Pac-12: Stafon Johnson

Pac-12 lunch links: Kelly to the NFL?

January, 19, 2012
You know I used to wait two days to call anybody, but now it's like everyone in town waits two days. So I think three days is kind of money. What do you think?

Pac-10 lunch links: Chow talks about UCLA, Utah

January, 25, 2011
I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.
I was there when Stafon Johnson first spoke publicly after the horrible weight room accident at USC that nearly took his life.

It was inspiring. It was a feel-good moment.


Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday against USC, alleging negligence on behalf of former assistant strength coach Jamie Yanchar and the school for the accident -- a 275-pound bar falling on his throat -- on Sept. 28, 2009.

The story of the incident that has long held sway -- the bar slipped out of Johnson's hand; pure bad luck -- is now different.

"What we say occurred is that the bar was basically knocked out of his hand, causing it to fall on Stafon's neck, almost causing him to die," Johnson's lawyer, Carl Douglas said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "We think for that, those that are responsible should be held responsible for their actions."

Replied USC in a statement:

"USC firmly believes it was not at fault in Stafon Johnson's unfortunate weightlifting accident. We are sorry that Stafon was injured. USC and the entire Trojan Family have been exceptionally supportive of Stafon from the minute the accident occurred. We are disappointed to learn that Stafon has decided to file a lawsuit against USC."

We're not a big fan of lawsuits, but we're not going to judge Johnson. We don't know what happened. We weren't there. He obviously feels wronged. He's suffered plenty. He also went out of his way to say, "This lawsuit does not in any way reduce my love for the cardinal and gold."

Perhaps this will be easy: Multiple witnesses will present the same story, one way or another. But you'd have to doubt that, seeing that things have reached this point. That likely means folks who care about both Johnson and USC will be forced to take sides as they give their take on what happened. You could end up with two Trojans who are friends of Johnson's presenting very different takes.

Or maybe a settlement is reached and things don't get ugly.

That surely would be best for both parties.

Pac-10 lunch links: Public sentiment a factor for USC with NCAA?

March, 2, 2010
We've got the whole wide world in our yard to explore.
We always find things we've never seen before.
That's why every day we're back for more
With your friends, the Backyardigans.

Update from Senior Bowl

January, 29, 2010
Some updates on Pac-10 players at the Senior Bowl from Scouts Inc.:

Good days

USC TE Anthony McCoy -- After a slow start McCoy ended the week the way we expected, employing good footwork and hand use to get clean releases off the line. He also showed the ability to get down the field, and we were surprised at the vertical speed McCoy showed and how quickly he was able to get on top of linebackers. He also caught the ball much better on Day 4, snatching it away from his frame. McCoy might have been a bit rusty after missing USC's bowl game, but after his focus came around this week we saw the same player whose film impressed us during the season. Throw in the fact that he is a sound run-blocker and McCoy is clearly the most complete tight end in this year's class.

Bad days

Oregon State QB Sean Canfield -- Canfield looked out of sync even throwing against air. He missed on quick posts, crossing routes and in routes on which the quarterback is asked to make the throw before the receiver makes his break, and at this point in the week we thought he would have executed a little better. Canfield's week was not awful, but Day 4 was a little alarming because this environment is suited to his game and we thought he would carry over some of the momentum he built up with a strong finish to the season.

It also seems that California defensive end Tyson Alualu had a good week. His name kept coming up, often at the expense of offensive linemen. Consider this under "Bad days":

Notre Dame OT Sam Young -- There is nothing wrong with Young's effort. He fights to stay in position and finishes every drill in practice. However, his 6-foot-7 frame makes it hard for Young to redirect in pass protection, and he has difficulty getting under defenders' pads as a run-blocker. He also has very long arms (34 inches) that seem to make it hard for him to be quick with his hands. We saw that show up on Day 4 when Young was working against California DE Tyson Alualu, who used his explosive hands and strong upper body to slap Young's arms down.

Washington linebacker Donald Butler has impressed. In fact, this evaluation is high on Butler and Alualu.

Butler also is a riser on this list, which includes Oregon's LeGarrette Blount. On the downside, Canfield also made the list as a "faller."

