USC Trojans: Greg Townsend Jr.

Roundtable: Biggest noise in spring?

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
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WeAreSC staffers give opinions on topics related to Trojans football:

Give your offensive and defensive "spring revelations," guys who will make the biggest noise in spring.

Garry Paskwietz: These are good times for the USC tailback spot. Buck Allen was the 2013 team MVP, and Tre Madden and Justin Davis were the darlings of the early part of the season. By the end of the year, however, you couldn’t help but notice the progress that Ty Isaac had made as well. Isaac combines a chiseled, big frame with a natural running style, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him really make a statement this spring.

My defensive revelation is more of a position group than an individual player. The need to replace George Uko along the interior of the line is critical, and the Trojans have some pretty good options. Delvon Simmons is eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Texas Tech. You can’t substitute experience, and Simmons has a year as a starter in the Big 12 under his belt. Kenny Bigelow redshirted last year and is ready to start showing why he was such a highly rated recruit coming out of high school. Claude Pelon offers another big, veteran body as a junior college transfer and then there is always the possibility of Greg Townsend, if he can stay healthy.

[+] Enlarge Delvon Simmons
John Albright/Icon SMIDelvon Simmons brings a year of experience from Texas Tech to USC.
Johnny Curren: With Marqise Lee off to the NFL, I really think that wide receiver Darreus Rogers has the potential to explode this spring. Possessing a unique combination of size, soft hands and big-play ability, he gained valuable experience in 2013 as the Trojans’ No. 3 receiver, hauling in 22 passes. I expect him to slide into the starting spot opposite Nelson Agholor and to take on a key role, particularly with USC going to more of an uptempo offense. From what he showed last season in somewhat limited action, he’s more than ready for the increase in responsibility.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Khaliel Rodgers potentially make a splash at center. I was extremely impressed with what I saw from him in practice last season, as well as in high school, and I think, given the opportunity this spring, he’ll succeed.

On the other side of the ball, I think Simmons is the big name to watch. At a hulking 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he’s another performer who impressed out on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on a daily basis last fall. With the added benefit of having started 13 games as a sophomore in 2012 at Texas Tech, he has the ability to step in right away and contribute with no adjustment period. He’ll challenge for the starting defensive end spot opposite Leonard Williams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he lines up there when the Trojans open up the 2014 season. Linebackers Quinton Powell and Scott Starr are two more outstanding athletes who could make some noise this spring.

Greg Katz: Given that it’s a position of not only great need but of great interest, a spring revelation from this prospective will be redshirt freshman Rodgers, who has the size (6-3, 310) to be a dominant center. Playing in postseason all-star game competition coming out of high school, Rodgers really established himself as a prospect. Extremely physical and nasty at the point of attack, Rodgers can play two positions: center and guard. Because of the need at center, Rodgers will get every opportunity to show his stuff there, and it will be a revelation just how much potential this kid has to be outstanding. That said, there is still the leadership role of center and that will be one factor to monitor in his bid to be the starter.

The early loss of Uko leaves a real void and opportunity for somebody to step in and take that defensive tackle spot. There are enough candidates, but the one that will be a revelation will be Simmons, the former U.S. Army All-American. That "6-6, 300" is not some number put into a media guide. He has the necessary game experience and also had quality results playing as a true freshman with the Red Raiders. Keep an eye on this up-and-comer.

Injuries a concern going into rough stretch 

September, 24, 2013
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As the Trojans prepare for an important three-game stretch of games against Arizona State, Arizona and Notre Dame, it’s time to take a look at the injury status for some key positions.

The most glaring injury absence right now is tailback Silas Redd, the projected starter and leading returning rusher from last year who has yet to see action in 2013 while recuperating from a spring knee injury. Redd even underwent a procedure earlier this month in Florida with noted Dr. James Andrews in an attempt to get back on the field sooner. It hasn’t helped, although Redd did at least dress for the Utah State game.

In the four games without Redd, however, the Trojans appear to have found a lead tailback in Tre Madden, along with a promising freshman in Justin Davis. It remains to be seen where Redd would fit in the rotation if he does return soon. His hard running presence would be welcome but it’s hard to imagine him completely replacing Madden at the moment.
LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were out on Dedeaux Field on Monday morning, where they'll practice for the next three days while Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field mends from the first week of fall camp. Taking part in the first of two practices on the day, the team came out in shorts and helmets, so there wasn't any live hitting, but that didn't mean USC was able to avoid the injury bug.

