Pac-12: Marc Tyler

USC spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 10-2
2011 conference record: 7-2 (1st, South)
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Matt Barkley, S T.J. McDonald, OL Khaled Holmes, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, RB Curtis McNeal, DL Devon Kennard, DL Wes Horton, CB Nickell Robey, LB Dion Bailey, LB Hayes Pullard, K Andre Heidari

Key losses
OL Matt Kalil, DL Nick Perry, FB Rhett Ellison, DL DaJohn Harris, DL Christian Tupou, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, WR Brandon Carswell, LS Chris Pousson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Curtis McNeal* (1,005 yards)
Passing: Matt Barkley* (3,528 yards)
Receiving: Robert Woods* (1,292 yards)
Tackles: Dion Bailey*, Hayes Pullard* (81)
Sacks: Nick Perry (9.5)
Interceptions: T.J. McDonald* (3)

Spring answers

1. Marqise Lee is ready for prime time: It’s no secret that Lee is a talented player who put together a terrific freshman season, but he took that performance to an even higher level this spring when he was the best player on the field for the Trojans. We’re seeing a rare athlete in Lee, one whose acrobatic style is being compared to Lynn Swann.

2. The USC defense is worthy of mention: There is so much attention paid to Matt Barkley and his offensive weapons -- and deservedly so -- but this spring was a reminder that the Trojans defense is going to be pretty good too. The back seven will be a strength, as the starters return intact plus there is a nice supply of talented depth.

3. The future of the USC quarterback spot is in good hands: Spring was an extended audition for Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, as Barkley was limited in his reps. Both players had their moments as they look to settle into the No. 2 role and the inside track to be Barkley’s heir apparent. The Trojans also got a verbal commitment from Max Browne (No. 2 rated pocket passer in ESPN 150), who will enroll next spring.

Fall questions

1. Interior of the D-line: One of the keys of spring was replacing two senior starters from the middle of the line. George Uko stepped in at defensive tackle and had flashes of real solid play. After Uko, however, things are not so clear. There is no established backup for him and no set starter at nose tackle, as J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods continue to battle for the job.

2. Lack of depth at tailback: The Trojans have a returning 1,000-yard rusher in Curtis McNeal but not a lot of experience behind him. D.J. Morgan had 42 carries in 2011, Buck Allen redshirted last season and Nelson Agholor has yet to join the team. That’s the extent of the playing time for the 2012 USC reserve tailbacks.

3. Protecting the blind side: There wasn’t a ton of worry last year about left tackle with Matt Kalil but replacing him has not been easy. Kevin Graf got the first look, but then the coaches moved Aundrey Walker into the spot. Lane Kiffin said Walker was not consistent but he showed enough with the potential of the size benefits he brings that he will stay as the starter heading into fall camp.
With the combine completed, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have updated their respective rankings and boards. Kiper also offers his winners from the combine and those leaving us with questions.

Some of the Pac-12 winners include LaMichael James (Oregon, RB), Coby Fleener (Stanford, TE) and Matt Kalil (USC, OT).
If Fleener runs in the 4.5 range at his pro day, he could be in the first round. The Giants make sense. He is now an option as the first tight end off the board.

Question mark players include Vontaze Burfict (ASU, LB), Cliff Harris (Oregon, DB) and Marc Tyler (USC, RB).
(On Burfict) He already carries attitude questions, and Burfict needed to turn heads with workouts. Heads were turned, but for the wrong reason. He looked sluggish, to put it mildly. Once a first-round guy, he could be in the middle rounds if he doesn't recover.


Kiper also updated his top five players by position. The conference is well represented with Andrew Luck (Stanford, QB), James, Rhett Ellison (USC, FB), Fleener, Kalil, Jonathan Martin (Stanford, OT), David DeCastro (Stanford, OG), Burfict and Bryan Anger (Cal, P) and appearing in the top three of their respective position groups.

Finally, the rankings. No shock that Kiper and McShay both have Luck as the No. 1 overall pick. Here's McShay's take:
Luck's combine workout showed he is more athletic than most thought, and combined with his once-in-a-generation skill set he appears to be a lock as the No. 1 overall pick to the Colts.

Other conference players appearing in McShay's top 32 are Kalil, DeCastro, Martin and Brock Osweiler (ASU, QB).

While McShay ranks Robert Griffin III second, Kiper has Kalil in the No. 2 spot.
Kalil confirmed that he is a good athlete for his position. The tape is great, and it's hard to see him falling outside the top five. The plus for him is he might not need time to develop at right tackle, a common break-in spot for many left tackles.

WeAreSC Monday links: Barkley superstar

February, 27, 2012
Steve Bisheff writes Insider: Matt Barkley isn't your typical star All-American quarterback, but it's that uniqueness which helps make him one of the best college football has to offer.

Erik McKinney writes: John Baxter might not have gotten much acclaim when he was hired as USC's special teams coach two years ago, but his aggressive approach to special teams and academics has made an impact.

Garry Paskwietz writes Insider: Rhett Ellison made a good impression at the NFL scouting combine Sunday while Marc Tyler struggled a bit.

