USC Trojans: Javorious Allen

Planning for success: USC

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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A look across the board at the defensive statistics for the California Golden Bears shows that it could be a good day for the Trojans offense on Saturday in Berkeley.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC quarterback Cody Kessler could have a big day against Cal's porous pass defense.
The Bears rank last in the Pac-12 Conference in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense and rank No. 11 in rush defense. Those rankings aren’t exactly a recipe for success against a USC offense that is coming off a balanced and effective performance against Oregon State, one that saw the Trojans gain 242 yards on the ground and 247 through the air.

In fact, it might have been the most complete offensive game of the year for the Trojans, which means the biggest key for the upcoming game is to keep on doing what they are doing.

Cody Kessler is showing steady progress at the quarterback spot. He threw one interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Beavers but outside of that throw he hit of 17 of his other 20 passes, including a 71-yard touchdown toss to Marqise Lee on the first play from scrimmage.

Kessler could have the added benefit of a full complement of receivers. The WR group for the Trojans has been hit hard by injuries lately but all five scholarship receivers practiced this week, which has been a rare sight. The presence of Lee against Oregon State provided a huge spark, even if he didn’t do a whole lot beyond that opening play. Nelson Agholor has shown he can be depended upon for a larger role and true freshman Darreus Rogers is proving to be a weapon as well.

The USC passing game will be going up against a Bears pass defense that ranks dead last in the nation by giving up 340 passing yards per game. Cal only has 15 sacks on the year so Kessler should also have time to throw the ball behind a USC offensive line that is coming off one of its better outings.

If the Trojans should choose to run the ball there is a lot of confidence in that area too. USC is coming off a game when it had a pair of tailbacks gain over 133 yards -- Silas Redd and Buck Allen -- and they did it in impressive style. Don’t be surprised if the Bears see a steady diet of the USC tailback duo early and often in this one.

Coaches often preach that a game isn’t about the opponent as much as it is about themselves and this is truly one of those games for the Trojans. Cal is trying to find their way under a new coach while the Trojans are slowly showing signs that they may have found their way under a coach with an interim tag. USC just needs to focus offensively on doing what they do well and, barring any unforeseen issues, that should be enough to bring home the victory.

3 Up, 3 Down: USC 38, Arizona 31

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
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LOS ANGELES – A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 38-31 victory over Arizona on Thursday.

THREE UP

1. USC tailbacks: It’s safe to say that USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron wasn’t joking when he talked about wanting to get more players involved in the offensive attack. All five available scholarship tailbacks contributed on Thursday, helping the Trojans offense amass 249 rushing yards. Tre Madden – who went out in the first half with a hamstring injury – set the tone early, and Silas Redd, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac each kept it going. Redd, who closed the game out with some crucial runs during a game-clinching fourth-quarter drive, rushed for a team-best 80 yards.

2. USC passing offense: Offensive coordinator Clay Helton impressed in his first game as the Trojans’ play-caller, spreading the ball all over the field while placing an emphasis on establishing the vertical passing game. Cody Kessler completed passes to six receivers and threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns. The Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial graduate completed long, first-quarter touchdown passes to Madden and Nelson Agholor, the latter of whom finished with seven grabs for 161 yards and one touchdown. To top things off, USC didn’t turn the ball over.

3. J.R. Tavai: Tavai, who had just two tackles to his credit on the season heading into the game, had a breakout performance. Filling in for Morgan Breslin at outside linebacker, he racked up 10 tackles (seven solo), including 3.5 tackles for loss. He was particularly active early on, making eight stops by halftime.

THREE DOWN

1. USC passing defense: For the second consecutive game, the Trojans defense struggled tremendously in pass coverage. Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker entered the matchup by completing just 50 percent of his throws for an average of 111.2 yards per game, yet he managed to look like an All-American against USC, completing 28 of 44 passes for a career-high 363 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Second-half letdown: The Trojans led 28-10 at halftime and appeared well on their way to a blowout victory, but unable to match the stamina nor the emotionally hyped level of play that they put on display early, they let the Wildcats hang around until the very end. Arizona outscored the Trojans 21-10 in the second half, and the USC defense, in particular, appeared to be physically drained in the fourth quarter, allowing Arizona to drive down the field with ease for touchdowns on the team’s final two possessions.

