USC: USC football

Offense explosive in Thursday's practice

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
11:45
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Lane Kiffin during his USC Trojans' loss to the Notre Dame Fighting IrishHarry How/Getty ImagesLane Kiffin is liking what he is seeing from his early enrollees in spring practice.

It’s easy to notice the upbeat style of play through the first two days of USC spring ball, and it was evident on Thursday with a team drill that featured some explosive plays from the offense.

The team drill started off strong for the defense, as the offense was backed up near its own goal line on the south end of Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field, and the defense had some stops, led by the interior front with Antwaun Woods, George Uko and Leonard Williams.

After the offense switched to the north end of the field, however, things began to change. Max Wittek hit Nelson Agholor for a short gain, and Agholor showed his burst of speed to outrun the secondary and make it a long gain. With the ball placed again deep in the offense's end, Silas Redd took a handoff and went 85 yards down the left sideline before being driven out at the 10-yard line by Kevon Seymour.

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USC spring schedule released

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
2:25
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The spring practice schedule has been released for USC, and it includes sessions that will be open to the public.

The dates for practice are:
March 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 26, 28, 30
April 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13

The start times each Tuesday and Thursday are 4 p.m. on campus, Saturdays at the Coliseum (3/9 at 2 p.m., 3/16 at 9 a.m., 3/30 and 4/6 at 11 a.m. in Coliseum). These are subject to change.

USC practices in recent years have been closed due to NCAA-sanction-related issues, but the Trojans will open up eight practices this spring with a viewing area designated in the Dedeaux Field plaza area for 200 fans per day. Practices on March 5, 7, 9, 14, 26, 28 and April 4, 9 and 11 will be open to the public.

The USC spring game will be held on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. in the Coliseum.

USC’s annual pro day workout for NFL scouts is March 27.

Video: Paskwietz on Barkley's season

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
2:32
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WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz talks about Matt Barkley's up-and-down senior campaign.

Podcast: USC-UCLA preview 

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
1:10
PM PT
Listen to WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz and Jeremy Hogue previewing USC-UCLA, a rivalry game that has the added bonus of having a Pac-12 title game berth on the line.

USC looks to rebound against Oregon

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
1:29
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There is a lot on the line as USC gets ready to take on Oregon on Saturday at the Coliseum. The game may not have national title implications for both sides, but there is still plenty at stake in terms of the Pac-12 title and a potential Rose Bowl berth.

Chip Kelly
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesA USC win over Chip Kelly's high-powered Ducks will go a long way toward easing the pain from last week's Arizona loss.

As much as the loss to Arizona stung the Trojans last weekend, the reality is that USC still controls its destiny for a berth in the conference title game. Right now, the Trojans are one of three teams in the Pac-12 South with two conference losses, and it just so happens the other two teams (Arizona State and UCLA) are on the USC schedule following Oregon.

If the Trojans can get by the Ducks -- and then get wins over the Sun Devils and Bruins -- it would possibly give USC home-field advantage for the conference title game. A victory in that game would then propel USC into a New Year’s Day berth at the Trojans’ home away from home, the Rose Bowl.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, of course, it isn’t. Not by a long shot. But just because it isn’t simple doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, it would represent one of the best finishes in USC history, especially if it also included a victory over unbeaten Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

Let’s face it: Very little about this season has been easy. The Trojans were expected to be a smooth-running machine with so many starters returning from a team that was on the rise at the end of last season. Through the first two months of 2012, however, there have been an unexpected number of sputtering moments mixed in with some bouts of inspired play. There have also been penalties and mental lapses fans just didn’t see coming from such a veteran group.

Even with all that, the Trojans still have a chance. And the scheduling gods didn’t mess around either, as the Ducks are next up and they have been as good as advertised.

Oregon has taken the Trojans’ spot atop the Pac-12 mountain in recent years, but there were legitimate questions coming into the season. The Ducks had lost stars at quarterback and running back -- players who had seen a lot of success -- and there was uncertainty about their replacements.

