USC Trojans: Rhett Ellison

WeAreSC roundtable: Draft edition 

April, 25, 2013
Percy Harvin and Robert WoodsUSA Today SportsWith Percy Harvin having left for Seattle, the Minnesota Vikings could be in the market to draft Robert Woods, who would be their second Trojans first-round pick in as many drafts.
"USC has more first-round NFL draft choices (77) than any other school in the country. Will Matt Barkley and Robert Woods join that group? Give your thoughts on where they will be picked and by which team."

Garry Paskwietz

LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans opened up the 2013 spring ball practice session with a spirited workout, which is typical for the first day of spring.

“I thought things looked good today,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “That is usually the case in spring, guys are fired up to get out here and start going to work. I also liked what I saw from our coaches, especially since some of them have only been with us for a short time. They were really ready to go.”

One of the new items to watch for the Trojans this spring is the 5-2 defense which is run by new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Kiffin said that getting the new defense set is the top priority of spring and the highlight play of the day was an example of how the defense can shine. Jabari Ruffin -- who was lined up at defensive end -- had an interception of a Cody Kessler pass after dropping back into coverage and leaping in the air to make the play.

Kessler is part of what is expected to be an intense quarterback competition along with Max Wittek and Max Browne. Kiffin said Kessler was on schedule to be named MVP of the day until the interception and he also liked what he saw from his true freshman.

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Khaled Holmes is one of two USC players, along with T.J. McDonald, who will be taking part in the Senior Bowl this week in an effort to shine in front of NFL scouts.

[+] EnlargeAlex Holmes
Garry Paskwietz/WeAreSC.comUSC senior center Khaled Holmes speaks after receiving the Jess Hill Award last week.
Prior to heading to Mobile, Ala., for the week-long event, Holmes was honored at a dinner on January 16 as the winner of the Jess Hill Award, presented by the San Gabriel Valley Trojan Club to a deserving student-athlete who represents the USC motto of “Faithful, Scholarly, Skillful, Courageous, Ambitious.”

Holmes was a three-year starter for the Trojans -- he played right guard in 2010 and center from 2011-12 -- and was named All-Pac-12 first team in 2012.

Holmes had a cumulative 3.31 GPA at USC, received a bachelor’s degree in spring of 2011 in communications and finished his master’s degree in communication management in fall of 2012.

“It’s an incredible honor to receive this award,” Khaled said while accepting the award. “To be the first brothers to win the award is pretty awesome.”

Khaled’s brother, Alex, had been named the Jess Hill Award winner in 2005 after his career as a USC tight end. Alex Holmes was in attendance at the dinner, as was former USC fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison, who now plays for the Minnesota Vikings, and the award was presented to Holmes by current USC running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu.

“This night showcases how real the Trojan family is,” Polamalu said. “You have Alex and Khaled, two brothers who have won this award. Their sister, Theodora, is married to my nephew, Troy, who also played at USC. Then you have Rhett Ellison, whose dad, Riki, was my teammate when I played at USC.”

It was Alex Holmes who summed up the night with the tribute to his brother when he said, “Khaled is the most impressive person I’ve ever met in my life.”

Holmes (6-foot-4, 310) was ranked as the No. 2 senior center by Mel Kiper of ESPN in his most recent position rankings.

Top USC Trojans sleepers 

January, 22, 2013
Even after a less-than-stellar 2012 season, it’s safe to say USC has enjoyed phenomenal success on the football field over the past decade or so. And while a number of factors have gone into that run, one crucial component has been the ability of the coaching staff to put together elite recruiting classes every year.

And while USC has gotten plenty of production from five-star, blue-chip recruits, the Trojans have also unearthed their share of hidden gems.

Here’s a look at five of the top sleepers who produced big for the Trojans:

1. S Troy Polamalu, Douglas (Winston, Ore.), Class of 1999
Hidden away in the small town of Tenmile, Oregon, Polamalu wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school despite starring on both sides of the ball for Douglas. Winding up at USC primarily because of his uncle and current Trojans’ running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, he would go on to earn All-American honors at safety before
landing in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he’s earned seven Pro Bowl berths.

2. LB Clay Matthews III, Agoura (Agoura Hills, Calif.), Class of 2004
The son of former Trojans’ All-American Clay Matthews Jr., Matthews III was physically undersized as a prep player and arrived at USC as an unrecruited walk-on. A tireless worker, he would eventually develop into a monster for the Trojans at linebacker, particularly in his senior season when he posted 56 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Now with the Green Bay Packers, he’s established himself as one of the NFL’s most prolific pass rushers.

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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.

Recap of Trojans in NFL draft

April, 28, 2012
After seeing Matt Kalil and Nick Perry go off the board quickly in the first round of the NFL draft, USC fans waited until fullback Rhett Ellison was chosen by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round (No. 128 overall) to see another former Trojans player selected.

That was it for former USC players in this draft and, although several players have and will be signing free agent contracts, the total of three overall picks reflects the fewest number of USC players selected in a draft since 2002.

Whether that reality is a comment on recruiting, a coaching transition or a program under sanctions, the fact is that there were nine players who were eligible to be drafted this year that came to USC ranked as one of the top five players at their position. Only one, Kalil, was selected in the draft.

That mark should certainly change next year when Trojans are likely to dominate the draft boards, particularly with seniors such as Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Khaled Holmes.

The good news is that USC continues to lead the nation when it comes to total number of draftees (476) and first round selections (77).