3. Attendance: The Trojans’ first-ever non-Thanksgiving/non-bowl Thursday night game in the Coliseum drew just 64,215, a number that began to shrink dramatically near the end of the third quarter -- just when Arizona started to make the game interesting. On a positive note, those who were in attendance were noticeably enthusiastic and vocal, feeding off the energy of Orgeron and the USC players.


Change is in the air at USC as Ed Orgeron wraps up its first week as the interim head coach of the Trojans.

In an effort to pump more energy into the team, Orgeron implemented a series of changes designed to shift the fortunes of a team that had been playing inconsistently through the first five games of the season. Last week, Orgeron restored desserts to the training table menu and held a “Trojan Bowl” game during the bye week which showcased younger players and walk-ons while being coached by the team veterans.

On Sunday, the quarterbacks came on the field without the yellow “no-contact” jerseys. Offensive players are wearing Cardinal this week (the colors change depending on if the next game is home or away) and Orgeron wanted to emphasize that everybody on the team will wear the same jersey.

[+] EnlargeMax Wittek and Cody Kessler
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC quarterbacks Max Wittek (13) and Cody Kessler (6) won't be wearing the no-contact jerseys in practice under Ed Orgeron.
“He told us that we were going to wear the same colors as the other guys,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler said. “I think it’s great.”

One non-quarterback who was back on the field on Sunday was tailback Silas Redd, who has gone through very limited action this fall as he continued to rehabilitate his injured knee. Redd got a lot of reps in the Sunday session and looked strong, especially when you consider how long it had been since he had that much work.

“We got Silas a little taste today,” Orgeron said. “We will see how he goes through the week in terms of how much we can use him. He runs the ball the way we expect a back to run.”

Justin Davis was limited in action at tailback with his injured ankle – Orgeron called him probable for the game – and that meant additional work for guys like Ty Isaac and Buck Allen as well. It will be interesting to see how Orgeron chooses to work the tailback rotation in games because while the Trojans certainly have option, the run game has been one of the few consistent areas on the team, with Tre Madden and Davis leading the way.

Also missing from the Sunday session were wide receivers Marqise Lee (knee) and Darreus Rogers (ankle), along with outside linebacker Morgan Breslin (hip) and cornerback Anthony Brown (knee). Orgeron didn’t have any firm information about their availability for the game Thursday against Arizona.

To add to the receiver depth issues, Victor Blackwell left the Sunday practice early because of illness but it isn’t expected to impact his participation in the game. Nelson Agholor had a nice day with several deep catches.

There was a lot of work in this practice with the tight ends, particularly Xavier Grimble. This has been an area of frustration for many USC fans so far this season, with the lack of production by the tight ends, and it could be one of the changes that are seen in the offense moving forward.

On the defensive side of the ball, Josh Shaw got reps at safety – his original position this season – with Kevon Seymour and Torin Harris getting the first unit reps at corner. Quinton Powell was back as a reserve inside linebacker after missing some time recently. Devon Kennard and Scott Starr both had sacks and Lamar Dawson had a nice tackle for loss on Allen.

“The key for us on defense this week is to tackle,” Orgeron said. “We were back on our heels a lot against ASU and I want to see us be more aggressive.”

Orgeron acknowledged that the good feelings that have been present over the past week with the coaching transition is nice – he and his staff were out recruiting over the weekend and he said the reaction was “great” – but he also knows that it doesn’t mean much because it’s not a game. He and his team will ultimately be judged by how they perform in games and that first test comes on Thursday the Coliseum.