USC TrojansAlready without the services of Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor, Silas Redd, D.J. Morgan, Justin Davis, Ty Isaac, Jordan Simmons and Leonard Williams -- who all sat out the workout -- the Trojans saw three key members of the defense head to the sideline early with undisclosed injuries. Strong safety Josh Shaw, outside linebacker Morgan Breslin and defensive end J.R. Tavai joined the growing list of banged-up players.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin did not meet with the media following the two-hour workout, so nothing further was revealed, but all three players stayed and watched the remainder of practice after going out.

The team did get in some spirited 11-on-11 work Monday, with Gerald Bowman filling in for Shaw with the first-team defense at strong safety, Jabari Ruffin taking the place of Breslin at Predator linebacker, and Greg Townsend Jr. lining up at defensive end for Tavai, who had been plugged in for Williams yesterday.

Chad Wheeler also continued to run with the first-team offense at left tackle throughout the practice, while Aundrey Walker saw time exclusively at right guard -- primarily with the second group.

Cody Kessler got things started by hitting Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who made a fantastic shoestring catch for a big gain along the sideline. Javorius "Buck" Allen had a run up the middle for a nice gain before being stopped by Bowman. Devon Kennard ended the period with a sack on Kessler.

The team then came together for another 11-on-11 session in more of a scrimmage setting, featuring the first and second units on offense and defense, with Kessler and Max Wittek taking turns with both groups. Wittek did a nice job of leading the first-team offense downfield on the first drive against the second-team defense before being picked off in the end zone by Devian Shelton. Townsend made his presence felt with a nice stop on John Akiba on a rush for no gain. A couple of series later, Kessler hit Jahleel Pinner on a beautiful wheel route as the big fullback made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone. Wittek's next series included two consecutive plays on which he was sacked by a very hyped up defense -- once by Lamar Dawson and then by Ruffin. He eventually got his revenge, though, airing out a deep 50-yard bomb into the end zone that Robby Kolanz pulled down after getting behind Kevon Seymour and Demetrius Wright.

The Trojans capped the day with John Baxter leading the team through some extra special teams work, with an emphasis on the field goal and punt units.

WeAreSC roundtable: Progress report 

August, 8, 2013
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As the Trojans prepare for the first scrimmage of fall camp, WeAreSC staffers give their thoughts on several items from the opening week of camp.

The quarterback battle

Garry Paskwietz: Yes, this is a close competition but if you were to poll the majority of people who have attended practice, the vote would go to Cody Kessler. It doesn’t mean Lane Kiffin is thinking that way, it just means Kessler looks a little more polished and in command to those watching from the sidelines. One thing about [Max] Wittek, however, is that he is really zipping the ball, there is no doubt about his arm strength. It will be interesting to see if the Thursday scrimmage gives one of them a leg up in this battle.


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LOS ANGELES -- With the Trojans back to the grind and hard at work at Cromwell Field, here’s a look at some of the early storylines that have taken shape during the team’s volunteer passing sessions.

Tons of talent at WR, not a lot of depth

The USC receiver corps was dealt a significant blow in the second throwing session of the summer when promising freshman Steven Mitchell went down with a torn ACL that will cause him to miss the entire 2013 season. Already without the services of George Farmer -- who suffered the same injury this spring -- the Trojans now have just five active scholarship wide receivers on the current roster.

[+] EnlargeDarreus Rogers
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsInjuries have given freshman Darreus Rogers a chance to make a move at WR.
The good news is that those five players have looked stellar this offseason and, barring any more injuries, USC should be fine here. In particular, 2012 Biletnifkoff Award winner Marqise Lee, and sophomore Nelson Agholor have made a routine of putting on a virtual exhibition during the 7-on-7 drills, and it’s hard to imagine a better wideout tandem in the country. Just as importantly, with the role of the team’s No. 3 receiver still up for grabs, veteran pass-catchers Victor Blackwell and De'Von Flournoy, as well as freshman , have come out each day more focused than ever, paying off with big time results.

Wittek returns to action, QB competition back on in full effect

The most notable player missing from the Trojans' early passing sessions was quarterback Max Wittek, who battled an apparent case of mononucleosis. The only member of the quarterback competition with starting experience returned to action this past Friday and looked sharp after shaking off some early rust.

The other two members of the quarterback competition -- fellow redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler and early entrant freshman Max Browne -- have performed solidly this offseason. Kessler, in particular, has picked up right where he left off in the spring, looking poised and in command while also throwing with fantastic accuracy. Meanwhile, Browne has continued to make tremendous strides, neither looking nor playing like a green first-year youngster.