Kalil became the 22nd offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round from USC since 1968, an average of one every other year. He is the third member of his family to be selected in the draft -- father Frank by the Bills and brother Ryan by the Panthers -- while he is also the third USC offensive tackle to be a first-round choice of the Vikings (Ron Yary, 1968 and Steve Riley, 1974).

Ellison certainly has some NFL connections of his own as his father, Riki, was a fifth-round pick of the San Francisco 49’ers and won two Super Bowls during his playing career.

Kalil and Ellison were one of three sets of college teammates who were chosen by the Vikings in the draft (Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton from Notre Dame and Jarius Wright and Greg Childs from Arkansas).

Perry will have some USC familiarity when he heads to Green Bay as he will be lined up opposite Clay Matthews, who was a senior in 2008 when Perry redshirted for the Trojans.

Perry was known as a defensive end in high school and college, but the Packers are planning to use him as an outside linebacker to apply some much needed pass rush help for the defense.

There were also several early free agent signings for USC players on Saturday:

RB Marc Tyler -- Green Bay Packers

WR Brandon Carswell -- Oakland Raiders

LB Chris Galippo -- Indianapolis Colts

Ellison to Vikings in 4th round 

April, 28, 2012
USC fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round (No. 128 pick overall) of the 2012 NFL draft.

Ellison was the second USC player drafted by the Vikings this year after the selection of left tackle Matt Kalil in the first round. Both Kalil and Ellison come from accomplished football families and will bring a solid work ethic to the team. The Trojans football program re-named the team leadership award after Ellison this year to reflect the contributions he made during his USC career.

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WeAreSC Roundtable 

April, 26, 2012
Rhett EllisonAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillIt doesn't matter where an NFL team decides to put him -- the WeAreSC panel sees good things at the next level for fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison.

“This year’s draft class for USC has Matt Kalil and Nick Perry going early but a lot of uncertainty after that. Give your thoughts on three draft eligible players -- outside of Kalil and Perry -- who will have the best chance of sticking with a team, either through the draft or free agency.”

Garry Paskwietz

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USC pro day updates 

March, 7, 2012
We will be providing updates from Pro Day today.

These are unofficial 40 times:

Marc Tyler 4.83

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We Are SC roundtable 

March, 1, 2012
Matt Kalil blocks a field goal attemptJoe Andras/WeAreSC.comMatt Kalil's block of a game-tying Utah field goal attempt on the last play of the second game of the season helped set the tone for the Trojans the rest of the way.

Give your top three special teams plays from 2011.

Garry Paskwietz
1) Andre Heidari tackle on De'Anthony Thomas kickoff return vs. Oregon

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Five players to watch this spring 

February, 28, 2012
Greg Townsend, Jr.Garry Paskwietz/WeAreSC.comGreg Townsend Jr. has all the necessary physical tools to make an impact as a rotation defensive end, and spring practice will go a long way to seeing if he's mentally ready to make that leap.

LOS ANGELES -- With spring practice now officially one week away, let's take a look at five players who have stood out in offseason workouts and seem to be ready for bigger roles this spring.

WR Victor Blackwell -- There has been a lot of attention paid to the move of George Farmer back to wide receiver and deservedly so, as Farmer has looked good in returning to his preferred position. However, Farmer is going to have competition for the No. 3 receiver spot from Blackwell, a speedy redshirt freshman who has the kind of burst and explosion that Lane Kiffin wants to see in his receivers. Blackwell also has one advantage over Farmer, as his familiarity with Matt Barkley dates back to when both played at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei HS.

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Mixed combine results for USC RBs 

February, 26, 2012
A pair of Trojans, Marc Tyler and Rhett Ellison, took part in the running back drills on Sunday at the NFL combine with markedly different results.

Ellison (6-foot-5, 251 pounds) didn't wow anybody with his testing results, which included a 4.88 in the 40-yard dash and a 31.5 inch vertical jump, but those aren't areas where Ellison is going to impress the NFL scouts. Those numbers were solid enough, however, to allow the scouts to appreciate what he does bring to the table, which is a solid and reliable football player who can contribute at fullback and tight end.

Ellison showed himself well going through drills as a fullback, a position which he moved to as a senior in 2011, and he looked fairly smooth and natural at the spot. There is also plenty of tape of him at tight end for scouts to watch which, combined with his performance on Sunday, should only help solidify Ellison as a player who will definitely get selected in the draft.

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USC throwing session tidbits 

February, 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans held a throwing session on Tuesday following their team conditioning session. Here are some highlights:

* Wes Horton spent a lot of time working with Greg Townsend on technique during drills

* First-unit lines were Kevin Graf, John Martinez, Khaled Holmes, Abe Markowitz, Aundrey Walker (Marcus Martin had left early) on offense, with Devon Kennard, Cody Temple, J.R. Tavai and Horton on defense. (George Uko had left early)

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Trojans looking for traditional fullback 

February, 14, 2012
Like the offensive line, fullbacks tend to be overlooked by fans and the media. Even though the position isn’t known for long runs or winning touchdowns, the fullback is vital to the success of the Trojans offense next season.

Last season, the Trojans were somewhat limited in the run game. With an offense that is typically known for its wide and outside zone running, the Trojans found its success running inside. While one half could be blamed to the offensive line having a difficult time with their techniques and landmarks when running it wide, the other half can be chalked up to a lack of a system fullback.

With all that being said, the offense still produced a 1,000 yard rusher in Curtis McNeal. Leading the way for McNeal were seniors Rhett Ellison and Ross Cumming. With Ellison a tight end originally and Cumming a linebacker, the two had little experience lining up in the backfield. Both did a good job considering the circumstances, but their lack of experience also played a part in limiting the offense’s play-calling.

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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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