE, Tampa Bay, fourth
David Buehler, PK, Dallas, fifth
Cary Harris, CB, Buffalo, sixth
Kevin Ellison, S, San Diego, sixth

Washington

NONE

Washington State

Brandon Gibson, WR, Philadelphia, sixth

Sack men: Where things stand at defensive end

March, 10, 2009
3/10/09
3:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Pac-10 spring position reviews conclude with the defensive ends, the guys who get after the quarterback. Or are supposed to.

Even with four of the top five conference leaders in sacks gone, this is a fairly solid position across the board. The only team that raises a rebuilding red flag is Oregon State, which lost twin sackmasters Victor Butler and Slade Norris.

Of course, Washington and Washington State both produced only 16 sacks in 2008, tied for worst in the conference and among the fewest in the nation.

Great shape

  • California: Cal welcomes back underrated end Tyson Alualu, second-team All-Pac-10 in 2008, and rising star Cameron Jordan, a junior. They combined for 22 tackles for loss last year in the Bears' 3-4 defense. There's also solid, young depth behind them in sophomore Trevor Guyton and junior Keith Browner.
  • Arizona: Juniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore combined for 15 sacks last year and both backups, D'Aundre Reed -- who started four games and had 2.5 sacks in 2008 -- and Apaiata Tuihalamaka are back.

Good shape

  • Arizona State: Dexter Davis had 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. James Brooks, Jamaar Jarrett, Jamarr Robinson and 25-year-old newcomer Dean DeLeone will battle it out to replace Luis Vasquez and provide depth.
  • Stanford: Tom Keiser had six sacks last year and earned freshman All-American honors while Erik Lorig has started 20 career games. Tom McAndrew provides experienced depth.
  • UCLA: Senior Korey Bosworth had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2008, while junior Reginald Stokes started five of the final seven games last year. He will be challenged by sophomore Datone Jones.
  • Oregon: Sackmaster Nick Reed is gone, but that at least means Will Tukuafu might finally get some credit. He had 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last year. Competition will be hot to replace Reed, with juniors Brandon Bair, Zac Clark and Kenny Rowe in the running.
  • USC: Sure, both Kyle Moore and Clay Matthews are gone, but how many teams in the nation do you think would trade defensive ends with the Trojans? Everson Griffen, who had 4.5 sacks last year, is a true talent as a pass rusher, but he needs to be more consistent. Sophomore Malik Jackson and freshmen Wes Horton and Nick Perry each have huge upside.
  • Washington: The Huskies sneak in here mostly because of second-team All-Pac-10 end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor senior who had eight of the team's 16 sacks in 2008. Senior Darrion Jones returns at the other end and youngsters like Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson showed flashes of promise.

We'll see

  • Oregon State: The Beavers also had to replace both starting defensive ends last season, but this year the backups don't arrive with 19.5 sacks split between them like Victor Butler and Slade Norris did. Sophomore Kevin Frahm and senior Ben Terry split two sacks between themselves in 2008.
  • Washington State: Matt Mullennix is gone, but Kevin Kooyman is back as is Andy Mattingly, but he might end up as an outside linebacker. But, really, the Cougars only had 16 sacks last year (in 13 games). Youngsters and newcomers will need to step up.

Senior Bowl adds Turner and Chung to Pac-10 list

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
2:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Senior Bowl, the nation's premier college all-star game, has added USC receiver Patrick Turner and Oregon safety Patrick Chung to its list of invitees.

The game, whose selections are mostly dictated by the NFL, now will feature 14 Pac-10 players, including six from USC.

That means Trojans will have the largest contingent of players from any school for the second consecutive year. Nine Trojans were invited last year.

Kickoff for the January 24th game is set for 6 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised by the NFL Network.