With Wittek having returned to compete alongside Kessler and Browne, the race for the role of USC's starting quarterback is underway once again. And with all three players back out there pushing each other, there’s reason for optimism, regardless of who the eventual starter is.

Key contributors back from injury

While the loss of Mitchell marked the obvious low point of the workouts so far, the return of a number of players who missed all, or a portion, of the spring due to injury has been one of the great positives. Fullback Soma Vainuku, offensive lineman Chad Wheeler, tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, defensive lineman Greg Townsend Jr., cornerbacks Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour, as well as safeties Dion Bailey, Gerald Bowman and Su'a Cravens are just some of the players who have been spotted back in action. It’s provided a big shot in the arm for a team somewhat short in terms of numbers.

The most talked about return has been that of Bailey, who was out for the entire spring due to postseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Moving over to free safety after spending the last two seasons as the team’s starting strongside linebacker, he’s looked comfortable, and the competition between he, Demetrius Wright and Leon McQuay III for the starting job is sure to be one of most closely watched position battles of the summer and fall.

Shaw still at safety

With Lane Kiffin underwhelmed by the production of the cornerback unit this past spring, the Trojans head coach noted on more than one occasion that the coaching staff was considering moving redshirt junior Josh Shaw back over from his strong safety spot to corner -- not a huge surprise considering he made seven starts at the position in 2012.

So far, however, there’s been no sign of the former Palmdale (Calif.) standout making that change. Lining up at strong safety during every passing session, he’s currently locked in a position battle with Cravens and Bowman. And while things could always change later in the summer or even during fall camp, it looks as if Shaw has settled in at safety at this time and that Kiffin will ride with what he currently has at cornerback -- collection that includes Anthony Brown, Ryan Dillard, Harris, Chris Hawkins, Ryan Henderson, Seymour and Devian Shelton.

Sightings of the newest freshmen

All six of the Trojans newest freshmen additions are now on campus, and they’ve slowly begun to make their presence felt in the workouts. It was Mitchell who made the biggest impact early on with his unique playmaking skills, giving an all-too-brief glimpse of the kind of talent that the USC offense will have at its disposal down the line. Inside linebacker Michael Hutchings has impressed as well. Figuring to play a key role as the potential backup at the MIKE linebacker spot to Hayes Pullard, he certainly looks the part of an imposing run-stopper with a nice combination of athleticism and instincts to boot. Outside linebacker Quinton Powell has already shown off some nice pass-rush skills during the 11-on-11 periods. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, running back Ty Isaac is as big as advertised while also showcasing a surprising burst for a player his size. Rounding out the group, offensive tackle Nico Falah and guard Khaliel Rodgers have also been quick to jump into the action, gaining valuable tutelage from veterans such as Kevin Graf and John Martinez.
The surprise position group of the 2012 USC season, and a collection of talent that shined once again this past spring, was the defensive line. Here's a look at some of the top storylines of the offseason for Ed Orgeron's group:

Encore performance

Compiling 38 sacks combined this past fall, the stellar play of the defensive line was one of the highlights in an otherwise up-and-down season for the Trojans. Losing just one key contributor from that group in defensive end Wes Horton, expectations were sky high for the unit heading into spring ball, yet questions remained. After all, with the switch from the team's previous 4-3 alignment to a 5-2 look under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, many wondered if the Trojans had the personnel and talent to pull it off.

But after 15 practices in March and April, it's safe to say those questions have been erased. Playing fast, aggressive and quick to the ball, the defensive line established itself as the heart and soul of the defense and there's reason to believe they're on the verge of an even more impressive 2013 campaign.

Battle at nose

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIAs a redshirt freshman last spring, Antwaun Woods battled for a starting D-line spot. A year later, he has asserted himself as the man to beat at nose guard.
There arguably isn't a more crucial piece of the puzzle in Pendergast's 5-2 defense than the position responsible for controlling the A-gaps, the nose tackle. Stepping up to the challenge to handle those responsibilities with the first team throughout the spring was redshirt sophomore Antwaun Woods. Appearing to be in the best shape of his career, he was noticeably quicker and more mobile, and he certainly showed he can be a valuable contributor this fall.

