USC Trojans: Christian Tupou

USC spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 10-2
2011 conference record: 7-2 (1st, South)
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Matt Barkley, S T.J. McDonald, OL Khaled Holmes, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, RB Curtis McNeal, DL Devon Kennard, DL Wes Horton, CB Nickell Robey, LB Dion Bailey, LB Hayes Pullard, K Andre Heidari

Key losses
OL Matt Kalil, DL Nick Perry, FB Rhett Ellison, DL DaJohn Harris, DL Christian Tupou, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, WR Brandon Carswell, LS Chris Pousson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Curtis McNeal* (1,005 yards)
Passing: Matt Barkley* (3,528 yards)
Receiving: Robert Woods* (1,292 yards)
Tackles: Dion Bailey*, Hayes Pullard* (81)
Sacks: Nick Perry (9.5)
Interceptions: T.J. McDonald* (3)

Spring answers

1. Marqise Lee is ready for prime time: It’s no secret that Lee is a talented player who put together a terrific freshman season, but he took that performance to an even higher level this spring when he was the best player on the field for the Trojans. We’re seeing a rare athlete in Lee, one whose acrobatic style is being compared to Lynn Swann.

2. The USC defense is worthy of mention: There is so much attention paid to Matt Barkley and his offensive weapons -- and deservedly so -- but this spring was a reminder that the Trojans defense is going to be pretty good too. The back seven will be a strength, as the starters return intact plus there is a nice supply of talented depth.

3. The future of the USC quarterback spot is in good hands: Spring was an extended audition for Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, as Barkley was limited in his reps. Both players had their moments as they look to settle into the No. 2 role and the inside track to be Barkley’s heir apparent. The Trojans also got a verbal commitment from Max Browne (No. 2 rated pocket passer in ESPN 150), who will enroll next spring.

Fall questions

1. Interior of the D-line: One of the keys of spring was replacing two senior starters from the middle of the line. George Uko stepped in at defensive tackle and had flashes of real solid play. After Uko, however, things are not so clear. There is no established backup for him and no set starter at nose tackle, as J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods continue to battle for the job.

2. Lack of depth at tailback: The Trojans have a returning 1,000-yard rusher in Curtis McNeal but not a lot of experience behind him. D.J. Morgan had 42 carries in 2011, Buck Allen redshirted last season and Nelson Agholor has yet to join the team. That’s the extent of the playing time for the 2012 USC reserve tailbacks.

3. Protecting the blind side: There wasn’t a ton of worry last year about left tackle with Matt Kalil but replacing him has not been easy. Kevin Graf got the first look, but then the coaches moved Aundrey Walker into the spot. Lane Kiffin said Walker was not consistent but he showed enough with the potential of the size benefits he brings that he will stay as the starter heading into fall camp.

USC free agent signings

April, 29, 2012
VThe 2012 NFL draft is complete and several undrafted USC players have signed free agent contracts:

RB Marc Tyler (Green Bay Packers)

WR Brandon Carswell (Oakland Raiders)

DT Christian Tupou (San Diego Chargers)

LS Chris Pousson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

DT DaJohn Harris (Tennessee Titans)

LB Chris Galippo (Indianapolis Colts)

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.”

We Are SC Roundtable 

February, 23, 2012
Morgan BreslinCourtesy Diablo Valley CollegeThe WeAreSC panel believes that junior college transfer Morgan Breslin could make an immediate impact at defensive end as the Trojans look to replace Nick Perry.

The defensive line is going to be a key area to watch this spring. Give one critical player that you will be watching at DE, one at DT/NG and one newcomer (redshirt or JC transfer).

Defensive end
Garry Paskwietz: Wes Horton -- With the Trojans looking to replace Nick Perry and his 9.5 sacks, it is Horton who will flip over to the right side to take Perry’s place. Horton has slid somewhat under the radar during his SC career, but he had four sacks last season on his way to second-team all-conference honors. Horton and Devon Kennard could combine to form one of the most productive DE duos in the country.

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Temple healthy, excited about move

February, 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Several players from USC’s 2011 recruiting class stepped right into important roles as true freshmen. But for every Marqise Lee, Lamar Dawson and Marcus Martin, there were several first-year players who took a redshirt as the Trojans looked to build depth for the future.

While many of the unused players remained highly visible during practice, such as quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. and linebacker Anthony Sarao, others blended in to varying degrees and a few -- most notably offensive lineman Cody Temple -- seemed to disappear altogether.

