USC Trojans: Mike Summers

Recruits like the current USC staff 

October, 8, 2013
Many questioned the decisions of former USC head coach Lane Kiffin while he was at the helm, but his abilities as a recruiter were, for the most part, nationally recognized. Despite a vastly underwhelming 2012 season, Kiffin and his staff managed to reel in 12 four-star recruits, all of whom ranked inside the ESPN 300.

Now, despite Kiffin’s ouster, the Trojans stilly have some heavy hitting recruiters on staff. WeAreSC asked prospects for their opinions on some current USC coaches as recruiters:

On linebackers coach Mike Ekeler ...

Are the Trojans ready for Wazzu? 

September, 5, 2013
Dee Maggitt, Marqise LeeAP Photo/Eugene TannerMarqise Lee's opener wasn't up to his lofty standards, with dropped passes and fumbles, but you can bet that the All-American will be ready for USC's Pac-12 opener Saturday.
LOS ANGELES -- Ready or not, the undefeated USC Trojans (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12 South) open Pac-12 Conference play early by hosting the Washington State Cougars (0-1, 0-0 Pac-12 North) in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night in a critical game for both teams.

And with that in mind ...

Lane Kiffin is ready: To again not announce who his starting quarterback is until Saturday evening, even though all leaked reports point to Cody Kessler.

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Commit Q&A: ESPN 300 Jordan Poland 

September, 4, 2013
Fifteen months ago, ESPN 300 offensive lineman Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School) became the first member of USC's 2014 recruiting class by verbally committing to the Trojans. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound prospect has since used up his final year of high school football eligibility and seen a new position coach take over at USC, but the four-star athlete remains firmly entrenched in the class.

We caught up with Poland this week for an update on his offseason workouts, his impression of the other offensive linemen and overall thoughts on the Trojans.

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USC OL commit Austin ready to be molded 

August, 21, 2013
CLAREMONT, Calif. -- USC commit Jordan Austin could do without the awards. Plaque for camp standout? Medal for best offensive lineman? Trophy for league most valuable player? Nope, Austin couldn't care less about the hardware.

The Claremont (Calif.) High School three-star offensive tackle has already bagged the one thing he’s been striving for the last three years, so nothing else could validate all of his hard work.

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Three-star 2014 offensive lineman Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) had to hit the books Wednesday morning and had football practice later in the afternoon, so he didn’t have an opportunity to compete in USC’s Rising Stars Camp.

Still, Austin dropped by campus at the request of assistant coaches James Cregg and Mike Summers.

It’s a good thing he did.

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With a new position coach added to the fold, not to mention the loss of the unit’s veteran leader at center, there was an aura of change and opportunity surrounding the USC offensive line this spring that was clearly evident during the 15 practices. With that atmosphere serving as the backdrop, here are some of the biggest storylines of the offseason for a group looking to up their level of play in 2013.

New influence at the top

While the USC offensive line did allow a conference-best 17 total sacks in 2012, they also struggled against the more physical defensive fronts that they faced – most notably Stanford and Notre Dame. With that in mind, it’s obvious that in order for the Trojans to get back to their winning ways next season, they have to establish a tougher brand of play up front on offense. In an effort to do just that, Kiffin brought in highly regarded offensive line guru Mike Summers to team with James Cregg, the coach of the position group for the past three seasons. And with the unit showing flashes of improved play, with a nasty demeanor that wasn’t always there last fall, the addition of Summers – who has 32 years of experience – appears to have paid off. Still, as a whole, the Trojans offensive line isn’t where it needs to be just yet, because while they did make strides, they also had their issues on occasion when going up against the new-look USC defense. They still have much to prove, but if they’re able to take that next step under the watchful eyes of Summers and Cregg this offseason, there’s reason to believe that the Trojans will be in good shape here in the fall.

Center of it all

Max Tuerk
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesAfter giving him a tryout at center, Max Tuerk will likely be the left guard in 2013.
With the departure of center Khaled Holmes — a three-year starter and anchor of the offensive line – the search for his replacement became one of the major priorities of the spring. To everyone’s surprise, getting the first crack at the spot was Max Tuerk, who was coming off a stellar freshman campaign spent primarily at left tackle. And while the Santa Margarita (Calif.) graduate played solidly at the new position for the most part, there were more than a few instances of fumbled center-quarterback exchanges, causing the coaches to look elsewhere for an alternate option. Fortunately, they did find a very good one in junior Marcus Martin. A standout performer for the last two seasons as the starting left guard, he actually spent the majority of the bowl game workouts at center in December, giving him valuable experience at the position that certainly came in handy this spring. Looking comfortable and in control, he gained the confidence of everyone around him, including Kiffin. On the verge of what could be a very big season, Martin’s firm grasp of the position also allowed Tuerk to move over to left guard, the position he started at in the Sun Bowl, and where he’ll likely play in the fall. Cyrus Hobbi figures to be the primary backup to Martin.

Walker ready to make a statement at LT?