Still, the competition isn't over just yet. In fact, Woods currently shares the top spot on the post-spring depth chart with Cody Temple, who made a big statement with his play despite missing the majority of the spring to injury. Also showing promise was early entry freshman Kenny Bigelow. Possessing an imposing 6-foot-3, 295-pound build and unique physical skills, he was dominant at times but also inconsistent. A summer in the weight room and out on the field working on his conditioning could pay big dividends, and he just might factor heavily into the discussion here.

Ready to shine on the edge

Making a flawless adjustment from playing with a hand down in the old 4-3 set as defensive ends to standing up as outside linebackers in the new 5-2 look, both Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin were standouts in the spring.

Kennard's performance, in particular, was more than welcomed for Orgeron and Co. Showing no ill effects of the torn pectoral muscle that forced him to miss last season, he was a major thorn in the side of the offensive line from his SAM linebacker spot. Breslin, who amassed a team-leading 13 sacks in 2012, looked solid at Predator linebacker, most notably in the spring game, when he came up with 3.5 sacks. With the Trojans now possessing two potential threats off the edge, it should be interesting to see what kind of impact they make on the passing attacks of the opposition this fall.

A star in the making

Nobody made a more eye-popping first-year impression for the Trojans last season than Leonard Williams. Starting nine games at the three-technique defensive tackle spot, he amassed 64 tackles and eight sacks on his way to 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. The best part, however, is that Williams is still getting better -- a fact made evident this spring.

Standing 6-foot-5 with his weight up to 290 pounds, Williams was an incredibly disruptive force throughout the slate of practices, giving the defense what Kiffin has often referred to as an SEC-style lineman on the interior. Having shown so much promise already, there's certainly reason to believe he'll continue to develop this offseason, which would mean more postseason accolades in 2013.

Enough in reserve?

The performance of the Trojans' starting defensive line was one of the leading stories of the spring to be sure, but an element of uncertainty still exists when it comes to whether or not Orgeron's group has the kind of depth necessary to spearhead the defense through the 2013 season, particularly after adding just two new faces to the unit in the most recent recruiting class in Bigelow and outside linebacker Quinton Powell.

The return from injury of J.R. Tavai midway through the spring workouts, as well as the emergence of somewhat of a surprise in Charles Burks, did provide reason for optimism at end behind Williams and George Uko, however. The addition of Greg Townsend Jr. -- who missed the entire spring while recuperating from 2012 knee surgery -- also will give the team a boost here in the fall. Temple and Bigelow, too, should team up well with Woods to provide stability at the nose position.

On the outside, Jabari Ruffin asserted himself as a potential name to watch down the line, and Kevin Greene and Marquis Simmons also had their moments.

Still, there's little doubt Orgeron would prefer more bodies here, and the Trojans are sure to load up on defensive linemen in the next recruiting class. For now, though, USC will move forward with what is a somewhat thin but talent-laden group.
LOS ANGELES -- With the first two weeks of spring ball at USC highlighted by a brand-new defense and a heightened atmosphere of competition that has brought out the best in players at just about every position, it’s been an eventful March for Lane Kiffin’s squad.

But after a one-week hiatus from action, and with just nine practice days remaining, there are still plenty of questions that have yet to be answered, not to mention a whole host of new storylines that have popped up.

With that in mind, here’s a look at five things to watch for during the remainder of the spring as USC gets set to hit the field once again on Tuesday.


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Spring preview: USC defense 

March, 4, 2013
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With Clancy Pendergast set to unveil an attacking defense that will run primarily out of a new 5-2 base look, more than a few eyes are sure to be focused squarely on this side of the ball this spring. With that in mind, here’s a possible look at how the players on the current Trojans roster just might fit, as practice gets under way on Tuesday.

Defensive line

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Leonard WilliamsCal Sport Media via AP ImagesIt will be interesting to see how much Leonard Williams, the Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year, sees his role change in USC's move to a 3-4 defense.
With USC’s recruiting class of 2013 now signed, sealed and delivered, here’s a look at where the newest Trojans might potentially fit into the depth-chart in a possible 3-4 look under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Defensive Line
DE: Leonard Williams (6-foot-5, 270 pounds, So.); Greg Townsend Jr. (6-3, 260, RS So.) OR Kenny Bigelow (6-3, 295, Fr.)

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Crisp day for USC offense

September, 19, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans practiced under beautiful conditions out on Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones field once again on Wednesday, and there was a definite upbeat tone on the day for what turned out to be a sharp practice, particularly on the offensive side of the ball -- a positive sign considering how the Trojans struggled in that department against Stanford.