Temple was a two-way lineman out of Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty High School who surprised some by appearing on USC’s radar and eventually earning a scholarship offer. He was a lifelong USC fan that was hoping to do big things for the Trojans. But back pain that he has been dealing with since the eighth grade quickly derailed those plans, as Temple took part in only a handful of practices throughout the year and never truly threatened to make a mark on the depth chart.

But several months removed from the 2011 season, Temple is ready to turn the page on a tumultuous freshman year, as the lessons he learned off the field could go a long way toward helping him make an impact on it.

(Read full post)

WeAreSC Roundtable 

February, 9, 2012
George UkoChris Williams/Icon SMIRedshirt freshman George Uko showed flashes of potential in 2011 and suddenly becomes the veteran presence for the Trojans at defensive tackle.

With spring ball set to begin in less than a month, the WeAreSC staff looks ahead to the three most intriguing positions and the player at each spot they are most interested in watching.

Kyle Williams

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The USC Trojans were a young team in 2011, but several upperclassmen made their marks on a 10-2 season and will now have an opportunity to do it again at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Seven draft-eligible former Trojans will take part in the event, which begins Feb. 22 in Indianapolis.

The players are offensive tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end Nick Perry, tailback Marc Tyler, tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, linebacker Chris Galippo and defensive tackles DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou.

The events each player will participate in at the combine is yet to be determined, as some may wait to take part in events -- such as the 40-yard dash or three-cone drill -- at USC's Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 7.

Top five current recruiting priorities 

January, 30, 2012
1. Offensive Tackle -- USC is extremely thin at the tackle position. The only true pro style tackle the Trojans have is Kevin Graf. While Aundrey Walker will anchor the right tackle spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if by his junior or senior season he isn’t moved down to guard like Deuce Lutui was in 2005. However, the only way this can happen is if the Trojans can lock up at least one more top tackle in this year’s recruiting class.

2. Defensive tackle -- With the losses of Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris, the Trojans arevthin and inexperienced at defensive tackle. On paper, the most likely replacements for the two seniors will be redshirt freshman George Uko and either one of the two true freshmen, J.R. Tavai or Antwaun Woods. Although Uko and Woods should hold their own against the run, the Trojans need a true pass rusher who can get to the quarterback and create pressure up the middle.

3. Safety -- The safeties will be a strength for the Trojans this season. T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling will both be seniors and should pick up right were they left off last season. However, the depth at the position is shallow when looking towards the future. The Trojans did pick up a couple of transfers, but with the bulk of backfield being seniors, USC still needs more top talent at the position.

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Top questions entering spring practice 

January, 13, 2012
George UkoChris Williams/Icon SMIRedshirt freshman George Uko showed flashes of potential in 2011 and suddenly becomes the veteran presence for the Trojans at defensive tackle.

LOS ANGELES -- With off season workouts starting this week and with spring practices just a couple months away, let's take an early look at the biggest issues the Trojans will face during spring practice.

Defensive Tackle

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2012 USC team awards

December, 6, 2011
The Trojans held their annual end-of-season banquet on Monday and the 2012 USC team awards were announced:

Most Valuable Player: quarterback Matt Barkley
Most Inspirational Player: defensive tackle Christian Tupou
Leadership Award: fullback Rhett Ellison
Linemen of the Year: offensive tackle Matt Kalil (offense), defensive end Nick Perry (defense)
Perimeter Players of the Year: wide receiver Robert Woods (offense), safety T.J. McDonald (defense)
Special Teams Player of the Year: fullback Ross Cumming
Service Team Players of the Year: offensive guard Cyrus Hobbi (offense), linebacker Anthony Sarao (defense)
Player of the Game versus Notre Dame: cornerback Nickell Robey
Player of the Game versus UCLA: wide receiver Marqise Lee
Jack Oakie “Rise and Shine” Award (year’s longest run): tailback Curtis McNeal (79 yards vs. Washington)
Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award (overall academic achievement): linebacker Augusto Alonso
Bob Chandler Award (underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character): linebacker Hayes Pullard
John McKay Award (underclassman with the most competitive spirit): cornerback Nickell Robey
Joe Collins Walk-on Award: punter Kyle Negrete
Courage Award: tailback Curtis McNeal
Co-Lifters Award: fullback Rhett Ellison, safety Jawanza Starling
Team Captains: quarterback Matt Barkley, fullback Rhett Ellison, safety T.J. McDonald, defensive tackle Christian Tupou

All Pac-12 reaction

November, 28, 2011
Here’s our initial reaction to the All Pac-12 teams as it relates to USC players:

QB – As good as Matt Barkley played, it’s hard to argue with the body of work put up by Andrew Luck. Two really good players right there.