A quick hit on former USC running back Stafon Johnson, who's coming back from a life-threatening throat injury. USC offensive lineman Jeff Byers is praised for his versatility.

Pac-10 top-30: Then and now

January, 26, 2010
Some of you may recall we ranked the top-30 players in the Pac-10 during the 2009 offseason.

There were some hits and misses.

With national signing day just around the corner, it shortly will be time to put the 2009 season to bed and start looking ahead.

But first we're going to re-rank the top-30 based on what actually happened this fall.

For reference, here is the preseason list. Feel free to critique.

1. Taylor Mays, S, USC
2. Jahvid Best, RB, California
3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
5. Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC
6. Brian Price, DT, UCLA
7. Damian Williams, WR, USC
8. Syd’Quan Thompson, CB, California
9. Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon
10. Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon
11. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
12. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
13. Dexter Davis, DE, Arizona State
14. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon
15. Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA
16. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon
17. Charles Brown, OT, USC
18. Will Tukuafu, DE, Oregon
19. Josh Pinkard, DB, USC
20. Reggie Carter, LB, UCLA
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
22. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
23. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, Washington
24. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State; Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
25. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
26. Tyson Alualu, DE, California
27. Devin Ross, CB, Arizona
28. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
30. Everson Griffen, DE, USC

What we can tell you in advance of our post-season list is there are plenty of new names, considering six players were knocked off the list for missing all -- or at least significant portions -- of the year with injuries (or in one high-profile case a suspension):

3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
5. Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC
10. Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon
14. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona

Nos. 30, 29 and 28 will be posted this afternoon.

Blount added to Senior Bowl roster

January, 25, 2010
The NFL wants a closer look at former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount, whose punch of a Boise State player after the team's season-opener became one of the biggest stories in college football this season.

Blount joined 10 other Pac-10 players who will play in the Senior Bowl on Saturday:

On the North roster:

DE Tyson Alualu, California
RB LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
LB Donald Butler, Washington
QB Sean Canfield, Oregon State
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State
CB Syd'Quan Thompson, California

On the South roster:

OG Jeff Byers, USC
RB Stafon Johnson, USC
FS Taylor Mays, USC
TE Anthony McCoy, USC

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and USC offensive tackle Charles Brown were invited but are not playing.

List of NFL combine invitees

January, 12, 2010
Here's a list of the Pac-10 players invited to the NFL combine, courtesy of The Sporting News.

First of all, it's incomplete. Underclassmen will be added later, such as USC receiver Damian Williams and UCLA DT Brian Price. And a number of seniors also will get invitations.

My immediate guess is that Washington linebacker Donald Butler and Oregon defensive end Will Tukuafu will end up receiving invitations, among others.

Arizona: DT Earl Mitchell, CB Devin Ross

Arizona State: DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, OT Shawn Lauvao, WR Chris McGaha, WR Kyle Williams

California: DE Tyson Alualu, WR Nyan Boateng, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, WR Verran Tucker.

Oregon: RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, CB Walter Thurmond, S T.J. Ward.

Oregon State: QB Sean Canfield, OLB Keaton Kristick.

Stanford: TE Jim Dray, RB Toby Gerhart, OT Matt Kopa, DE Erik Lorig.

UCLA: OLB Kyle Bosworth, CB Alterraun Verner.

USC: OT Charles Brown, C Jeff Byers, RB Stafon Johnson, S Taylor Mays, TE Anthony McCoy, G Alex Parsons, CB Josh Pinkard, CB Kevin Thomas.

Washington: DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

Will Locker be the only marquee junior not bolting?

January, 6, 2010
Is Washington quarterback Jake Locker going to be the Pac-10's only junior star not entering the NFL draft a year early?

UCLA's junior defensive tackle Brian Price made official today what already had been reported -- he's entering the draft.

Price joins California running back Jahvid Best, USC defensive end Everson Griffen and USC running back Stafon Johnson as conference juniors who have announced they are leaving.

That group of four is almost certainly going to be joined by Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who hasn't made an "official" announcement but every indication -- including an apparent Senior Bowl invitation -- is he's leaving. USC receiver Damian Williams also hasn't made an official announcement but is expected to enter the draft.

