USC Trojans: Isiah Wiley

How big is the loss of Wiley now?

September, 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin did a good job of passing off Isiah Wiley's academic ineligibility as an expected casualty at the time it was announced last month.

"The blow is not as big, I think, because of the way we went about it," Kiffin said at the time. "We had kind of moved forward, as you can tell, by not having him here in camp."

Unfortunately, it has been difficult to prove those words true in the early going. The second corner spot Wiley occupied in the second half of last season for the USC Trojans has been the team's weakest link this season, with both Hawaii and Syracuse consistently attacking whatever side of the field Nickell Robey is not on.

So far, it's the only position on the field where the Trojans don't have at least a league-average performer. Sophomore Anthony Brown started Week 1 and junior Torin Harris was the primary No. 2 guy in Week 2, but neither player was really effective. Harris was beaten badly on two touchdown plays against the Orange. Freshman Kevon Seymour has had good and bad moments in his first two collegiate games -- more bad than good against Syracuse.

What is the long-term plan, then?

Harris will get another chance this week against Stanford, with Brown, Seymour and senior Brian Baucham rotating in behind him. Kiffin insisted this week that Josh Shaw, the sophomore safety who transferred from Florida last winter, does not figure into his plans for the position, even though USC has plenty of depth at safety and Shaw is only a third-stringer there currently.

Kiffin didn't say it in as many words Saturday, but he attributed Harris' poor play in the Syracuse game largely to rust, since he hadn't played a college game in almost a full year. And there's some validity to that. But Harris has simply not been a consistent solid starter since arriving at USC in the summer of 2009.

Against Stanford on Saturday, the Trojans should be all right at corner, because the Cardinal run a lot of two-tight end sets and USC will be able to keep its linebackers on the field more than in the last two games.

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Opportunity for Brown 

August, 25, 2012
“Hello, Anthony Brown, are you there? It’s opportunity knocking.”

With the news on Friday that USC cornerback Isiah Wiley will be academically ineligible for the 2012 season, it officially opens up the starting spot that Wiley held for the last six games of the 2011 season.

Wiley had been held out of fall camp practices as he attempted to get his grades in order through summer school, so it’s not like this is a complete surprise to the Trojans. There have been several other players rotated in at the corner position opposite Nickell Robey in an attempt to find a qualified starter in case Wiley didn’t return.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin announced after practice that linebacker Marquis Simmons and cornerback Brian Baucham were ruled academically eligible for the 2012 season, but cornerback Isiah Wiley did not qualify.

Kiffin said Wiley, a junior college transfer who started the last six games of the 2011 season, will look to play this year and USC will help him do that, which likely means he will transfer.

[+] EnlargeIsiah Wiley
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIIsiah Wiley was ruled academically ineligible and is likely to transfer.
"It's good to get Simmons and Baucham back, those are two veteran guys at positions of need. They can also help with special teams," Kiffin said. "Wiley is a loss but we move forward. We worked all spring without him and his loss will be felt less because we did things that way. Outside of that one guy, we did well academically."

Friday was a light practice, helmets and no pads, as the Trojans begin the process of winding down fall camp. The team will simulate a home-game atmosphere by staying in the team hotel Friday night, holding a situational scrimmage Saturday morning and then attending the annual Salute to Troy event Saturday afternoon.

The scrimmage will not be a physical one, Kiffin said. It primarily will involve substitutions, communication between coaches and players, timing of getting in and out of the huddle, etc. Kiffin said the scrimmage will have no bearing on position battles such as the backup quarterback spot.

Junior Pomee was out there today working with the tight end group and he looked good in pass patterns. Christian Thomas did not have a helmet on but he was out there for early agility drills and even shadowed the other players for a few reps. That was as much as we've seen from Thomas in a while, so that could be an encouraging sign that he's getting closer to a return to the field. Randall Telfer did not take part in practice.

Wes Horton and Lamar Dawson also were held out.

When the team got together for 11-on-11 work today, here were the starting lineups:

Offense: Barkley, McNeal, Vainuku, Woods, Lee, Grimble, Walker, Martin, Holmes, Martinez, Graf

Defense: Breslin, Uko, Woods, Greene, Sarao, Pullard, Bailey, Robey, Brown, McDonald, Starling

Barkley led the first unit on a touchdown drive at the end of practice. Kiffin put 1:31 on the clock with the offense on their own 20-yard line. The offense got a couple first downs before facing a third down at their own 45, kicker Andre Heidari yelled from the sideline: "I'm in range if you need me, Kiff." Barkley then hit Marqise Lee for a first down, then another pass for 22 yards to Lee, and eventually a Barkley sneak for the score.

Robert Woods had a terrific play earlier in the practice when he took a short bubble screen from Barkley, made Brown miss, and then turned on the speed down the sideline. Kiffin commented after practice that Woods "is in very good shape."

Silas Redd had a 25-yard run off the left side behind a block from Marcus Martin. Morgan Breslin made a good play to get in the backfield quickly and hold D.J. Morgan to no gain. De'Von Flournoy had a nice fingertip catch of a ball across the middle from Max Wittek and he outran Anthony Brown after the catch for a touchdown.

