USC Trojans: Marc Anthony

It appears that Jim Mora was very good for Datone Jones.

Jones, who belatedly broke through as a senior for the Bruins under Mora, earning second-team All-pac-12 honors, is having a great week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and his draft stock is surging, according to multiple reports.

First from ESPN's Todd McShay, Kevin Weidl, Steve Muench Insider:
UCLA's Datone Jones (6-4[, 280) had another good day. Talk about explosive upper body power -- this guy has it. He played hard and is a disciplined backside defender. He blew up a play on nine-on-seven with his quickness and ability to get inside. He also has the ability to work his hands and disengage when he's locked up in a tight situation.

He's had a good week. There's a buzz in the stands about him.
CBS Sports rated Jones one of the Senior Bow's top "risers."
After an impressive practice on Monday, Datone Jones kept the momentum going on Tuesday, standing out as one of the best defensive stars on the North squad. He is very strong from head to toe and does a nice job using his powerful arms and hands to rip past blockers. He wasn't overly productive as a pass rusher at UCLA, largely due to the fact that he was moved all over the Bruins' hybrid 3-4 scheme, but he did make 19 tackles for loss as a senior with his impressive blend of burst and power to dispose of blockers at the point of attack. Jones is a name that will start to appear in first-round mock drafts moving forward.

It also appears that two Pac-12 running backs, UCLA Johnathan Franklin and Oregon's Kenjon Barner, also are doing well.

That said, McShay, Weidl and Muench had some questions about Franklin's speed, and that "makes him more of a third- or fourth-round prospect instead of a second."

Another Pac-12 player on the North, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, has distinguished himself. From CBS:
While tight end Vance McDonald has impressed on the South squad, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa has stood out on the North team. A former defensive end, he didn't make the move to offense until late last season, entering the 2012 campaign with just one career catch on his resume. Kasa plays a bit tight and bulky, but he is an intriguing athlete and has really impressed as a blocker this week. He obviously needs some more seasoning, but the tools are there for Kasa to be an interesting developmental draft choice early on the third day.
As for South practices Insider, where California and Stanford players are, the Bears seem to be doing well. Cornerback Marc Anthony and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke have impressed:
Cal CB Marc Anthony had the best Wednesday. He turned and ran with Georgia's Tavarres King. I think he runs well, showed the ability to turn and run with guys, and he can break on balls thrown in front of him. He almost had a pick, and he can get physical.
And here's a take on Schwenke:
While Jenkins has shown the ability to dominate lesser opponents, California center Brian Schwenke has proven surprisingly effective when taking on the massive defender. While perhaps not the most aesthetically-pleasing blocker, Schwenke shows good quickness, functional strength and understands leverage. He sinks his hips on contact, anchoring well despite being significantly lighter at 6-3, 307 pounds than many of his opponents.

Another player whose speed is being questioned is Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas. While he's been impressive on the physical side, Thomas apparently has struggled in coverage. From CBS:
Speaking of looking the part, no linebacker was as physically imposing as Chase Thomas (6-foot-3 1/8, 241 pounds). The outside linebacker practiced and played with a lot of effort, throwing around fellow linebackers in a tackle-shed drill, and that helped make up for a lack of burst and speed that a lot of high-profile outside linebackers tend to have. On Tuesday, Thomas was beaten a number of times on a quasi-race from a two-point stance to a tackling dummy. Ultimately, he seemed a half-step behind receivers in practice and a bit slower than his teammates in drills.

Dissecting Robert Woods' early numbers

September, 24, 2012
What's going on with Robert Woods?

The All-American USC receiver has experienced a dramatic downturn in production so far this season, and the Trojans' overall offense is suffering as a result.

How far have his numbers fallen? A look at USC's first four games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons shows a significant decline.

Last season, Woods was targeted 59 times in the Trojans' first four games. Forty-one of those attempts resulted in completions, of which four went for touchdowns. Seventeen of the passes intended for Woods were incompletions and one was an interception (remember Vontaze Burfict's pick?).

On those 59 total tries, Woods gained 492 yards, which meant that for every time Barkley tried to throw to him the Trojans gained approximately 8.3 yards.

This season, Woods has been targeted 48 times in USC's first four games. Twenty-five of those attempts resulted in completions, four of which went for touchdowns, and another four went for pass-interference penalties, which we'll count as positive outcomes for the purpose of this analysis. Sixteen of the passes intended for Woods were incompletions and three were interceptions.

On those 48 total tries, Woods gained 203 yards through the air and another 47 yards on penalties, which meant that for every time Barkley tried to throw to him, the Trojans averaged approximately 5.2 yards.

So the Trojans are more than three yards less productive each time they have thrown to Woods so far this season.

By comparison, both Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal are comfortably over that 5.2-yards-per-play average on the ground this year -- Redd at 5.8 yards per carry and McNeal at 6.8.

Why the drop? It's pretty simple, really.

One, the Trojans' other outstanding wideout, Marqise Lee, has more big-play potential than Woods, and Barkley has targeted him 54 times so far this season because of that. (Lee is averaging 8.5 yards per target without accounting for penalty yardage.) Lee's hands aren't quite as good as Woods', but Lee is a better leaper and a more dynamic playmaker.

Two, opposing teams are giving Woods a great deal of respect and focusing on him in their defensive gameplans. Cal assigned its top corner, Marc Anthony, to Woods for the majority of the game on Saturday, while second corner Steve Williams was isolated on Lee several times. Head coach Lane Kiffin mentioned this week that teams are switching their defenses up specifically to stop both Woods and Lee.

Add to that the fact that Woods missed considerable time in the preseason while recovering from an ankle injury (Woods says he's 100 percent healthy now, but Kiffin said this week that Woods has yet to fully participate in a week of practice this season), and you have a receiver who might still be working his way back into polished form and into ideal timing with his quarterback.

And finally, factor in Kiffin's play-calling, which has featured short passes and quick outs in the early going, passes that haven't given Woods the same opportunities to stretch out his catches for long gains.

It's not that Woods can't be counted on to break plays for big gains at some point. He's still fast, he's still agile, and he's still smart in the open field. He works hard and his timing with Barkley should continue to improve as the season progresses.

But it's been a struggle in the early part of the season. And it bears watching from here on out.