“It was a really good practice today,” Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said. “I thought the offense came out and was really crisp in both the running game and the passing game, and it was good to see. It’s obviously going to be needed to get back on track, and we fully expect that to happen on Saturday.”

That offensive crispness was immediately evident early on when the quarterbacks were working with the tight ends and wide outs. USC quarterback Matt Barkley was in-synch with his receiving options all day, and it wasn’t just the usual Marqise Lee and Robert Woods show either -- tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer made their share of receptions too.

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Jeremy Hogue's mailbag 

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
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Silas ReddRich Kane/Icon SMIUSC stuck with its running game against Syracuse, giving Silas Redd his first 100-yard game as a Trojan. It'll need to continue that this weekend against Stanford.
Each week, WeAreSC columnist Jeremy Hogue will answer strategy and USC team questions in this mailbag:

1) Khaled Holmes left the Syracuse game with an injury. If he cannot play against Stanford, how does that impact the USC offensive line?

The line play so far this season has been surprisingly inconsistent. With four returning starters, I expected it to be a strength out of the gate, and while I still expect it to develop into that, so far it’s been hit or miss. Against Syracuse, unsuccessful plays were plagued by penetration through the middle of the line, and even some missed assignments. Taking Holmes out of the mix only makes that worse. And while Syracuse was stout up front, the defensive fronts ahead -- particularly Stanford and Utah -- will be tougher. It will be hard for viewers to know what kind of impact Holmes’ injury has, but if you see the pocket collapse on pass protection, if you see penetration on run plays, and if you see defenders unblocked anywhere along the line -- those are the things that may happen more frequently with Holmes out of the game.

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USC defense controls the trenches 

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
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LOS ANGELES - With the offensive fireworks provided by Matt Barkley and company stealing the headlines, it was the Trojans' domination on the defensive line of scrimmage that was somewhat lost in USC's 49-10 victory over Hawaii.

[+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
Kirby Lee/US PresswireUSC DL coach Ed Orgeron isn't working with a lot of experience, but the talent is there.
Led by a defensive line unit thought to be a question mark heading into the contest, USC held the Warriors’ offense to just 83 yards -- including minus-4 yards rushing -- in the first half.

"I think the real story of the game is the defensive line," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said following the win. "We got to see a lot of kids that haven't played a lot."

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Halftime Analysis: USC 35, Hawaii 0

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
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Stat of Half: Total offense for the Trojans

The Trojans came out on the first play and hit a 75-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee. Things haven’t gone quite as smooth through the rest of the half but they have still dominated the offensive production with 354 yards compared to 83 for the Warriors.

Player of the Half: Matt Barkley

It’s been a Heisman-worthy start for Barkley who completed nine of his first 13 passes for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He slowed down a bit and is now 16 of 28 for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

What’s working: USC controlling defensive line of scrimmage

One of the biggest concerns for the Trojans coming into the game was the youth and inexperience on the defensive line, a situation that wasn’t helped by the fact that senior defensive end Wes Horton was held out of the game due to injury.

The Trojans have held the Warriors to minus-4 yards rushing while junior college transfer Morgan Breslin, playing his first game at USC in place of Horton, has two tackles, one tackle for loss, and two pass breakups. George Uko had a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, Greg Townsend Jr. added a sack and Leonard Williams had a fumble recovery.
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 1-ranked USC Trojans returned to practice on Monday afternoon after Sunday’s scrimmage, which saw a disciplined defense but a lackluster offense. Here are today’s practice highlights:

• The Trojans worked out in helmets, pads, and black shorts.

• Preferred walk-on Nathan Guertler continued to start at right tackle for Kevin Graf, who was suited up but did not participate due to an undisclosed injury.

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No. 1 Trojans hit practice field

August, 18, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- Unconcerned about having been named the AP preseason No. 1 team in the country, the USC Trojans were business as usual Saturday morning, participating in a low-key practice that lasted a little over two hours. Here are the practice highlights:

• Originally scheduled for an 8:45 morning practice, the Trojans pushed the start time back to 9:00. The reason for the early morning practice reschedule from the traditional afternoon workout was due to a youth baseball tournament on Dedeaux Field.

• With defensive ends Wes Horton and Greg Townsend Jr. in attendance but not participating, the Trojans first-team defensive line consisted of ends J.R. Tavai and Kevin Greene along with tackles George Uko and Antwaun Woods. FYI, Townsend was no longer wearing a “boot” on his right foot.There has been no explanation given for Horton being held out.

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