“We want our players to feel comfortable and to play good football,” Orgeron said. “I think we’re all going to be excited about our first game together but we need to be careful about overemphasizing emotion. We need to make sure we play with poise.”
He has only been on campus for a little under eight months, but it’s safe to say that Justin Davis has made quite an impression in his time at USC. Arriving in the spring as an early-enrollee freshman, Davis starred throughout the March and April workouts, emerging atop the post-spring depth chart at the tailback position alongside veterans Silas Redd and Tre Madden.

Justin Davis
Johnny Curren/ESPNFreshman running back Justin Davis, who suffered an ankle injury earlier this month, says he's "jacked" for the Trojans' opening game vs. Hawaii.
Fast forward to the beginning of fall camp and Davis picked right up where he left off. Showcasing a north-south rushing style marked by power and a knack for hitting the line of scrimmage before the defense knows it, he appeared to be making a strong bid for that starting tailback job -- particularly with Redd slow to return after suffering a torn meniscus in March, and Madden still being eased into the flow of things after tearing an ACL in the spring of 2012.

But just when Davis appeared to be getting into a groove, he went down on Aug. 8 with an ankle injury.

A little over a week later, however, the 6-foot-1 and 201-pound rusher was back in action, and over the course of the last few days he appears to have returned to form, looking just as sharp and in command with the ball in his hands as ever.

“It definitely has been a great feeling to be back out here,” Davis said following USC’s scrimmage on Wednesday -- one in which he rushed for 21 yards in a non-contact setting. “I’m getting stronger every day and I’m loving it. Having to sit out made me hungrier, because it really hit me that I’m competing for that running back spot. It made me get in my playbook so that when I came back on the field, I was able to pick up where I left off before I got hurt. Once my ankle got better, my legs and everything else followed.”

And Davis isn’t the only one. Madden has seen his workload pick up dramatically as of late, with Redd gradually beginning to take part in portions of each practice as well. Throw in Ty Isaac, who also recently returned from an undisclosed injury, on top of the consistent level of production received from Javorius Allen this month, and despite the likely absence of D.J. Morgan -- who missed the entirety of fall camp -- the Trojans could have a very deep and talented tailback unit available when the team opens up at Hawaii on Aug. 29.

“Step-by-step everyone is coming back,” said Davis, who rushed for 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln last fall. “Tre is back, Silas is coming back in a couple of day ... we have at least four guys who can start, and the offense wouldn’t miss a step. I definitely have a bunch of talented guys around me, and it pushes me to work that much harder to keep getting better.”

But with just a little over a week to go before that first game, Davis is well aware that he still has more to prove as he makes a push for the role as the Trojans’ No.1 tailback.

“I definitely want to come out here and just work hard every day,” Davis said. “I’m going to make sure that I keep my head in the playbook so I’m in a position where I know all of my plays, so if the coaches put me in the game, I’ll know what I’m doing.”

With his mindset focused, in addition to the unique skills as a ball carrier that he possesses, there’s reason to believe when the Trojans up in Honolulu, whether he’s starting or not, Davis will be ready to make an impact.

“That’s going to be my first college game,” Davis said. “I’m definitely jacked for it.”
LOS ANGELES -- Taking part in the first of two practices on the day, the Trojans were back out on Dedeaux Field on Wednesday morning for a low-key workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.

The biggest bit of news to come out of the two-hour session was that star USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, while still sidelined for the vast majority of the practice, did appear to take a step -- albeit a small one -- toward a potential return sometime soon. Wearing a yellow jersey and helmet, but no shoulder pads, he stepped in at wideout briefly during a half-speed 11-on-11 period, then fielded punts during a late, no-contact special teams drill. It’s the most activity seen out of Lee since he went down with a bone bruise in his shoulder last Friday.

Max Wittek
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsMax Wittek and the USC offense worked with a short roster at receiver and running back in the Wednesday morning session.
Still, without Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers on the field, however, the USC offense still had just two scholarship receivers at its disposal for the remainder of the day: De’Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell. Javorius Allen and Tre Madden – wearing a yellow jersey – were the only two available tailbacks during the team period, and the tight end unit was still without Randall Telfer.