It’s a tribute to Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s system that the Ducks haven’t skipped a beat with the new starters. When you add a defense as good as any Oregon has put on the field in recent years, you have a team that has emerged as one of the favorites to reach the national title game. How perfectly did the stars align to have the Ducks visit the Coliseum at a time when the Trojans need a really big win?

Last year, USC’s victory over the Ducks was a huge step for a program looking to reclaim a place among the nation’s elite. This year, the result could make an even bigger statement on the direction of the program.

A victory for the Trojans would be a special start to a November march toward a Rose Bowl berth that would be a fitting ending for this team. A loss? Well, a loss puts this season in a place that no USC fan wants it to go. This much we know: The Ducks are coming to town on Saturday and the Trojans are going to need to be ready.

The USC 10: Week 8 rankings 

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
4:36
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Whenever a team wins 50-6, as USC did on Saturday, there are always plenty of standouts. Here are the 10 players who made the biggest impact on the Trojans' rout of Colorado.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesSaturday's 50-6 win over Colorado was all about Matt Barkley and Robert Woods.
1. Matt Barkley: Setting the Pac-12 career touchdown mark -- and a single-game-completion-percentage record as well -- will earn Barkley the top spot once again.

2. Robert Woods: Barkley wasn’t the only record-breaker as Woods got into the action by setting the all-time USC receptions mark while also becoming the first Trojan to catch four touchdowns in one game.

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First Look: Arizona

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
4:35
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USC Trojans (6-1 overall, 4-1 in Pac-12) vs. Arizona Wildcats (4-3 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, October 27

[+] EnlargeMatt Scott
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireDual-threat QB Matt Scott leads a potent Arizona offense.
Time: 12:30 p.m. PT

Location: Wildcat Stadium (Tucson, Ariz.)

TV: ABC or ESPN2

Radio: ESPNLA 710 (pre-game show begins at 7 a.m. PT)

Scouting Arizona: Arizona, under new coach Rich Rodriguez, snapped a three-game losing streak (all to ranked teams) with a convincing 52-17 win against Washington on Saturday.

The Wildcats sport a potent offense that is fifth nationally in total offense (548.7 yards per game, first in Pac-12) and passing offense (352.3 ypg, first in Pac-12) and 20th in scoring offense (39.1, second in Pac-12). Senior QB Matt Scott (200 of 311, 64.3 percent, 2,355 yards, 17 TD, eight INT in 2012, plus 65 carries, 265 yards, 4.1 avg, three TD) is fourth nationally in total offense (374.3, first in Pac-12). Sophomore RB Ka’Deem Carey (155 carries, 842 yards, 5.4 avg, 11 TD, plus 22 receptions, 222 yards, 10.1 avg, one TD) is 14th nationally in rushing (120.3, fourth in Pac-12), 16th in all-purpose running (154.3, third in Pac-12) and tied for 18th in scoring (10.3, second in Pac-12). Sophomore WR Austin Hill (44 receptions, 678 yards, 15.4 avg, seven TD in 2012), who is 14th nationally in receiving yards (96.9, fourth in Pac-12) and senior Dan Buckner (44 rec, 599 yds, 13.6 avg, 2 TD in 2012) are the top pass catchers.

On the other hand, UA’s defense is in the bottom 20 nationally in total defense (464.7 yards per game, 11th in Pac-12). Junior MLB Jake Fischer (67 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries) is the Pac-12’s top tackler (9.6), while sophomore safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant (43 tackles, 10.5 for loss, one INT, 4 deflections, 1 forced fumble) and sophomore CB Jonathan McKnight (29 tackles, three INT, 3 deflections) lead the secondary. -- courtesy USC sports information

Five storylines: USC vs. Colorado 

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
3:52
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1. USC returns home: After playing four of their past five games on the road, the Trojans return Saturday to the Coliseum for an afternoon game in front of a sold-out crowd. The opponent isn’t expected to offer the stiffest challenge, as the Buffaloes are 1-5 on the season and are ranked in the bottom 20 nationally in both total offense and total defense.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Russ Isabella/US PresswireMatt Barkley needs three touchdown passes against Colorado to surpass former Trojan Matt Leinart for the most in Pac-12 history.
2. Trojans into the record books: USC quarterback Matt Barkley is three touchdowns away from setting a Pac-12 career mark for touchdown passes (surpassing Matt Leinart). USC receiver Robert Woods needs 4 catches to establish a USC career receptions mark (moving past Dwayne Jarrett). The Buffs rank last in the conference in pass defense, so the odds are good that the USC players will set those marks in front of the home crowd.