Another position of interest heading into the spring was the always-crucial left tackle spot, manned by a combination of Aundrey Walker and Tuerk in 2012. But with Tuerk’s move to center, and eventually left guard, this spot was all Walker’s for the taking this spring. Walker, whose career has been marked by its ups and downs so far, certainly appeared to play at a higher level than he has before, even holding off a push by redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler, who eventually went down with a PCL injury in his knee. Still, Walker continued to have his battles with consistency and questions remain. Is Walker the answer at left tackle? Can he provide the USC offense with a sturdy presence at the position that it will desperately need? Might he better be suited to play at guard – a move that was brought up by the coaches, but never acted upon – with Tuerk lining back over at tackle? For Walker, whose raw physical skills are undeniable, it’s how he continues to develop this offseason that will play a vital part in determining those answers.

Unexpected position battle

When the post-spring depth chart was released back in April, the most surprising bit of information revealed was that Kevin Graf – a tried and tested senior with two years of starting experience – was listed as sharing the top spot at right tackle with Wheeler, with the signature “OR” designation separating their names. It was a bit of a stunner on several levels. One, Graf had appeared to assert himself over the last two years as a dependable performer with a wealth of experience. Two, Wheeler had just been moved over to left tackle before the spring to challenge Walker. Instead, now it’s Graf that Wheeler will push this offseason on the right side. Having shown tremendous potential in the limited time that he took part in spring drills, Wheeler could make things interesting, but with a veteran with 25 starts to his credit standing in front of him, he certainly has an uphill battle on his hands. In either case, it would appear that the coaching staff has sent a message to Graf, and it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Decommitment heightens OL importance 

April, 25, 2013
If there was a positive to draw from ESPN 150 offensive tackle Casey Tucker's decommitment from USC this week, it’s that it happened in April rather than, say, nine months from now.

Offensive line recruiting is undoubtedly a major focus in the 2014 recruiting class for the Trojans and new position coach Mike Summers. And while losing the top-rated lineman on the West Coast is never a good thing, there is a silver lining here: Summers and assistant James Cregg know where they stand.

Tucker, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman from Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton, was committed for nine months. He visited the USC campus with his father, taking in a game at the Coliseum before returning home with what he called an "even stronger" commitment. He saw the Trojans limp their way through a rough 2012 season, yet stuck with his original pledge.

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Recruiting notebook: Humphreys visits 

April, 23, 2013
When Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic) hopped on a plane bound for Los Angeles on Friday, it was pouring rain in his hometown. Sunny, 80-degree temperatures greeted the defensive end prospect when he landed, offering a glimpse at what he could soak in year-round if he opts to play college football in Southern California.

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Recruits take in USC spring game 

April, 15, 2013
ESPN Watch List offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School) committed to USC last June, long before the Trojans stumbled through a disappointing season and replaced his future position coach, James Cregg, with Mike Summers.

Several big-name schools have maintained their recruitment of the massive 6-foot-7, 330-pound prospect, but the Poland has not backed off his pledge. He attended USC’s spring game Saturday at the Memorial Coliseum and came away impressed with the line.

“Coach Summers has definitely impacted the linemen, but in a good way,” Poland said. “Their technique looks more sound than it did before. He’s been implementing a lot more drills they weren’t accustomed to, so he’s definitely making them look good.”

Though he’s still hearing from various schools and plans to take a few trips this summer, the initial returns this spring have solidified Poland’s commitment.

“When it comes down to committing, you want to be loyal to the school,” Poland said. “I’m happy with the school I’m committed to right now. Yes, a lot of schools are after me and I’m keeping my options open, but I’m happy to be a Trojan.”

Alabama, Michigan and Oregon are the three schools in heavy pursuit, Poland said. He intends to visit those schools sometime this summer.

“If I had to choose any other schools,” he said, “those would definitely be the ones I’d pick.”

Country Day School is an academically rigorous institution, so Poland hasn’t had much free time since the football season ended. He has used up all of his high school eligibility after transferring from Arizona, but is heading into his senior year academically.

“I’m looking to maybe play in a travel basketball team, but I’m not sure,” Poland said. “I might just stick to my football training. Everything is still in order for me to enroll early if things keep going well the way they have been.”

Poland became the first member of the 2014 recruiting class when he committed to USC on June 9. Back then, the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, and limited scholarships were up for grabs.

“You’d expect more from one of the powerhouse football schools but, at the same time, I still like what the school can do when you step off the field,” Poland said. “It doesn’t affect my decision of going there at all, really. I know what the coaches can teach me ... Coach Cregg is a good dude and a good coach. He’s definitely a good piece of the team and he helps in a lot of positive ways. I keep in contact with him the most.”.”

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Spring preview: USC offense 

March, 4, 2013
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.


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Roundtable: How will new staff work out? 

February, 28, 2013
Now that the coaching staff is set, give your thoughts on the coaching moves and how you think the new staff will shake out.

Garry Paskwietz
I like the vast majority of the changes, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. There had to be a change at the top, and the move from Monte Kiffin to Clancy Pendergast should be a good one.

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