The Pac-10 Senior Bowl invitees:

California: Center Alex Mack and linebacker Zack Follett

Oregon: Center Max Unger, safety Patrick Chung, running back Jeremiah Johnson

Oregon State: Offensive lineman Andy Levitre and cornerback Keenan Lewis

USC: Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and defensive linemen Fili Moala and Kyle Moore and receiver Patrick Turner

Washington State: Receiver Brandon Gibson

Pac-10 Senior Bowl selections

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
11:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is the premier postseason college all-star game. Everyone invited to the game has significant NFL prospects.

And just about every NFL coach and personnel guy will be on hand. Watching. Closely.

So the 12 Pac-10 players invited should feel honored. And a bit nervous.

Here's the list:

  • California: Center Alex Mack and linebacker Zach Follett
  • Oregon: Center Max Unger and running back Jeremiah Johnson
  • Oregon State: Offensive lineman Andy Levitre cornerback Keenan Lewis
  • USC: Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and defensive linemen Fili Moala and Kyle Moore.
  • Washington State: Receiver Brandon Gibson

Pac-10 lunch links: Stoops gets contract extension

December, 24, 2008
12/24/08
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

You can pout and cry now. Santa's already made up his mind.

Pac-10 lunch links: USC should cheer for Oregon State

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Links don't stink with a cold drink unless it's pink.

Five Pac-10 DEs on updated Hendricks watch list

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
3:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to college football's top defensive end, updated its 33-player watch list this week, and five Pac-10 players are on it: Oregon State's Victor Butler, Oregon's Will Tukuafu and Nick Reed, USC's Kyle Moore and Arizona State's Dexter Davis.

The list will be shortened to include five to six finalists in the final weeks of the season, and the final vote will be concluded on December 8. The winner will be announced December 10.

Complete Hendricks midseason watch list:

Trevor Anderson, Michigan State, JR, 6'2" 250
Diyral Briggs, Bowling Green, SR, 6'4" 230
Everette Brown, Florida State, JR, 6'4" 252
Victor Butler, Oregon State, SR, 6'2" 238
Ian Campbell, Kansas State, SR, 6'5" 255
Alex Carrington, Arkansas State, JR, 6'5" 280
Antonio Coleman, Auburn, JR, 6'3" 250
Dexter Davis, Arizona State, JR, 6'2" 252
Larry English,Northern Illinois, SR, 6'3" 255
Auston English, Oklahoma, JR, 6'3" 253
Junior Galette, Temple, JR, 6'2" 252
Brandon Graham, Michigan, JR, 6'2" 270
Jerry Hughes, TCU, JR, 6'2" 248
Phillip Hunt, Houston, SR, 6'2" 260
Tyson Jackson, LSU, SR, 6'5" 290
Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech, SR, 6'7" 260
Jan Jorgensen, BYU, JR, 6'3" 274
Jammie Kirlew, Indiana, JR, 6'3" 264
Paul Kruger, Utah, SO, 6'5" 265
Aaron Maybin, Penn State, SO, 6'4" 236
Dontay Moch, Nevada, SO, 6'1" 245
Kyle Moore, USC, SR, 6'6" 270
Brian Orakpo, Texas, SR, 6'4" 260
Jake Paulson, Air Force, SR, 6'4" 265
Zach Potter, Nebraska, SR, 6'7" 280
Nick Reed, Oregon, SR, 6'2" 248
George Selvie, South Florida, JR, 6'4" 245
Stryker Sulak, Missouri, SR, 6'5" 250
Will Tukuafu, Oregon, JR, 6'4" 272
Willie VanDeSteeg, Minnesota, SR, 6'4" 256
Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers, SR, 6'3" 265
Brandon Williams, Texas Tech, JR, 6'5" 246
Corey Wootten, Northwestern, JR, 6'7" 270

USC's defense dominates Arizona

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
3:29
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Fourth-and-short in the fourth quarter. It's the most fundamental moment in football. One team needs to push forward to survive. One team wants the opposite to happen.