RB – It was good to see Curtis McNeal get an honorable mention. He certainly deserved it.

WR – Both Robert Woods and Keenan Allen were worthy of first-team honors but by the end of the year Marqise Lee – who was named to the second team -- was playing better than anybody. Lee was also the co-freshman of the year on offense.

TE – Pleasantly surprised to see Randall Telfer get honorable mention.

OL – Matt Kalil certainly deserved first-team honors and it was good to see Holmes recognized on the second team.

DL – Good for you Nick Perry, as a strong finish to the season helped launch him to the first team. Also nice to see Wes Horton get rewarded with a second-team mention. Christian Tupou played well enough on one knee to get honorable mention.

LB – Dion Bailey goes from a deep reserve at safety to the freshman defensive player of the year and a second-team linebacker. The coaches should get a huge tip of the cap for this position switch. Hayes Pullard came on strong at the end of the year to earn honorable mention.

DB – After all his troubles with the conference it is fitting for T.J. McDonald to still get first-team honors based upon his overall level of play. Nickell Robey was a well-deserving first-team honoree as well. I’m somewhat surprised Jawanza Starling didn’t get honorable mention.

ST – That is amazing for Andre Heidari to get first team as a true freshman. Rhett Ellison needed to get first-team recognition for something so it was good to see it happen here.

Coach – With no disrespect to David Shaw, this honor should have gone to Lane Kiffin.

Storylines from Wednesday practice 

November, 23, 2011
It looked a bit like an all-star game during Wednesday's practice, as different jersey colors littered the field. The offense wore its usual red and the defense was in white, but with scout team players wearing both black and powder blue, quarterbacks in yellow, and several seniors -- Brandon Carswell, Christian Tupou and Martin Coleman -- wearing their high school uniforms, the color palette was striking. Carswell said the idea was brought forward by Rhett Ellison, who got it from his father. The seniors all planned to wear their high school jerseys, but some were unable to have them taken out of storage. Ellison was one of those, but he and Tupou took athletic tape and decorated their USC helmets with the wing pattern worn by their high schools.

On the injury front, Devon Kennard and J.R. Tavai sat out Wednesday's practice. DaJohn Harris and Robert Woods were limited. Curtis McNeal came out of practice and Lane Kiffin said they would check his knee.

Kiffin was quick to dismiss any thought of a letdown in the season finale after a big win over Oregon. Kiffin said the team has approached every game in the same way this season, and he doesn't expect that to change this weekend.

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Defense Steps Up 

November, 20, 2011
The importance of the USC defense in Saturday night's 38-35 victory over Oregon can't be overstated. No matter how many points the Trojans scored, the Ducks were eventually going to make a charge. Their offensive attack is too good to think it wasn’t going to happen.

Sure enough, the Ducks did mount a comeback. There was a point in the game when Oregon really got a roll, but even that didn’t last too long. When Oregon's train gets rolling, it usually doesn't stop. But it did last night.

It can even be argued that the second-half success by the Ducks –- particularly in the fourth quarter –- had something to do with a tired USC defense. The Trojans defenders were worn out on the final few drives after a long day of terrific pursuit and coverage. They had enough to barely hang on, but that was what their team needed.

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Storylines from Wednesday practice 

November, 16, 2011
Several important players continued to sit out with injuries this week, as Robert Woods, Matt Kalil, DaJohn Harris and Aundrey Walker all did not practice on Wednesday. Christian Tupou and Demetrius Wright were listed as limited.

Woods has been bothered all season by nagging ankle and shoulder injuries and Lane Kiffin said Wednesday that Woods' recovery has been "going in the wrong direction" recently. "He's not getting better," Kiffin said. "If he can't play faster, we have to find another guy who can. If you look at Saturday's film (against Washington), he shouldn't be playing in that game."

Kiffin was asked about the idea of keying in on specific offensive players for the Ducks, and whether it's about slowing down one tailback at a time. Kiffin said, "It's about their scheme. You have to get lined up based on the scheme and play your assignment no matter who has the ball."

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Storylines from Tuesday practice 

November, 15, 2011
There wasn’t a lot of attention at practice today to the expected atmosphere awaiting the Trojans this weekend. No wet balls to get used to the rain, no piped-in crowd noise to simulate the loud fans at Autzen.

There were also a lot of banged up Trojans. DaJohn Harris, Christian Tupou and Demetrius Wright were out while Jawanza Starling, Robert Woods, Matt Kalil and Simi Vehikite were all limited in their participation.

“We’ve got a surprisingly large number of injuries,” Lane Kiffin said. “We need to get all of them back for a challenging week.”

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