On defense, Su’a Cravens continued to run with the first-team defense at strong safety in place of Josh Shaw, who left Monday morning’s practice with an undisclosed injury. Morgan Breslin, Cody Temple and Torin Harris also didn’t take part, but defensive ends Leonard Williams and J.R. Tavai both returned and each moved well throughout the workout.

On the offensive line, Aundrey Walker got the bulk of the snaps with the first-team group at right guard ahead of two-year starter John Martinez, who ran primarily with the second unit.

During an early 11-on-11 period, quarterback Max Wittek got things started off right by going deep and hitting Blackwell in stride for a 70-yard touchdown score, but then things went downhill for the offense in a hurry. Free safety Dion Bailey came up to stop Allen for no-gain on a run, a snap from Marcus Martin to Wittek was fumbled, and soon thereafter there was a fumbled exchange between Cody Kessler and John Akiba that Tavai recovered. Other defensive highlights included a Devon Kennard sack on Wittek, a Marquis Simmons tackle for loss on Madden and a sack of Kessler by Tavai.

During a period in which the first-team offense and defense went against scout units, the offensive group spent a lot of time focusing on the ground game, with Madden and Allen putting together some nice runs.

The team then got together for some final two-minute drill work that had Kessler running primarily with the first unit and Wittek with the No. 2 group.

Kessler completed a pass over the middle to Blackwell, who was then leveled by Hayes Pullard. A little later on, Kessler threw a pass to the outside, but Anthony Brown stepped in front of it and returned it for a touchdown. Williams also made his presence felt in this session, rushing in and batting down a Kessler pass. Wittek ended the day with a nice drive, completing passes to Aaron Minor, Shane Sullivan and Christian Guzman and capping it with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Flournoy.

The USC Trojans took the field Saturday for the opening day of fall camp practices.

“It was nice to get out here and have organized practices,” said quarterback Cody Kessler. “The summer workouts are great and all, but it’s good to finally be able to be out here with the whole team and the coaches. I thought we had a really good focus today, which was good to see.”

It was a no-pads practice for the Trojans, who will not put on full pads until practice No. 6, which will take place Thursday in a scrimmage in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“It will be a very physical camp once pads get put on,” said coach Lane Kiffin.

There will be a lot of attention paid to the quarterbacks, and Kiffin praised both Kessler and Max Wittek for their work Saturday. Kiffin said there is a long way to go before a starter is named.

Among the primary things Kiffin will be looking for is to see who manages the game better and who takes care of the football. For what it’s worth, Kessler took the first-team reps in the final team drill of the day.

Wittek made an early completion deep to Victor Blackwell, and Kessler hit Nelson Agholor over the middle on a deep ball and then later hooked up with Marqise Lee on a nice reception. Another receiver who had a good first day was freshman Darreus Rogers, who caught almost everything thrown his way.

On the defensive side of the ball, safety Gerald Bowman stood out as a playmaker as he had a one-handed interception and broke up a pass.

Running back rotation

USC running back Tre Madden
Courtesy of Joe AndrasTre Madden "looked great" in the first practice, said USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
All the tailbacks were in action, which was important since several are coming back from injuries. Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan were limited, but the other four all stood out in some way.

Tre [Madden] looked great and he got a lot of work,” Kiffin said. “Justin [Davis] looked better than he did at the end of last spring. Ty [Isaac] had one fumble, but other than that he looked good. There’s a lot of talent in that group.”

Buck Allen ran well in a team drill and looked sharp.

Markowitz update

Abe Markowitz was on the field taking reps as a reserve center. Kiffin confirmed that Markowitz has received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and has returned to the team as a walk-on. Markowitz gives the Trojans an additional versatile player on the line, as he can also play either guard spot.

Special teams in action

There was a lot of special teams work early in the practice with Andre Heidari attempting several field goals. There were also kickoff return and punt return drills, with the return men alternating among a group of Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor, D.J. Morgan, Victor Blackwell and Anthony Brown.

