USC Trojans: Tony Burnett

Robert Woods, Matt Barkley AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillRobert Woods and Matt Barkley put their best foot forward in front of scouts from 31 NFL teams during USC's pro day Wednesday.
The Trojans held their annual NFL Pro Day on Wednesday with plenty of buzz surrounding the workout of quarterback Matt Barkley.

Not only is Barkley a high-profile prospect at the most high-profile position, but pro day marked the first time Barkley had an opportunity to throw for scouts since injuring his shoulder in late November. Since the end of the season Barkley has been spending his time in the South getting treatment on the shoulder and working with former FSU quarterback Chris Weinke at the IMG Academy in Florida.

Before he could get to his throwing work, Barkley ran the 40-yard dash (a hand-timed mark of 4.87) and the shuttle drill, although he slipped in one shuttle rep and came up flexing his right hand. By the time his throwing session started, the hand was fine and all eyes were focused on him.

Barkley threw to a group of five primary players; wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandon Carswell and Travon Patterson, tight end Dominique Byrd and running back Curtis McNeal. It took about three or four throws to realize the shoulder strength was not an issue. There was zip on his passes and he was moving well on a variety of throws. There will always be nitpicking as part of the scouting process for little things that might not have gone as well, but for the most part it was a successful session, with Barkley hitting on 46 of 50 throws.

“It was a great day just to come out and throw the ball around,” Barkley said. “It’s good to be back on SC’s campus for something like this. The shoulder felt fine. The ball slipped on a couple but no worries about that. I’m not worried about anything.”

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Exit Interview: Tony Burnett

February, 15, 2013
Tony BurnettRic Tapia/Icon SMITony Burnett became a versatile contributor on defense and special teams for the Trojans.

Of all the seniors on the 2012 Trojans football team, no one took a more unique path into the program than Tony Burnett. Originally entering USC as a track and field athlete from nearby Los Angeles (Calif.) Southwest College in 2009, it wasn't until a chance meeting with Ed Orgeron one day in Heritage Hall that he decided to give football a shot.

Enjoying a breakout 10-tackle performance at safety against Notre Dame in 2010 -- his first season as a member of the team -- Burnett would develop into a major contributor on defense and special teams in his time on campus. Ultimately rewarded with a scholarship by coach Lane Kiffin, he showed tremendous versatility, moving over to cornerback in 2011, and then to linebacker this past season.

Now hoping for a shot at the NFL, Burnett took time out of his busy training schedule to talk to WeAreSC about his thoughts on his career at USC, as well as what's on tap for the future.

WeAreSC: First off, where do you stand in terms of graduation?

Burnett: I'm taking one last biology class. It's a spring-only class, but then I'll have a B.A. in Human Performance from USC.

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USC gives out team awards

December, 15, 2012
The USC Trojans held their 2012 team banquet Friday at the Tutor Campus Center Ballroom and the following awards were handed out:

Most Valuable Player: wide receiver Marqise Lee

Most Inspirational Player: safety T.J. McDonald

Leadership Award: center Khaled Holmes

Linemen of the Year: center Khaled Holmes (offense), defensive end Morgan Breslin (defense)

Perimeter Players of the Year: wide receiver Marqise Lee (offense), safety T.J. McDonald (defense)

Special Teams Player of the Year: linebacker Tony Burnett

Service Team Players of the Year: offensive tackle-guard Jordan Simmons (offense), defensive end Jabari Ruffin (defense)

Jack Oakie “Rise and Shine” Award (year’s longest run): wide receiver Robert Woods (76 yards vs. Syracuse)

Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award (overall academic achievement): center Khaled Holmes

Bob Chandler Award (underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character): tight end Randall Telfer

John McKay Award (underclassman with the most competitive spirit): wide receiver Marqise Lee

Joe Collins Walk-on Award: offensive tackle-guard Nathan Guertler, cornerback Ryan Dillard

Courage Award: wide receiver Robert Woods

Co-Lifters Award: offensive tackle Kevin Graf, cornerback Nickell Robey

Team Captains: quarterback Matt Barkley, safety T.J. McDonald, center Khaled Holmes, cornerback Nickell Robey

Practice report: Back on the field

December, 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- After over a week away from action, the Trojans went back to work on Wednesday, and with Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field having recently been re-sodded, the team took part in a rare practice in the Coliseum. It was a loose and notably high-spirited workout that USC head coach Lane Kiffin said had "great energy," even going as far as to call it "probably the best practice we've had since maybe the first day of training camp."

