USC: Wes Horton

Barkley, Woods look to make NFL mark

March, 27, 2013
The Trojans will hold their annual NFL pro day on Wednesday, a showcase for all draft-eligible players, but the spotlight will be shining brightest on the workout of Matt Barkley.

After not being able to take part in the Senior Bowl or the NFL Combine due to an injured shoulder, this will be the opportunity for Barkley to prove to coaches and scouts that he is healthy and deserving of a first-round selection.

Because Barkley hasn't thrown since getting injured against UCLA, there are many questions about his draft status. Will he be a first-day pick or will he fall into the second round? So much will depend upon the health of the shoulder and how he performs in the roughly 60 throws he will make to Robert Woods. There are no questions about his leadership and character but, in the end, an NFL quarterback needs to be able to make the throws, and that is what Barkley will need to show.

Woods will be looking to prove something himself, as well. This is a deep receiver draft and most mock drafts have him going in the second round, but a recent mock draft from Charley Casserly at had Woods as a first-round pick. The main goal for Woods in this workout is to get a 40 time below 4.5. He ran 4.51 at the combine and getting into the 4.4 range would mean a lot in the constant jockeying for draft position.

This will also be the first opportunity to conduct a workout for center Khaled Holmes, who withdrew from the Senior Bowl and then got hurt during the weightlifting portion of the combine.

Others working out will include a trio of defensive backs in T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling along with defensive end Wes Horton and running back Curtis McNeal.

The USC Pro Day will be shown live on ESPN3 at 11:15 a.m. PT.

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview 

December, 28, 2012

USC (7-5, 5-4) versus Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3)

Where: El Paso, Texas

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.

Scouting UCLA's Brett Hundley

November, 14, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin has found he keeps asking himself one question when watching UCLA's freshman quarterback, Brett Hundley, on film to prepare for the Bruins this week.

"How can that happen with a freshman?' " Kiffin asks himself.

Hundley is, indeed, a redshirt freshman starring for surprising UCLA this season. He has led the upstart Bruins to an 8-2 start with consistently solid and sometimes spectacular performances.

He has completed at least 64 percent of his passes in every one of his starts. In his worst game of the season, he still threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-47 passing (just with four interceptions.)

Hundley has gone five games without throwing a pick. USC's Matt Barkley, by contrast, has only gone three -- and has five multi-interception games. Hundley only has two.

"He's put together unbelievable numbers the whole season," Kiffin said of Hundley. "It's very unusual."

Kiffin has specifically credited three people with playing a role in Hundley's early success: UCLA head coach Jim Mora, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and, in a bit of a different way, running back Johnathan Franklin.

"They've done a great job with him," Kiffin said, speaking of Mora and Mazzone. "It's a great system. They've somehow managed him to be a freshman and not make a ton of mistakes and not turn the ball over a lot.

"A lot of credit to them and him. He's played really well."

(Read full post)

Built to Perform: USC run defense

November, 14, 2012
One of the key areas for USC in its upcoming game with UCLA is the ability of the Trojans to stop the Bruins’ run game.

UCLA runs a no-huddle, spread offense featuring senior tailback Johnathan Franklin, who is among the nation’s leading rushers, and redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, who has been very efficient this season. The ability to successfully run the football has been a big part of why the Bruins are 8-2 in the first year under coach Jim Mora. UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is a familiar name for USC fans -- he was at the controls of the Arizona State offense in 2011 when the Sun Devils beat the Trojans in Tempe.

So far in 2012, the Trojans are giving up 3.9 yards per rush, while the Bruins are averaging 4.7 yards per rush with 45 attempts per game. USC has seen varying results against the run in recent weeks against teams who use a spread offense. The Trojans held Arizona State to just 71 rushing yards last week but gave up 321 yards on the ground two weeks ago to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner.

[+] EnlargeT.J. McDonald
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireUSC senior safety T.J. McDonald will be relied upon to help contain the running prowess of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.
Here are three important ways the USC defense is built to perform in this game:

Stopping Franklin: The all-time leading rusher in UCLA history is also the nation’s No. 6 leading rusher with 1,270 yards. It will be critical for the USC defense to be aggressive and make early contact. The Trojans are No. 4 in the nation in tackles for loss, and that stat will be important to watch as USC hopes to limit the number of open-field runs for Franklin.

The Hundley factor: USC senior safety T.J. McDonald could play a major role here to help contain the young Bruins signal-caller. Hundley isn’t afraid to run the football -- he has 111 rush attempts -- and he has six touchdowns on the ground this year. He is a very steady player and hasn’t been rattled a lot this season but this game will be a step up on every level. Look for Monte Kiffin to use McDonald in different ways to confuse Hundley as much as possible.

Inexperience on the line: The Bruins start three freshmen on the offensive line, and you can be sure the Trojans’ defensive line will be looking to take advantage of that. USC is coming off one of its best D-line performances of the year, and Ed Orgeron’s group is getting production from multiple players right now. Senior end Wes Horton has battled back from an early-season injury to be playing at a high level, while Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams have been very effective as well.