More highlight plays

Jabari Ruffin came on a pass rush and leaped high in the air to knock down a Max Browne pass attempt. ... J.R. Tavai was on a blitz and absolutely bowled over Justin Davis trying to make a block in the backfield. ... There were a couple nice plays by walk-ons: Tailback Taylor Ross had a long run and wide receiver Robby Kolanz leaped between two defenders to make a nice grab.

Recruits in attendance

DL Michael Wyche (Monterey Park, Calif./East Los Angeles College), LB D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), OL Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) and class of 2016 WR Brandon Burton (Gardena, Calif./Serra).

Quotebook

“I’m at 198 pounds right now; I was at 208 last year. It’s easier to move around at this weight, but I was cramping up a little today because I haven’t bent this much in a long time. I like that this defensive scheme holds the secondary accountable because everybody in the back end is in man-to-man coverage. In high school, when I played free safety I was just roaming around, relying on my talent. Now I understand how to read offenses, I know my keys and how to read the quarterback.” – safety Dion Bailey

“I worked on my decision-making the most in the offseason. Making the right decision is what will win games. The Sun Bowl game gives me the drive to show something different; I’m very much looking forward to that. As far as the quarterback competition, we all know the reality of the situation. Someone will be named the starter and we all know that. We all spend so much time together and we’re friends, but we don’t talk about who will win the job. (Wittek was asked if he would consider transferring if he didn’t win the job) I will cross that bridge if it comes to that.” – quarterback Max Wittek

“I worked a lot this offseason on making sure I give my receivers a chance to make plays, to not overthrow them. We’ve got the kind of receivers that, if you give them a chance, they will do a lot of good things. It comes down to trust as a quarterback, trust in your guys to go get the ball. I also worked on being a field general, being a leader. It’s things like being the first guy in the meeting room, being there in the mornings when guys want to throw, just doing the right thing by example.” – quarterback Cody Kessler
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.

Spring preview: USC offense 

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
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With the start of spring practice set for Tuesday, here’s a position-by-position look at who you can expect to see lining up for the Trojans on offense.

Quarterback

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LOS ANGELES -- It was another practice session on Dedeaux Field today as the Trojans hit the part of fall camp that Lane Kiffin called "the grind".

"It's this way for every team around the country," Kiffin said. "Guys are banged up. There is a mental and physical toll. Mental from learning the playbook, physical from coming out here and playing football. We don't get to work with them during the summer so no matter how much they do, it isn't playing football. You just can't simulate the physical part in the summer and it's different when the pads come on."

Kiffin confirmed that freshman defensive end DeVante Wilson tore his left ACL in practice yesterday, will need surgery and is out for the season.

(Read full post)

Flournoy continues to shine

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
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LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans practiced on Dedeaux Field today, primarily on the outfield grass, as Lane Kiffin said the team had torn up the grass on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field so far in camp.

Kiffin said two things really jumped out at him today; the number of explosive plays given up by the defense over the top and the number of fumbles from the offense.

“We had really been doing well in terms of not giving up big plays,” Kiffin said. “It was really the best we had been looking in that area since we got here but today the offense did a good job in that area. On the other side, we had been protecting the ball fairly well but the defense was able to get three fumbles today -- they did a good job of stripping the ball.”

(Read full post)

Penn State running back Silas Redd was set to meet with his family Monday night after a weekend trip to Los Angeles and could make a decision to transfer to USC as early as Tuesday afternoon, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad. Here’s an overview of the situation:

Odd man out: USC is at its limit of 75 scholarship players, meaning a spot would have to open for Redd to transfer in. There are two possible scenarios: A player is academically ineligible, or a former walk-on gives up his scholarship.

The status of incoming receiver Darreus Rogers from Carson (Calif.) has been surrounded by question marks but, as of Tuesday, Rogers suggested he would qualify, tweeting: “22 more days until im at SC.”

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