With quarterback Matt Barkley still in New York after receiving a scholar-athlete award from the National Football Foundation, and Marqise Lee in Orlando as a finalist for the Biletnikoff award that will be handed out Thursday, Wednesday's practice centered around the development of some of the more inexperienced Trojans players, while Kiffin and Co. also tinkered around with a couple of position moves.

"Good to get back out on the practice field -- a luxury we haven't had the last two off-seasons -- to get some extra practices," Kiffin said. "Our early bowl week practices, we focus a lot on younger guys, our backups, and moving some guys around at times."

One of those players who spent time at a different position on Wednesday was Josh Shaw, who moved over to his original safety spot after playing a majority of the season at cornerback.

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Marqise Lee voted Pac-12 player of the year

November, 26, 2012
USC receiver Marqise Lee was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, conference representatives announced Monday.

In a vote of the conference's head coaches, Lee was chosen as the top offensive player. He also was the only sophomore in the conference unanimously selected to the Pac-12 first team this season, during which he totaled 112 catches, 1,680 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns.

One other Trojan, senior center Khaled Holmes, was selected as a first-teamer. Receiver Robert Woods, defensive end Morgan Breslin, cornerback Nickell Robey and safety T.J. McDonald were all second-team honorees, as was Lee as a return specialist.

Thirteen USC players earned honorable mention, with quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Silas Redd, tight end Xavier Grimble and offensive linemen Max Tuerk and John Martinez leading the way on offense.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Arizona's Matt Scott, two quarterbacks who beat Barkley this season, were named the Pac-12's first- and second-team signal-callers, respectively.

Barkley will leave USC having never been a first-team all-conference performer, which is remarkable considering the conference records he owns for all-time passing yards and touchdowns.

USC defensive linemen Leonard Williams, George Uko and Wes Horton and linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard received honorable mention.

Williams also was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, after recording a 7.5-sack, two-fumble-recovery season.

Kicker Andre Heidari, punter Kyle Negrete and reserve linebacker Tony Burnett rounded out USC's honorable-mention recipients on special teams.

USC LB Burnett honors fallen friend

October, 31, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Five years ago last Saturday, Tony Burnett's best friend died after being shot in the back of the head the previous night in Bellflower.

Burnett, a USC linebacker, found himself thinking about his fallen friend before, during and after the Trojans' loss to Arizona on Saturday. Randy Walls, 18, was shot Oct. 26, 2007, and died the next day.

The anniversary has always meant something to Burnett, but this was the first time he had the opportunity to play on the date of Walls' death.

"I wanted to go out there and get that done for him," Burnett said. "We didn't come out with the win, so it was kinda upsetting to me on a personal level. But he knows that I did my best, and I'm sure he's proud of everything I'm doing right now."

The shooting happened two miles away from Mayfair High, where Burnett went to school. Walls was a year older than Burnett and had graduated high school, but the two grew up together, playing Pop Warner for the same teams since age 7.

"It's heavy in my heart," Burnett said of the anniversary of Walls' death.

He said he chose not to tell any of his teammates about it in the week leading up to the Arizona game.

"I don't want to put that burden on people," Burnett said. "The burden's already on myself."

Burnett said he didn't feel over-aggressive or unable to focus because of his wandering thoughts. He just felt more motivated.

"If anything, it affected me positively, because it made me want to go out there and give everything I could to try to come out with that victory," he said.