 
 Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE
 Clay Matthews (47) and the USC defense did their part to slow down Arizona Saturday night.

With the clock ticking toward the six-minute mark, Arizona had fourth-and-inches on its own 47-yard line with USC clinging to a 17-10 lead.

It's the sort of moment that transforms a game or even a program.

Arizona didn't try anything fancy. It called a quarterback sneak for Willie Tuitama.

And he was stuffed.

It wasn't a spectacular moment for the Trojans -- it was a pile of large bodies -- but it's becoming increasingly clear that this team sometimes can't muster spectacular moments and has to rely on gritty ones.

Which the defense can almost always be relied on to provide.

"The defense is what gives you a chance to win every single time you go out," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

USC held Arizona, a team that averages 40 points and 411 yards per game, to 10 points -- the touchdown drive covered 15 yards -- and 188 total yards.

The Wildcats managed just 54 yards in the second half.

USC entered the game with the nation's best defense, and it walked out of rocking Arizona Stadium still holding the title.

The Trojans defense is just... different.

"You can notice it," Tuitama said. "They do play fast."

(Read full post)

As the Trojans Turn: Lots of stuff going on at USC

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
12:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Things are never simple at USC, and that's particularly the case this week with Arizona State set to visit the Coliseum on Saturday.

Hope we're not leaving anything out...

  • Who's the quarterback? Starter Mark Sanchez sat out practice (bruised knee) while Mitch Mustain, now the backup after sinking to No. 4 on the depth chart just two weeks ago, appears ready to start against the Sun Devils.
  • Running back Allen Bradford asked for the ball, now he's hurt? Yep. And he may redshirt. That seems to narrow the logjam at tailback to Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight.
  • What about McKnight's struggles returning punts? Johnson may take over for McKnight on punt returns, too.
  • What's up with receiver Vidal Hazelton? He's apparently having ankle trouble and wants to redshirt. The coaches don't want that. Hazelton has slipped behind Patrick Turner, Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson and probably David Ausberry in the pecking order. The LA Daily News suggests in the linked story that he might be a candidate to transfer.
  • Will linebacker Rey Maualuga be back in the lineup? Still up in the air. But if he can't go, it looks like Brian Cushing will again move from outside to Maualuga's inside spot.
  • Hey, is USC's defense moving guys around up front? With all this other stuff going on, it seems a fairly dramatic experiment with the Trojans defense slipped mostly toward the bottom of a notebook. Per the LA Daily News: "USC juggled its defensive line Monday, with Kyle Moore moving inside to tackle while Clay Matthews and Everson Griffen played defensive end. Fili Moala played nose tackle. Moore's played defensive end most of his career." This seems to mean the coaches aren't terribly happy with the performance of nose tackles Averell Spicer and Christian Tupou.

Execution, not anger will redeem USC vs. Oregon

October, 2, 2008
10/02/08
7:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The general consensus is that USC is angry and the Oregon Ducks, to paraphrase Bruce Banner, aren't going to like the Trojans when they are angry.

That's the run-up to Saturday's clash in the L.A. Coliseum: Exit Dr. Banner (the USC team that looked woeful at Oregon State last Thursday) and enter an angry green -- make that Cardinal and Gold -- Hulk (the Trojans who've spent a long week-plus hearing a nation crow about their embarrassing loss).

"I don't know if they are angry but they are going to be ready," said an unusually terse Pete Carroll.

USC defensive end Kyle Moore is typically a go-to guy for reporters who regularly cover USC. He's smart and outgoing but, most important, he's good for a colorful quote. But not this week. Moore's colorful personality turned beige when asked what happened to USC's defense against the Beavers.

"We're past that game," he said. "We can't go back and replay it."

True. But is he bothered by how the national media pounded the Trojans after they lost?

"People can jump on whatever bandwagon they want," Moore said. "One week they love us. One week they hate us."

So, sure, there's some "grrrr" there.