The team worked on full punt and kickoff return drills. There was also some scout-team work to prepare for Hawaii.
LOS ANGELES -- It was another good day for the offense today as the Trojans worked out in full pads on Dedeaux Field.

"It was very similar to yesterday," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. "We were good in all three phases, but especially on offense. The dynamic skill guys showed up again and, as you can see, the timing between [Matt] Barkley and [Robert] Woods is on its way back. Robert looks fast, the best he's been in a while."

Barkley had a touchdown to Woods in a 7-on-7 drill and the two completed a lot of passes in team situation drills. Barkley also had touchdowns to Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble, as well as a nice completion over the middle to Marqise Lee. Nickell Robey had an early interception off Barkley when the ball was thrown into double coverage.

The highlight pass of the day came on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Max Wittek to Lee, who also caught a touchdown from Cody Kessler in 7-on-7.

Silas Redd had an impressive run when he showed patience to wait for his blocker Cyrus Hobbi and he ended up with a 20-yard gain.

Kevin Graf and D.J. Morgan both returned to action today.

Kiffin quotebook
"Xavier Grimble has had two days in a row with some dropped balls. It happens, it's like a basketball shooter who eventually shoots his way out of it. It's surprising with X because he's such a natural pass-catcher."

"No final answer right now on academic issues for Isiah Wiley or Marquis Simmons. We also haven't heard anything yet today on Darreus Rogers."

"We would like to name a No. 2 QB by the start of the season but we're not in season yet. It's not the end of the world if we don't name one, we could use either guy for different situations."

"We've already seen an impact from the McKay Center on recruiting. For the past six months there have been current recruits who have walked through the building. The players love the players lounge, it gives them a place to hang out if they have an hour between classes. Before they would be sprawled out on the floor in the lobby of Heritage Hall. The building is just a huge advantage -- we used to be behind in facilities but now we've caught up and passed everybody."

"Buck Allen has come a long way, he's still very young football-wise because he missed time in his senior year with an injury."

"There will be walk-ons who give up their scholarships but we're not giving those names now, they could come back later. We will be under the 75-roster limit with the roster we turn in before the start of the season."

"The McKay Center dedication will take place Tuesday night on campus."
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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USC spirit alive at Coliseum 

April, 14, 2012
The USC spirit is alive and well and ready for a big 2012 season, at least it was for one day at the Coliseum for the spring game.

There was a genuine sense of excitement Saturday, as a large crowd of more than 15,000 gathered in the Grey Lady to get a glimpse of the Cardinal and Gold in action. It was the first public look at the team this spring -- as all USC practices are closed these days -- and the fans soaked up every second of the game-day atmosphere.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Munoz
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireAnthony Munoz was among a distinguished group of Trojans alumni on hand for Saturday's spring game.
There were early morning tailgates, the Trojan Marching Band, the Song Girls and a sideline full of USC legends from Ronnie Lott to Marcus Allen and Anthony Munoz. Most of all, however, the fans were there to see Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and the rest of their Trojans in action.

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Quarterback Matt Barkley, running back D.J. Morgan and receivers De'Von Flournoy and Marqise Lee were the offensive stars in Saturday's USC spring game, while Hayes Pullard, Anthony Brown, Dion Bailey and Isiah Wiley paced the defense.

D.J. Morgan: 6 rushes, 53 yards, 1 TD

Matt Barkley: 23 of 39, 212 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Cody Kessler: 3 of 6, 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Max Wittek: 3 of 7, 27 yards

De'Von Flournoy: 7 rec., 69 yards
Marqise Lee: 7 rec., 57 yards, 1 TD
Xavier Grimble: 4 rec., 73 yards
Soma Vainuku: 4 rec., 66 yards, 1 TD

Hayes Pullard: 6 tackles
Anthony Brown: 6 tackles
Dion Bailey: 5 tackles
Isiah Wiley: 4 tackles, 5 pass breakups
Devon Kennard: 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack
Drew McAllister: 1 INT
Brian Baucham :1 INT

Scoring plays
Morgan: 47-yard run (Heidari kick)
Andre Heidari: 28-yard field goal
Heidari: 47-yard FG
Lee: 1-yard pass from Barkley (Heidari kick)
Vainuku: 44-pass from Kessler (Heidari kick)

Tuesday practice report 

April, 10, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Nose tackle Antwaun Woods has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the spring for USC coaches. The redshirt freshman was an afterthought last year, as poor conditioning rendered him incapable of making an impact during his first fall. That he would be able to turn himself around in one offseason to the point where he is challenging for a starting spot as spring ball comes to a close has been a shock to most onlookers.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron raises his eyebrows when Woods is mentioned, as if words can’t convey what a difference there is in the Woods of eight months ago compared to the one that lines up for him now.

“He’s come along,” Orgeron said. “Last fall there was no way he was ready to play. He was falling over and couldn’t finish a sprint. Now you look at him -- he’s a part of the program and he has a long ways to go -- but I’m really happy about him.”