3. Colorado tight end Nick Kasa vs USC linebackers: Kasa measures in at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, and that will be a decided size advantage against the smaller and quicker Trojans linebackers. Kasa has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past three games, and he will be one of the primary hopes for the Buffs to score some points.

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USC defense playing well as a unit 

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
2:49
PM PT
The USC victory over Washington confirmed something that has been building over the first half of the season, the fact that the tone of this Trojans team is being set by the defense.

It’s been a pretty unexpected development considering the firepower of the USC offense, but right now the defense has been the more consistent side of the ball and on Saturday they provided a steady hand in a tough road environment.

The first big play came from linebacker Dion Bailey – which is no surprise considering Bailey has been the biggest constant on the USC defense all year long. What made Bailey’s interception stand out was not just the early turnover but the way he reached back and grabbed the ball behind him. It was a very acrobatic play and a reminder that Bailey was once a ball-hawking safety, one who had nine interceptions as a junior in high school.

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Running game leading way for Trojans 

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
2:47
PM PT
In the victory over Washington, the USC Trojans did not have a player gain 100 yards receiving.

Think about that stat for a moment. The USC offense is the very definition of explosive plays from the passing game. This is a team with two receivers who can get that many yards in a single quarter and a quarterback who is as good as any in the country but it wasn’t the case at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

It’s not like this completely came out of nowhere, either. The Trojans offensive attack led by quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee has seen their big-play production reduced lately as opponents have made a concerted effort to prevent them from changing a game with their abilities. As that reality has come into play, the Trojans have begun to turn more and more to the running game to provide a consistent role and the game against Washington provided the best example yet of the run game coming through.

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3 Up, 3 Down: USC 24, Washington 14 

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
2:47
PM PT
LOS ANGELES – A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 24-14 victory over Washington on Saturday night.

THREE UP

1. Silas Redd: Redd was easily the Trojans’ most reliable and consistent option on offense throughout the game, rushing the ball 26 times for 155 yards and 1 touchdown. It was the tenth time in his career that the junior running back went over 100 yards on the ground – the third time as a Trojan.

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Trojans a day ahead of practice schedule

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
5:54
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LOS ANGELES -- It was a shorts and helmets practice for the Trojans as they gear up for Saturday's matchup with Washington in Seattle. With the team working a day ahead of schedule, Wednesday’s practice resembled more of a Thursday practice in regard to what was worked on, and Kiffin was pleased with where the team is now, in terms of its preparation.

“Once again, good to be a day ahead [and to] have a first Thursday -- we’ll have another one tomorrow,” Kiffin said. “I thought [the] guys looked good. I think they’re excited to go on the road again and play in a great environment.”

Shaw still in the mix at cornerback

One of the biggest storylines of the week has centered on Josh Shaw being thrown into the competition at cornerback, as the Trojans search for consistent play at the spot opposite Nickell Robey.

After practice, Kiffin said no decision had been made as to whether the Palmdale native will see time against the Huskies at the position occupied by Torin Harris for the last three games.

“We haven’t figured out what we’ll do on game day yet,” Kiffin said. “We’ll go back after this practice, and after tomorrow’s, and I’ll obviously talk with the defensive staff about how he’s doing over there, and we’ll go from there.”

[+] EnlargeRyan Nassib
Debby Wong/US PresswireTrue freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams got the second start of his Trojans' career last week against Utah.
The emergence of Williams

Supplanting Antwaun Woods in the lineup, freshman Leonard Williams earned the second start of his USC career against Utah, and he responded with five stops at defensive tackle. According to Kiffin, the move had less to do with Woods and more to do with Williams' exceptional play so far this season.

“That was off of performance -- nothing to do with Antwaun,” Kiffin said. “That was all Leonard. Leonard had performed really well in his opportunities in the games, especially in the previous game, Cal. So it came down to how we run our program -- to create more production. So Leonard got the start and he did well, and he’s going to be a great player here.”