Of course, Oregon faced a similar situation last year when it was headed to Michigan, which was supposed to be beside itself after it lost at home to Appalachian State, an FCS school, and subsequently got pilloried as victims of one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

All the Ducks did in Ann Arbor, though, was roll up 624 yards of offense and deliver one of the worst whippings the Wolverines had ever taken, 39-7.

Therefore, pardon Oregon coach Mike Bellotti for finding the "anger" angle a little amusing. "It was going to be a challenging game anyway," he noted.

(Read full post)

Pac-10 Morning: ASU opponent Georgia isn't a finished product

September, 18, 2008
9/18/08
11:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Here's a musing: What's the over-under on rushing yards for UCLA (nation's worst rushing offense at 19 yards per game) against Washington State (nation's worst run defense at 330 yards yielded per game)? Now there's an Oct. 4 story line when the Bruins and Cougars clash.

"'Easy"' was one word defensive end Kyle Moore used after missing practice two days last week with back spasms before having the game of his life (eight tackles, a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss for 19 yards, including a sack for 15).

"You can tell they don't practice full speed," Moore said of the massive Buckeyes who made it "easy" to fly past them.

"They were still getting into their [first blocking] move, and we'd already be into our second move [on defense] and past them," Moore said.

  • Thoughts from Bob Condotta on the new Washington AD. Thoughts from Art Thiel, who wrote about what a mess the search was a day ago. Notable from his column: "[School president Mark] Emmert said he made the decision last week. When I talked with Woodward on Monday for a column Wednesday, he never let on that he had the job, speaking as if others were still in the hunt (heads up to football coach Tyrone Willingham: Assume nothing in your conversations)." Woodward's background, by the way, is in politics and as a lobbyist.
  • Washington State appears to be madly shuffling personnel in search of the right combination. That includes the well-traveled Alfonso Jackson

USC-Ohio State: LB matchup is scary-good

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
 Rey Maualuga had 10.5 tackles for a loss last year.

LOS ANGELES -- The term comes up more than a few times during this highly charged week: "scary."

Such as, "Coach Tressel, is Rey Maualuga scary?"

Jim Tressel, Ohio State's coach, doesn't want to bite on the loaded word, not completely anyway. "I don't look at it as scary because I don't have the ball."

USC defensive end Kyle Moore almost seems bothered that folks refer to his good friend, his soft-spoken friend, his newly svelte friend (down 26 pounds from his Rose Bowl MVP weight to 247), Rey Maualuga, as "scary."

"Rey's not scary," Moore said. "It's just the way he plays on the field that gets him perceived as scary."

Well, yeah.

Now, Moore adds, Brian Cushing. He's scary. That's a notion seconded by defensive tackle Fili Moala.

"We're all kind of fiery at times but Cush is nonstop, no holds barred, all out -- that, 'I'm going to give it to you before you give it to me,'" he said. What puts Cushing over the top, though, is this: He's from Jersey.

Cue the music from the "Psycho" shower scene.

"He's got that little accent," Moala says with a grin that suggests that, oh, just maybe that characteristic comes up every once in a while during locker room jesting.

In a week of hot topics -- hey, did you know No. 5 Ohio State is visiting No. 1 USC on Saturday? -- the comparison of the linebacking corps has been scorching.

The Buckeyes boast James Laurinaitis, whose trophy case features the 2007 Butkus and 2006 Nagurski awards, and Marcus Freeman, who was second-team All-Big Ten. The Trojans counter with Maualuga and Cushing, both preseason All-Americans.

All four are going to make a lot of money playing on Sundays, but first they have to endure endless questions about the opposing unit and how they match up.

"It doesn't match up at all because we're not going to be on the field at the same time," Maualuga reasonably points out.

Still, this exciting, Rose Bowl-like showdown features an extraordinary amount of talent, especially at linebacker.

"It's a really cool opportunity for people to watch these guys on both sides of the ball," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "It's rare that you would have this many guys who would have big futures, big upsides as you see in this game."