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Thursday practice report 

April, 5, 2012
Largely because of injuries to all four scholarship tight ends, USC's first Saturday spring ball scrimmage was called off and its second was fairly uninspiring from an offensive perspective. On Thursday the Trojans welcomed tight end Xavier Grimble back to the field. He was returning from a turf toe injury suffered during the first week of spring ball.

Grimble said he was not medically cleared to return to the field but was allowed to test his injury on the field to see how far he could push it.

"It still hurts, but I got tired of being away from my team," he said. "They go out and work hard every day. I'm hurting, but I made up my mind that once I could go out there, where I could at least run around and be with my guys, that's what I was going to do."

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Tuesday practice report 

April, 3, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- In watching Tony Burnett over the past several years, one thing has become clear. The guy knows how to jump around.

Burnett originally attended USC on a track scholarship, where he took part in the long jump and triple jump, winning the Trojan Tri-Meet and Trojan Invitational in the latter last season. Eventually, Burnett found his way over to the football team and began his career as a safety before moving to cornerback last season. Tuesday saw Burnett make yet another leap up one level, as he ran with the first unit at strongside linebacker.

“I’m a pretty quick learner and I’m having to learn things fast,” Burnett said. “They threw me into the fire. It was pretty good for my first day ever playing the position.”

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Saturday scrimmage recap 

March, 31, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans held an open scrimmage today at the Coliseum in front of a gathering of USC fans anxious for their first look at the team this spring. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually a true indication of what the team can or will look like in the fall.

Matt Barkley took part in the early position drills but did not participate in the scrimmage. The two starting wide receivers were not there -- Robert Woods is out for spring with an ankle injury while Marqise Lee is with the track team today -- and there were no scholarship tight ends or fullbacks available either.

That meant a fairly skeleton crew for the offense, which resulted in a pretty good day for the defense. It also meant a lot of work for backup quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, both of whom will take any work they can get at this point in a practice setting.

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Thursday practice report 

March, 29, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The football program generated some buzz Wednesday with the news that this weekend’s scrimmage in the Coliseum will be open to the public. But USC fans planning to attend may be forced to temper their expectations a bit, as Lane Kiffin backed away slightly from the promise of a scrimmage. With so many skill position players missing time due to nagging injuries, Saturday might be the second time this spring that a scheduled scrimmage is dialed down to a regular practice.

After Thursday’s practice, Kiffin simply said he didn’t know if the scrimmage would proceed as planned.

“There are so many guys in question,” he said. “We may just practice like we did last Saturday…The problem right now is the offensive skill doesn’t allow us to practice the way we would like, but we’re going to make the best of it.”

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Position battle update 

March, 28, 2012
J.R. TavaiRic Tapia/Icon SMISophomore J.R. Tavai has been solid this spring and seems to have locked down the starting nose tackle position.

LOS ANGELES -- As the Trojans reach the midway point of spring practice drills we take a look at the progress of some of the most competitive position battles:

1) No. 2 quarterback -- There really isn’t anything separating Max Wittek and Cody Kessler right now. Both look fairly comfortable working with the offense and they’ve been getting plenty of quality reps as Lane Kiffin limits the work for Matt Barkley. Jesse Scroggins has not taken part in practices yet so he’s fallen behind the other two, but he is expected back soon. Kiffin has said there is no timetable to name a No. 2 guy.

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Baucham bounces back 

March, 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- As a senior at West Torrance High School, Brian Baucham won the 2008 California state meet in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. During his USC career, avoiding obstacles has proved slightly more difficult.

After redshirting his first year at USC, Baucham appeared in five games as a redshirt freshman before abrasions he suffered in a motorcycle accident forced him out of action for three games. He then missed three additional games due to a sprained ankle and toe. He pitched in as a redshirt sophomore to the tune of 20 tackles and two pass deflections, and was set to compete for the starting cornerback position opposite Nickell Robey as redshirt junior in 2011. But academic ineligibility forced him to miss the season and plummet down the position's pecking order.

"It was a struggle in my mindset," Baucham said of the ups and downs of injury and adjusting to a new coaching regime. "I'm an independent kind of guy, but it was learning that we're all a family out here. After I got that mentality in my head -- that they're here to help me and not push me back -- it's excelling now, like an airplane taking off."

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Thursday practice report 

March, 22, 2012
While much of the talk after the past two practices has focused on Tre Madden's move to tailback, just as much could be said about one of the guys primarily responsible for shutting him down. After being demoted to the second team for Tuesday's practice after a subpar effort last weekend, George Uko has responded in a big way, drawing praise from head coach Lane Kiffin for his outstanding play.

"He has really responded," Kiffin said of Uko and the wrist slap he received. "He had a dominant practice on Tuesday and he is doing a great job."

The Trojans graduated both interior defensive linemen from last year's team and it's no secret that much of the responsibility inside will fall on Uko's shoulders as the starting defensive tackle. That's something that is just fine with the 6-foot-3, 285-pound redshirt sophomore.

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