WeAreSC Monday links

February, 20, 2012
Erik McKinney writes Insider: 2013 OL Nico Falah is receiving major interest despite being relatively new to football, and 2015 WR Trenton Irwin is a player to watch.

Garry Paskwietz writes: Marc Tyler sits down with WeAreSC and explains the ups and downs of his USC career along with his training for the upcoming NFL draft.

Breakout RBs to watch in 2012

January, 27, 2012
Who are the potential breakout running backs in 2012? Glad you asked, because ESPN's KC Joyner tackled that very question and a pair of Pac-12 running backs landed on his top five list Insider.

USC running back Curtis McNeal checks in at No. 1 overall. With a moderate strength of schedule and four returning offensive linemen, here's what Joyner had to say about McNeal:
Losing first-round NFL draft pick Matt Kalil at left tackle is a negative, but getting the other four starting offensive linemen back means the quality portion of these numbers can be replicated. And since McNeal is likely to get a significant portion of the 125 carries Marc Tyler (lost to graduation) posted last season, it means McNeal's chances of getting an increased quantity of carries are also quite strong.

Not far behind McNeal in the No. 3 spot is Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who is expected to have three of his big men back in front of him next season.

Here's Joyner's take:
The Ducks' run-blocking win rate was also quite impressive, so much so that Barner would likely have ranked higher than this were it not for Oregon losing two starting offensive linemen to graduation. Losing quarterback Darron Thomas also could cause some early transition issues, even though Bryan Bennett, Thomas' likely replacement, should be able to put together a strong season.

And even though he's not on Joyner's list, I'm going to throw Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor in there as well. Maybe I'm biased because I'm the Stanford blogger. Or maybe it's that the guy has rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons while in a four-back rotating system and no one outside of Palo Alto seems to recognize the skills. (Actually, five backs when you consider Stanford's use of the fullback.)

Granted, this list is "breakout" backs. But Taylor's contributions continually seem to get overlooked. So much so that every year it feels like he has to have another "breakout" season just to get recognition. So keep an eye on that guy also in 2012.

End of first: USC 14, Irish 0

October, 22, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — That was quick, no?

USC has jumped out to an early 14-0 lead at the end of one, and it looks like it could be a long night for the Irish if they don't figure things out fast.

The Trojans marched 66 yards on 13 plays on their first drive, using 11 rushes to chew up 7:39 of clock time. They then went 62 yards on six plays — four passes — to take a two-score lead.

Matt Barkley is 6-for-6 with 52 yards and two touchdown passes, and a banged-up Marc Tyler has rushed for 54 yards on eight carries so far.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, went three-and-out on its first two drives and will try to avoid a third three-and-out when the second quarter gets underway, as the Irish face third-and-5 when play resumes.

This is obviously not the kind of start the Irish were hoping for after a bye week and plenty of buildup, and they will need to act fast on both sides of the ball to keep this one from getting out of hand early.

Pac-12 lunch links: Petersen in mix at UA?

October, 17, 2011
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey,
don't you know that I love you?
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby,
don't you know that I'll always be true?

Bad news for USC, uplift for Cal?

October, 14, 2011
The news wasn't all good for USC on Thursday night after it whipped listless California 30-9. Nor is it all bad for the Bears.

For USC, injuries were an issue.

Cornerback Anthony Brown broke his ankle and is likely done for the season. Running back Marc Tyler dislocated his left shoulder and he could be out two to three weeks. Receiver Marqise Lee sprained his shoulder but he may be able to play at Notre Dame next Saturday.

As for Cal, how could a sixth consecutive conference loss and an 0-3 start in the Pac-12 -- coach Jeff Tedford's worst start to conference play in 10 seasons -- have any upside?

Thanks for asking. Jon Wilner, not always known as Mr. Positive, points out that the early conference schedule has been tough for the Bears -- at Washington, at Oregon, USC -- but things are far more manageable ahead: Utah, at UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State. Writes Wilner:
And if the Bears take three of four, they’d be 6-4 – assured of a bowl bid before they step foot in Stanford Stadium and head down to Tempe for the finale.

So here’s my advice to angry, frustrated, anxious Cal fans: The season isn’t lost. It will get better.

Wilner the Reassuring! Cal fans probably don't know what to make of that.

By the way, Cal fans have a right to expect six wins this year. A second-consecutive bowl-less season would put Tedford decidedly on the hot seat, most likely making 2012 one of those "win or else" seasons. And if things crash and burn this fall, well, we know things can go south quickly for coaches in this business -- just glance south down at Tucson.

Cal's defense is playing fairly well. The problem, again, is the Bears' offense, Tedford's bailiwick. The Bears trailed 20-0 at halftime and never really made a run as they lost their eighth in a row in the series.

Quarterback Zach Maynard committed four of Cal's five turnovers -- three interceptions -- turning in a second-consecutive subpar game after an encouraging start. He didn't get much help. Cal rushed for just 35 yards.

Wilner has an idea that he feels pretty strongly about.

Why not let him throw on the run, especially moving to his left? That’s when he’s most comfortable, when he seems to find his rhythm.