Cushing, Maualuga and Laurinaitis got acquainted this summer at the festivities surrounding their selection as Playboy All-Americans. Photos that circulated on the Internet suggested they all got along famously.

"Besides being a great linebacker, [Laurinaitis is] a great person, he's got a great personality," Maualuga said. "You'd think a guy with that stature, who's gotten all the accolades and awards he's got, he'd be a different type of person. But he's down-to-earth, unselfish. A complete, great person."

Added Cushing, "He's a good kid."

Cushing has battled injuries throughout his career, but became a national figure when he won the 2007 Rose Bowl MVP after recording 2.5 sacks in the victory over Michigan. He's 6-foot-3, 255 pounds and carries as much body fat as a petrified tree.

Maualuga, whose combination of size and speed and Samoan heritage makes it impossible to not introduce Junior Seau comparisons, was the Trojans leading tackler a year ago and earned All-Pac-10 honors for a second-consecutive year. He had 10.5 tackles for a loss and became a YouTube sensation for his numerous blowup hits.

"[Maualuga] brings a presence," Laurinaitis said. "He's a tremendous blitzer. Quarterbacks know they better watch out where 58 is. He does a great job running to the ball. If you're a ball carrier, you know where he is, because if you don't and he catches you off guard, you're going to be on ESPN."

Carroll sees differences in the tandems. He describes the Trojans "classic" linebackers as physical, tough and capable in space and tight areas.

The Buckeyes unit is a smaller and, Carroll intimated, perhaps quicker. It's also clear that Laurinaitis is a player Carroll can't help but appreciate.

"Laurinaitis can do everything; he's an extraordinary player," Carroll said.

There's an oh-by-the-way here, too. As Tressel pointed out: "Don't discount 43 either -- he gets after it."

No. 43 would be USC's third linebacker, senior Kaluka Maiava, who led the Trojans with six tackles at Virginia from his weakside spot. Also, Clay Matthews, listed as a defensive end, plays a hybrid position -- the "elephant" -- that's closer to a linebacker than a pure, hand-on-the-ground end.

For Ohio State, the weakside 'backer is Ross Homan, whose 10 tackles in the Buckeyes first two games is not far behind the pace of Laurinaitis (14) and Freeman (12).

Both groups of linebackers have spent the week discounting Saturday as a showdown of the nation's top two units on its top two defenses. It's all about team, they say.

But it doesn't take too much prodding for them to admit there's a little bit of extra juice to the matchup.

"Seeing [Laurinaitis] across the field and knowing who we are playing is going to bring a little more out of me," said Cushing, who's not allowing hip and wrist injuries to keep him off the field.

If it brings a little more out of the crews on both teams, it could make it a long afternoon for both offenses.

LB Cushing leaves practice with bruised hip

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
10:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- USC's All-American linebacker Brian Cushing, who's already nursing a wrist injury that requires a protective cast, left practice Tuesday with a bruised hip.

Defensive end Kyle Moore also missed action with back spasms.

Coach Pete Carroll said he doesn't expect the injuries to keep either player from starting against No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday.

"It doesn't look like it," Carroll said.

Cushing apparently took a knee to his hip early in practice.

Receiver Vidal Hazelton, who's nursing a sprained ankle, participated in some drills and could be ready by Saturday.

"He did pretty well today," Carroll said. "We'll see."

  • Carroll upon learning that Ohio State All-American RB Chris Wells had been cleared to play: "It's good for them. He's a great player. I'm sure it pumps them up and gives them a good boost going into the game."
  • The defense beat the offense on Competition Tuesday, Ohio State week addition.
  • Carroll on the improved play of his WRs, who were merely talented underachievers last year: "They've just grown up. They're more mature about playing in a game. They're more comfortable. Their batting average on their assignments is way, way higher than it was ... We're way different than a year ago ... I guess it was too much to ask of the young guys last year -- they couldn't emerge fast enough."