Night to forget for Heidari

As viewers saw on television, place-kicker Andre Heidari had what might have been his roughest night as a Trojan against Utah, connecting on just 1 of 3 field-goal attempts -- the first time in his career he has missed two field goals in a game.

But as Kiffin revealed, what most people didn’t see was that Heidari also lost his composure on the sideline, at one point appearing to have a verbal altercation with some fans in the stands.

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Defense the story as USC preps for Utah

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
2:23
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Lamar DawsonCal Sport Media via AP ImagesFinally healthy, Lamar Dawson is wreaking havor for the Trojans from his linebacker position.
LOS ANGELES -- It was shorts and shoulder pads for the Trojans on Monday morning for what USC coach Lane Kiffin referred to as a Thursday practice in terms of its look and what was covered. Just three days remain before the Utah game, and a refreshed USC squad is anticipating a spirited crowd at sold-out Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“I think the players are anxious to play again after having some time off,” said Kiffin following practice. “And we’re excited for it. I think it will be a very entertaining game in a place that I think will be rocking when we go in there. It’ll be a good test for us.”

Storyline of the day: Cornerbacks
The cornerbacks were the topic of the day on Monday, with Kiffin noting the stellar play of Nickell Robey at the outset of his post-practice media session. You don’t hear the 5-foot-8 standout’s name called very often, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly by no fault of his own.

“I think he’s played great, they just don’t throw at him,” said Kiffin. “You’re seeing of him a little bit like Robert [Woods]. If they take something away, or don’t give you the opportunity, it’s hard to get numbers. “

The best way to get Robey more opportunities, Kiffin said, would be to get improved play out of the opposite cornerback position, something that the Trojans have struggled with in 2012.

“We need to play better at the other spot, and force them to throw the ball to [Robey],” he said. “We need to cover better, we need to tackle better and we need to make the play when the play is there. It’s no secret we haven’t played well there. We haven’t played well there all year, and it’s unfortunate for Nickell because, I mean, we’ve watched the film, the ball goes the other way all the time.”

Time for Harris to settle in
The quick fix for the Trojans opposite Robey since the Syracuse game has been Torin Harris, but with Harris having missed extensive time at the start of the season due to injury, Kiffin admitted that maybe they rushed him. The good news is that, with some extra time to get in shape this week, there’s hope Harris will begin to resemble the standout cover corner that the staff fell in love with at the beginning of the 2011 season.

“Torin has missed a lot of time,” Kiffin said. “We probably played Torin too much right away. As you go back to that Syracuse game, he played 70 snaps or something. We can’t do that because he’d been out for so long. So I think this bye has been good for him. He’s got some extra conditioning in, and I think he’ll continue to improve.”

Awesome Dawson
Lamar Dawson has been one of the stars of the defense since returning from injury before the Syracuse game, racking up 19 tackles in the past two contests alone. And this might just be the tip of the iceberg for the 6-foot-2, 235-pound middle linebacker.

“I think we played our best game on defense last week -- it had a lot to do with him,” said Kiffin. “He’s played physical, and he’s finally getting comfortable. He’s only in his second year, and he’s been hurt in both seasons and missed time. So it’s almost like he kind of now has one full season of games. So we’re really excited about his development and the way that he’s played the last two weeks.”

Mr. Versatility
It’s not as if T.J. McDonald had a whole lot more to prove heading into this season in terms of his individual play, but now you can add versatility to his long list of talents. The Trojans have been bringing the 2011 All-American safety up on certain plays into a kind of hybrid defensive end position, freeing him up to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage. It’s safe to say that the move has been a success so far, further emphasizing his unique abilities.

“We did some similar things with Eric Berry a few years ago in our one year with him, and it really kind of came from watching T.J. blocking kicks -- how well he rushed,” explained Kiffin. “And when it came up, our defensive ends had been beat up like they still are, so it allows us to get some reps there with some speed. And obviously he can drop too, and do all of the things in coverage as well.”