Why not let him make plays with his legs? Why not run more spread option?

The Bears slow start provides our factoid of the game, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: In the last four meetings between the teams since 2008, USC has owned Cal in the opening half, outscoring the Golden Bears 92-3.

That's not a good way to beat a rival.

Pac-12 links: Cliff Harris back in spotlight?

September, 23, 2011
Happy Friday.

Pac-12 links: James says he wasn't himself

September, 7, 2011
He was smiling. That's right! You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker.

Video: USC's Tyler allowed to practice

August, 25, 2011

Shelley Smith updates running back Marc Tyler's progress as he tries to rejoin the Trojans.

Pac-12 lunch links: UW D-line looks impressive

August, 25, 2011
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,
when we are sick in fortune -- often the surfeit
of our own behavior -- we make guilty of our
disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars.

While you were on vacation... USC

August, 15, 2011
The ninth of 12 quick updates on offseason Pac-12 goings on.

USC in a sentence
  • The Trojans won't be eligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, so the big question is how consistently motivated a team that is talented enough to win 10 games this season will be.
The big issue
  • USC is loaded at the skill positions, with quarterback Matt Barkley leading a young but talented supporting cast, but the season likely swings on the play of the offensive line and linebackers, positions that are both questionable and thin.
Quick hit news
  • Starting defensive tackle Armond Armstead, who missed spring practices due to an undisclosed medical condition, still hasn't been cleared to play but he told reporters he expect to be cleared before the season starts.
  • Starting running back Marc Tyler is on indefinite suspension -- he definitely will sit out the season opener. He was suspended after saying stupid things to a TMZ reporter with a video camera, but his status is even more precarious because he is awaiting a ruling from the school's disciplinary committee on a pair of alcohol-related incidents from last year.
  • Coach Lane Kiffin said over the weekend that junior Curtis McNeal, who was academically ineligible last season, leads the tailback competition.
  • USC's backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins, is out indefinitely after suffering a thumb injury. True freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are competing to be Barkley's backup.
  • USC has only one new assistant coach: receivers coach Ted Gilmore. He replaced John Morton, who left for the San Francisco 49ers.
  • While the Trojans have 13 starters back, only 39 players on the roster saw action in 2010. 70 players on the 109-man roster have never played a down of college football. Only 14 Trojans have started at least 10 games.
  • For the first time since 2000, USC plays seven home games, including the first three in the Coliseum.
  • There are 35 scholarship players now practicing who didn't participate in spring drills: 23 new recruits and 12 returning players who were out because of injuries. The Trojans presently have 79 scholarship players. They can only sign 15 players this recruiting season because of NCAA sanctions and can have no more than 75 total scholarship players in 2012.
  • USC outscored foes in each of the first three quarters last season but was outscored 118-72 in the fourth quarter.
  • USC is in the process of constructing the $70 million John McKay Center, a 110,000-square foot building that will house the football offices, an academic center, weight room, athletic training room and digital media production.
Look, the Pac-12 is the conference of quarterbacks. Everybody knows that. No other conference even approaches the talent the Pac-12 has at the position in 2011.

Stanford's Andrew Luck, USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles each could be first-round NFL draft picks next spring. Luck is almost certain to go No. 1 overall. Oregon's Darron Thomas, Oregon State's Ryan Katz, Utah's Jordan Wynn and Washington State's Jeff Tuel also are experienced, talented guys with plenty of upside.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireQuarterback is the position of power in the Pac-12, but LaMichael James and his fellow running backs can make a strong case as well.
So the Pac-12's position of power is, obviously, quarterback.

But don't sleep on the running backs, either.

The conference welcomes back five backs who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last fall, including Oregon's Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker Award winner, LaMichael James. That crew includes Washington's Chris Polk, Colorado's Rodney Stewart, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor. Those are five backs who ranked among the top-38 in the nation in rushing last fall, including three in the top 13.

(And, by the way, if Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and California's Shane Vereen hadn't opted to enter the NFL draft a year early, the conference also would include the nation's No. 21 and 23 rushers from 2010).

Further, only California, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State have questions at the position. USC is stacked with talented backs, whether senior Marc Tyler (913 yards, nine TDs in 2010) comes back from suspension or not. Arizona State's Cameron Marshall (787 yards, nine TDs) is one of the most underrated players in the conference, and Arizona's Keola Antolin (668, seven TDs in 2010) has rushed for 1,830 yards and scored 21 TDs in three seasons.

Further, many of the backups -- Oregon's Kenjon Barner, Washington's Jesse Callier, Arizona State's Deantre Lewis or Kyle Middlebrooks, Stanford's Anthony Wilkerson and UCLA's Derrick Coleman (or Malcolm Jones/Jordan James) -- are talented and experienced (other than James, a redshirt freshman).

So conference of quarterbacks, conference of running backs -- both are positions of power.

Perhaps the Pac-12 in 2011 is now the Conference of Backfields?

Lunch links: Foles ready to top 'Cats QB list

August, 4, 2011
You know, that big rotten gap between who I am, and who I want to be, never does quit hurtin' to stare across.