On a quest to find USC's best running back

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
6:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- It's clear that Pete Carroll needs our help. The USC coach acts like he's content listing six tailbacks on his depth chart -- four loosely connected to the first team by an ambiguous "or" -- but that can't possibly be right.

Obviously, he's just going through a Hamlet phase -- he can't make a decision. That must be why he's running the quintessential backfield by committee.

"There's no committee," Carroll said. "We don't talk like that."

Then what should Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford be called? A backfield by ensemble? Free-form jazz backfield? The Sybil Backfield?

Sure, the four combined for 202 yards in the 52-7 win at Virginia. Sure, Carroll's approach to coaching seems to work fairly well, with all those conference and national championships and whatever.

But there's a simple way to resolve this.

Talk to the Trojans defenders. They know who The Man really is.

They see these guys every day, and on competition Tuesdays, both sides go full-speed trying to make the other look bad.

So, Fili Moala, what do you think?

"Pick your poison," Moala said. "Do you want to get shook out of your jock strap or do you want to get run over?"

Recalling some jock strap issues during preseason camp, we're glad that Moala went with the latter.

The defensive tackle picked the 225-pound Bradford as the hardest to handle.

"He's very capable of running you clean over and just applying his will on you," Moala said. "You've got to hit Allen before he hits you."

Considering that Bradford has made up the most ground in the on-going competition, that sounds like a good pick.

Safety Kevin Ellison tips his cap to Bradford, too.

But then he goes with C.J. Gable, whose 73 yards on nine carries topped the Virginia stat sheet.

"All our backs got something different," Ellison said.

Fine. So, let's break the tie. Kyle Moore: Bradford or Gable?

"Joe [McKnight] gives me a little problem because he's so elusive," Moore said.

McKnight had 60 yards on six carries against Virginia, his 10 yards-per-tote average leading the Trojans, and he also caught four passes for 24 yards.

Hmm. These guys must have gotten together and talked in order to ruin this survey.

Perhaps Ohio State coach Jim Tressel can help. He first described the list of backs thusly: "On and on and on."

But then, probably just to spite our survey, he threw in the name of fullback Stanley Havili.

"What I love about them is you never hear of them complaining that they need the ball more," Tressel said.

Well, how could he hear that? He's Ohio State's coach. And he claims to never read the papers. Still, he's got a point. There have only been the merest whispers of complaint since these guys arrived over the past three seasons.

How can that be? These guys are competitive. They all were hyped high school recruits. How can they not complain, at least just a little behind the scenes? For example, how does it feel to be Allen Bradford, after an impressive spring and preseason, sitting on the sidelines watching McKnight or Gable or Johnson pilfering balls that he should be carrying? Surely that makes him want to lash out.

"I get real anxious," Bradford said. "I'll be on the sideline seeing Joe, Stafon and C.J. get carries and it just makes me want to go out there and work harder."

"Work harder"? That's not the colorful, controversial sort of comment we were looking for.

The Four Horsemen of the Apportion give each other plenty of grief, Bradford said, but they understand the system. Each has a package of plays that accentuates their strengths.

Yes, Bradford admitted, there are moments in running backs meetings when he wants to hoot down discussions of his backfield mates plays. But not during the serious business of a game.

"If it's your number, then we go," he said. "If not, then you've just got to wait until your number is called."

It appears, to be serious for a moment, that the buy-in for the approach operates well for a number of reasons. The players trust the system because they keep winning. They also feel like even without 20 touches a game, they will be able to showcase their skills enough to impress NFL scouts. And building an unselfish, team-first reputation probably won't hurt them at the next level, either.

Carroll seems to find it amusing that reporters are so obsessed with his backfield. He just doesn't see anything terribly complicated about it.

"We try to find niches for them within our scheme," he said. "It has nothing to do with anything else other than we're trying to win."

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