While there's almost always a surprising declaration or two before the deadline -- recall California tight end Cameron Morrah out-of-the-blue decision to bolt last year -- three other marquee players are on the clock before the Jan. 15 deadline to make a decision: USC running back Joe McKnight, Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski and Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

McKnight has told reporters he plans to return, but that was before he got mixed up in some potential NCAA trouble and was suspended from the Emerald Bowl.

Gronkowski has said he will only leave if he's given a first-round grade, but Wildcats fans probably shouldn't be too confident he will be return in 2010.

As for Paea, he's evaluating his situation now. The general feeling is that he could improve his draft status with another year of seasoning -- he's only played football since his senior year of high school -- but it might prove to be too tempting to pass up an opportunity to start getting paid.

Fact is, there are many financial reasons to leave early, not the least of which is the NFL's uncertain labor situation.

All-Star game invitees

January, 6, 2010
Unless a guy plays for Central Michigan, Troy, Alabama or Texas, the 2009 football season is over. For a handful of players, their sights now turn to the NFL, and the next step for many of them is postseason All-Star games.

While there are a number of all-star games, the Senior Bowl is the premier game -- its roster is almost entirely directed by the NFL -- and the East-West Shrine Game is a clear No. 2.

Here's a list -- count on there being some additions in the coming days -- of the invitees.


East-West Shrine Game
DT Earl Mitchell
CB Devin Ross

Arizona State

East-West Shrine Game
OL Shawn Lauvao
WR Chris McGaha
DE Dexter Davis


Senior Bowl
DE Tyson Alualu
CB Syd'Quan Thompson

East-West Shrine Game
OL Mike Tepper
CB Syd'Quan Thompson
WR Verran Tucker


Senior Bowl
TE Ed Dickson

East-West Shrine Game
S T.J. Ward

Oregon State

Senior Bowl
QB Sean Canfield

East-West Shrine Game
LB Keaton Kristick


Senior Bowl
RB Toby Gerhart

East-West Shrine Game
DE Erik Lorig
DL Ekom Udofia
OL Chris Marinelli


East-West Shrine Game
LB Reggie Carter
TE Ryan Moya
CB Alterraun Verner


Senior Bowl
TE Anthony McCoy
RB Stafon Johnson
S Taylor Mays
OL Charles Brown

East-West Shrine Game
DB Josh Pinkard


Senior Bowl
LB Donald Butler

East-West Shrine Game
DL Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Washington State

East-West Shrine Game
C Kenny Alfred

Some newsy notes

December, 13, 2009
A couple quick-hit links for your Sunday.

  • No regrets for Stanford running back Toby Gerhart after he lost the closest race for the Heisman Trophy.
  • Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has signed his contract extension. Some notes on that.
  • Because Army lost to Navy, UCLA will play in the EagleBank Bowl against Temple on Dec. 29 at RFK Stadium.
  • USC cornerback Josh Pinkard has a knee injury and running back Stafon Johnson hasn't made a final decision on the NFL.

USC needs to adjust to improved Pac-10

November, 17, 2009
After watching the film of his team's 55-21 defeat to Stanford, USC coach Pete Carroll came to a fairly simple conclusion.

Stanford imposed its will upon the Trojans.

"We allowed Stanford to run the plays they wanted to run and we didn't knock them out of those," he said. "Normally, we try to keep people out of doing their favorite stuff. That didn't get done. We had to adjust more than we thought we would. We underestimated them. We thought we could get it done and it didn't happen."
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireUSC coach Pete Carroll is seeing the divide between the Trojans and the rest of the Pac-10 close.
Basically: The Trojans thought their guys could win one-on-one battles, so they didn't overcompensate to meet Stanford's power running game. They were wrong.

Carroll's take fit in with a theme during the Pac-10 teleconference. Each of the other nine coaches were asked if the perceived talent gap between USC and the rest of the conference had closed and, to a man, each said, "Yes."

"I think people have had to rise up," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said before concluding. "But I think it's real."

It is. USC ranks in the middle of the Pac-10 in most statistical categories.

In four of its last five games, its once dominant defense has surrendered 27, 36, 47 and 55 points. The offense ranks seventh in the conference in passing and has been out of sync the past three games, when it's averaged just 17.7 points per game.