Hays a backup no more
Utah’s offense was dealt a crushing blow in the second game of the season when fourth-year starting quarterback Jordan Wynn went down with a career-ending shoulder injury. Six-foot senior Jon Hays has taken over, and the transition has certainly come with its struggles -- the Utah offense currently ranks dead-last in the Pac-12 in passing offense (298.2 yards per game). Hays has shown promise, and with 11 starts under his belt, he doesn’t lack experience.

“I thought he’s thrown the ball well,” Kiffin said. “I thought there were a couple times where they could have helped him out by making some plays outside. From a competitive standpoint, you like when you see a backup that you’re getting ready to play, but when you watch him, he’s not really a backup. And he played a lot last year.”

USC football: One up, one down in 2011

November, 22, 2011
11/22/11
1:44
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LOS ANGELES -- Lately, the pleasant surprises have been more prevalent than the disappointments.

That's another way of saying the USC Trojans are beginning to find their stride just as the season winds down. It didn't have to be this way. Nobody really knew how this season was going to turn out. Of the 76 players who have gotten in games, 40 of them had never played a USC snap before this season.

The USC coaches have played nine true freshmen and 14 redshirt freshmen.

They've lived with youthful mistakes, but seen some of their most blinding talents emerge from this untested group of players. Heading into the season finale against UCLA, let's take a look at one of the Trojans' youngest players and one of its oldest. Appropriately, it was the younger player who had the greater impact.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
Ric Tapia/Icon SMILane Kiffin loves Marqise Lee just about as much as defenses hate covering him.
ONE UP: MARQISE LEE

In case you hadn't noticed, USC coach Lane Kiffin has opened up the playbook in recent weeks, calling more drop-back passing and deep strikes. In part, that's because his offensive line has proven it can protect quarterback Matt Barkley. In part, it's because Barkley now has two extraordinary weapons.

Five months ago, few people would have predicted this kind of stardom for Marqise Lee. He was overshadowed at his own high school, Serra High of Gardena, by current teammates Robert Woods and George Farmer. Much like Woods the year before, he edged ahead of more-decorated freshmen receivers in preseason camps.

"The addition of Marqise to Robert helps a lot with making me look good," Barkley said. "I have a lot of confidence in him to make plays."

Perhaps the main reason USC's future now looks so bright is that they'll have Woods and Lee together for at least one more season, maybe two. It's scary to think how good they can be if they continue to develop.

Only one freshman receiver in the nation, Clemson's Sammy Watkins, has more touchdown catches than Lee's nine. He's become the big-play threat while Woods has been nursing a couple of injuries. Eight of his nine TD catches have been of 24 yards or longer.

The seed for USC's upset of Oregon at Autzen Stadium was planted when Barkley found Lee on a 59-yard TD pass to jump ahead, 14-0. Given the conditions USC has been playing under, Lee -- who doesn't turn 19 until Friday -- is the perfect symbol of a youthful team playing beyond its years.

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Don't look now, Ducks, but here come the Trojans

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
8:08
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LOS ANGELES – Five weeks ago, you could have circled Nov. 19 on USC’s schedule not with a red pen, but with a black one.

It looked like the one game this young Trojans team couldn’t win, like they were walking into an ambush with their eyes wide open, the flood lights on. Against the team that settled into the West Coast vacuum of the Trojans’ decline a few years ago -- Oregon -- at the most hostile setting in the conference -- Autzen Stadium -- in the typically fierce weather up there this time of year…

Hopeless.

USC has beaten Oregon once in the past four years. It hasn’t won in the state of Oregon since 2005, when most of these Trojans were in middle school.

Hopeless.

But then something happened. The Trojans started growing up. They started sensing what they were capable of and they learned how to do it. Does this sound like a team with no hope, like a team worried about if it can return to the top of its conference?

“I don’t want to say anything about Oregon, but we will play anybody, anywhere. We’ll show up ready to fight,” defensive tackle Christian Tupou said. “We’ll play anybody -- on the field, in the parking lot ... Nobody’s scared around here.”

Does this?

“I think more than ever, we are [ready],” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “Oregon’s very good this year, but I think they were better when we played them in the past.”

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