Friday, December 7, 2012
Wrapping up USC's first week of bowl practices
By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- Here's a look at everything else that happened with the USC Trojans this week, including their first two bowl practices, an early trip to El Paso and more:
Defensive coordinator plans
USC coach Lane Kiffin won't begin the formal process of searching for a new defensive coordinator until after the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
Kiffin's father, Monte, resigned as assistant head coach and de facto defensive coordinator following a disappointing 7-5 season. Kiffin says he plans to hire a true defensive coordinator to replace him, despite defensive line coach Ed Orgeron holding that title this season.
"We'll take our time and make sure that we get the right fit," Lane Kiffin said on Wednesday after the Trojans' first bowl practice.
Kiffin did indicate he will begin the process of sorting out candidates before the bowl game.
"I think you can kind of start it in your head," Kiffin said.
Kiffin is not afraid of a mid-January hire hurting his program in recruiting, even with signing day on Feb. 6. He pointed out that he was hired on Jan. 12 in 2010 and still signed a top recruiting class.
"It's not as quick as you think," Kiffin said of the time between the end of the bowl game and signing day. "One assistant coach isn't gonna be a big deal, and we still have over a month after the game until signing day."
Quarterback Matt Barkley missed Wednesday's practice while in New York for an awards banquet and walked into the Trojans' Friday session midway through, wearing sweats but no shoulder sling.
He has not practiced since suffering a sprained throwing shoulder Nov. 17, but he's still on track to start on Dec. 31.
Kiffin told reporters in El Paso on Thursday that Barkley "obviously wouldn't have been able to play if it had been an earlier [bowl] game."
USC's other bowl-game date possibilities were Dec. 22 and Dec. 27.
Kiffin phoned a Bakersfield boy with brain cancer on Thursday to wish him well after learning of his case from the family of USC quarterback Cody Kessler.
The boy, 12-year-old Nathan Garcia, has been given days to live. Kiffin talked to the team about it Friday and gave his players the family's phone number to make their own calls if desired.
"Just a really rough story," Kiffin said. "Just really a tragic story for anybody, but I also wanted our players to remember how fortunate they are."
Markowitz might not be back
Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Abe Markowitz is hoping to get a sixth year of eligibility granted to him by the NCAA because of injuries he had earlier in his career, but he won't be back on scholarship at USC.
Kiffin said in no uncertain terms this week that the Trojans don't have a spot for Markowitz because of their 75-player NCAA mandate. Markowitz said as of Wednesday he still plans to return -- even as a walk-on -- but he might not be able to do so because of NCAA rules governing injury waivers.
He said he'd prefer being a walk-on at USC than being on scholarship somewhere else, even if it means his parents have to sell their Hawaii house, which they have discussed.
Sun Bowl gifts
Each USC player traveling to the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl will receive a watch, fleece, cap, coin and hair dryer, plus $350 to spend on a gift of their choice.
Bowls are allowed to award up to $550 worth of gifts to each school's participants.
Watches and hats are standard gifts, as are headphones, speakers and electronic gadgets. The gift suites are a fairly new practice, giving players the option to purchase presents for family and friends.
The Alamo Bowl, another Pac-12 bowl, gives all participating players an iPad Mini, a Fossil watch, a $100 Best Buy gift card, a panoramic team photo and a mini-helmet, according to the SportsBusiness Journal.
The last time USC played in a bowl game, in December 2009, each player received a netbook, watch and backpack from the Emerald Bowl.
USC has not yet officially announced its practice schedule for the remaining three-plus weeks before the bowl game, but the Trojans will take next week off because of final exams.
They'll hold roughly a half-dozen practices in Los Angeles before traveling to El Paso on Dec. 26 and practicing several more times there.
Players will be allowed to go home for Christmas on Dec. 22.
USC receiver recruit Darreus Rogers was in attendance at Friday's practice. He tweeted a picture of his official enrollment notice this week.
Rogers was supposed to be a Class of 2012 recruit, but academic questions delayed his enrollment and forced him to greyshirt. He's expected to begin classes in January.
Final notes: USC is hosting a mammoth official visit weekend on its campus, with quarterback Max Browne, running backs Ty Isaac and Justin Davis and safety Su'a Cravens among the players scheduled to make the trip. Most of the players visiting are already committed to USC. ... The Trojans' seniors did not practice on Wednesday, with the likes of Curtis McNeal, Khaled Holmes and Kyle Negrete instead coaching their position groups for the day, with several position coaches out on the road recruiting.