On the field, Burnett has become a steady strongside linebacker for the Trojans, albeit in a reserve role. He has consistently subbed in for Dion Bailey and made plays, and he said Wednesday he's pleased with the new role he has adopted.

He started last season as USC's No. 2 corner but moved into a much-reduced role as the season went on. This year, his playing time has increased since the season opener.

"I'm not perfect, but as much as I can I'm doing my job," Burnett said. "I feel like I'm being effective, and I feel like the coaches trust me. Because they're playing me and I'm in the normal regular rotation."

Trojans prepare for air attack

September, 4, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- It was another beautiful day on Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones field on Tuesday as the team prepared to take on Syracuse and its explosive quarterback, Ryan Nassib, on Saturday. Right from the get-go, defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders could be heard emphatically explaining to his unit that Syracuse threw the ball more than 60 times in its last game, so the Trojans DBs had better be ready. It was a common theme on the day that Lane Kiffin and the rest of the staff made sure to hammer home to the defense.

“We wanted to make sure that our guys understand that we’re going to play a really good team,” Kiffin said. “We purposely made sure that we attacked them in the passing game. I totally believe that this is a big-time test. I don’t care who you play or where it’s at -- everybody played a football game on Saturday and nobody threw for more yards than they did. This is a really good quarterback and he started really well last year versus us.”

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Kiffin names Wittek No. 2 QB

August, 28, 2012
LOS ANGELES – There certainly was a different feel on Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field on Tuesday as the Trojans set their game plan in motion for Saturday’s game with the Hawaii Warriors. The team was in full gear today and it was a more spirited practice than has been seen in quite a while, with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron’s booming voice reverberating throughout the field right from the get-go.

The biggest news of the day came following practice when Lane Kiffin named Max Wittek as the back-up quarterback ahead of Cody Kessler. It was a close battle, but the Trojans head coach felt a decision had to be made -- at least for now.

“Somebody has to be No. 2, and Max is No. 2,” Kiffin said. “It has nothing to do with who will be the starter next season. Both have commanded the offense well, they both made a bunch of plays and had good numbers throughout the fall.”

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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.

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Farmer returns to USC practice 

August, 13, 2012
It was a helmets, shoulder pads and shorts practice for the Trojans today with the return to the field of wide receiver George Farmer, who participated the majority of the day and looked good.

Farmer has missed most of fall camp while struggling with a hamstring issue but had a leaping 25-yard touchdown catch over Kevon Seymour and came back later with a short TD reception from Max Wittek. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said after practice that the next two weeks will be huge for Farmer in terms of staying healthy and preparing for the season. Farmer and Robert Woods were both involved in punt return drills.

Kiffin also mentioned that true freshman receiver Nelson Agholor has been coming along, adding that he’s a hard worker who often stays by himself after practice to get in extra work.

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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WeAreSC Roundtable 

April, 5, 2012
What do you think of the position switch of Tony Burnett?

Garry Paskwietz: It makes a lot of sense because the Trojans need a backup to Dion Bailey now that Tre Madden has moved to RB. Marquis Simmons has yet to show he can stay healthy. Burnett has really shown flashes this spring, after his return to safety, of being the player we saw with 10 tackles against Notre Dame in 2010. The move to corner didn’t work last season because he wasn’t good in coverage against top receivers, but he still has speed and he can still hit. As Bailey showed last season, if you have those two skills you can do well at SLB. Burnett was stuck behind a lot of other good safeties, so why not take a look at this? It just might work.

Erik McKinney: Moving Burnett to strongside linebacker seems to make a ton of sense. The whole reason he saw the field in the first place was because of his ability to make sure tackles. He won't be asked to cover as much of the field at outside linebacker, but when he is asked to cover it will be something he is used to doing. The size question is brought up whenever a player is moved from safety to linebacker, but how many times does it have to work before that becomes a non-issue? As Lane Kiffin has pointed out several times, not many teams are going to line up in power and try to take advantage of a size mismatch in the first two levels. It's far more important to be able to run sideline to sideline and make solid tackles when needed. Burnett can excel there.

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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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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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