And, by the way, special teams haven't been terribly special, either.

Injuries have been a big issue. Thirteen starters have missed at least one game, and that doesn't include the season-ending injury to Stafon Johnson.

Still, at this point it's fair to say USC has moved back and the conference pack has moved up.

The question now is how do the Trojans react to the unexplored territory of not ranking among the Pac-10's nor the nation's elite?

"National championship? Rose Bowl? No? OK. What's next for us to fight for?" safety Taylor Mays said. "If we don't fight back from this, and we keep going downhill, that's when you really get upset."

If USC wins its next two games -- UCLA and Arizona, both at home -- it still could end up in the Holiday Bowl. Even if the Trojans ended up tied with Stanford, the odds are the Holiday Bowl would pick them to boost television ratings.

And if the Trojans prevailed, a 10-3 finish would ease some of the sting of a disappointing season. It might even be enough to push them back into the top-10.

A strong finish and some offseason momentum also would increase the odds they'd again be the preseason conference favorite in 2010.

And yet.

Based on what's transpired since the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame, it certainly seems reasonable to doubt whether the Trojans will win their final three games and generate that positive momentum.

"The first thing is you have to get to the truth of what happened and everybody is clear about that," Carroll said.

That starts with coaching. Perhaps Oregon and Stanford have comparable talent to USC, but does anyone really believe they are a combined 102-41 better than the Trojans?

Quarterback Matt Barkley was a better quarterback five weeks ago. The linebacker play also has regressed. A talented secondary has just six interceptions. The offensive line may produce a heap of NFL draft choices, but it's hardly been dominant. The offense can't convert on third down. The defense doesn't force turnovers. The Trojans commit a lot of penalties.

More than a few USC insiders acted like the departures of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt for Washington might offer a chance for a schematic upgrade. Who'd assert that now? Seem to recall the same being said -- nudge, nudge -- when Norm Chow "chose" to leave.

Carroll may need to take a serious and objective look at his staff. Is everyone getting the most out of his players? And Carroll may need to do some self-evaluation.

Or: Maybe this is just a blip. Maybe what's extraordinary is that it's taken this long for USC to be ordinary.

Would you be shocked if, a year from now, this space is filled with calibrations of various scenarios for USC to play for the national title? Of course you wouldn't.

"We'll bounce back in a positive direction," Carroll said.

We'll see.

But this column from SEC country recalls an interesting parallel that also occurred to me: In 2001, when Florida State's run of 14 consecutive 10-win seasons ended with an 8-4 finish, no one -- no one -- thought the Seminoles would disappear from the national title discussion.

They did.

So there's really one position to have here, Trojans fans.

There no reason to overreact to the sudden downturn. But it's also foolish to act like nothing is amiss.

USC's Stafon Johnson: 'God has a plan'

November, 14, 2009
LOS ANGELES -- It was a rasp that the audience strained to hear, but it sure sounded good.

Said USC running back Stafon Johnson: "God has a plan. Run Stafon, run."

Johnson, who suffered a severe throat and neck injury in a weight room accident on Sept. 28, speaking publicly for the first time, used the last words his grandfather spoke to him to reassure Trojans fans that his recovery is going well.

Really well, in fact.

"We wouldn't expect him to be at this point, this early," said Jason Hamilton, one of Johnson's doctors.

Johnson has regained some speech, though it's limited. He can swallow and eat solid foods.

He's still physically limited. He can't run or work out and playing football again is not front-and-center at this point.

But there's hope that he may fully recover. Asked when Johnson's activity might not be limited, Dr. Ryan Osborne said, "[in] the very near future."

While being away from his team and teammates -- and not being able to talk to his son -- have been a struggle for Johnson, he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

When asked if he'd watched the Trojans' 47-20 loss to Oregon, he shook his head and buried his face in his hands.

Everyone in the room laughed.

USC RB Bradford ready to thunder his arrival

October, 28, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

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.
He's LenDale White to McKnight's Reggie Bush.

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.

Video: Stafon Johnson out of the hospital

October, 14, 2009

ESPN’s Shelley Smith updates the condition of USC's Stafon Johnson.