The USC 10: Week 10 

November, 5, 2012
Each week, the WeAreSC staff will update the rankings to reflect which USC players are making the biggest impact.

Here is the USC 10 following the 62-51 loss to Oregon:

1. Marqise Lee: The most dynamic player in college football had 12 catches for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also adding a Pac-12-record 251 kickoff-return yards.

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USC Awards Tracker: Week 7 

October, 16, 2012
Here is an update on the performances of USC players who have been named to various college football award watch lists:

[+] EnlargeDion Bailey
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIDion Bailey was a monster against Washington with seven tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
LB Dion Bailey, So. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Lombardi, Butkus): Bailey contributed in many ways, tying for second on the team with seven tackles, intercepting an early pass and causing a late fumble.

QB Matt Barkley, Sr. (Camp, Maxwell, O’Brien): It was a pedestrian night by Barkley standards. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 167 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

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USC defense playing well as a unit 

October, 14, 2012
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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WeAreSC Roundtable 

September, 27, 2012
Morgan Breslin Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJuco transfer Morgan Breslin and the defensive line have been a pleasant surprise for the Trojans thus far. The struggles of their high-powered offense, not so much.
“With the Trojans at the bye week, give your three biggest story lines from what we've seen so far this year.”

Garry Paskwietz
1. Status of USC passing game: Coming into the season, it was expected that the combination of quarterback Matt Barkley throwing to receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee would basically be unstoppable. While the passing attack has been extremely good at times, it simply isn’t at the level that was projected for this group. Odds are they will get on track at some point because all three of them really are that good.

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USC Awards Tracker: Week 4

September, 25, 2012

Here is an update on performances of USC players who have been named to various college football award watch lists:

LB Dion Bailey, So. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Lombardi, Butkus): Bailey was second on the team in tackles with eight (six solo) as he continues his consistent performance in 2012.

[+] EnlargeT.J. McDonald
Chris Williams/Icon SMIUSC safety T.J. McDonald had the play of the game against Cal, a second-half interception deep in Trojans territory.
QB Matt Barkley, Sr. (Camp, Maxwell, O’Brien): On a day when the run game dominated for the Trojans, Barkley went 22-of-34 passing for 192 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

PK Andre Heidari, So. (Groza): Hit both of his field-goal attempts (40, 41 yards)

OC Khaled Holmes, Sr. (Rimington): Returned from injury to helped lead run game to 296 yards.

WR Marqise Lee, So. (Biletnikoff, Maxwell): Had 11 catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

DB T.J. McDonald, Sr. (Thorpe, Camp, Bednarik, Nagurski, Lott): Had the play of the day with a critical interception deep in the USC end. McDonald also tied for the team lead in tackles with nine.

WR Robert Woods, Jr. (Biletnikoff, Camp, Maxwell): Was limited to five catches for 30 yards.

RB Curtis McNeal, Sr. (Maxwell, Walker): His 62-yard run on the opening possession was a sign of a good running day for the Trojans. Ended the game with 115 yards on 10 carries.

LB Hayes Pullard, So. (Lombardi): Had four tackles before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.

RB Silas Redd, Jr. (Camp, Maxwell, Walker): Redd was the workhorse of the USC ground game, he led the way with 21 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown.

DB Nickell Robey, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe): Had four tackles as the secondary wasn’t tested much in this one.

DL Wes Horton, Sr. (Lombardi): Saw his most extensive action of the season and ended the game with three solo tackles and a sack.

Big day for USC D-line 

September, 23, 2012
Lane Kiffin made it clear coming into the season that the inexperience along the defensive line was his biggest concern. Judging by what he saw against Cal, it’s safe to say Kiffin feels a lot better about that group right now.

The line was fantastic against the Bears. No number stands out more than seven. That's how many sacks the Trojans recorded in a game, a rare number for any group to hit, and it’s one that should be celebrated. One of the best things about it for the Trojans was how the sacks were so spread out -- Morgan Breslin had three, Leonard Williams had two and George Uko and Wes Horton each had one. The three sacks by Breslin were the most by a USC player since Rey Maualuga did it against Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl. Breslin also added 4.5 tackles for loss, the most by a Trojan since Lawrence Jackson in 2007. Williams and Uko each added three tackles for loss of their own.

To say that Breslin has been a revelation would be an understatement. The Trojans really needed someone to step up at end with the loss of Devon Kennard and the injury to Horton, which kept him out of early games. Breslin has filled that role perfectly and been a real sparkplug. Williams isn’t far behind in terms of making an impact, especially considering he is a true freshman, while Breslin is a junior college transfer.

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Postgame notes: USC beats Cal

September, 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- No. 13 USC Trojans beat California Golden Bears for the ninth straight season on Saturday at the Coliseum, 27-9. Here are news, notes and quotes from the game that won't make it into our other coverage from the day:

Seven sacks

Coach Lane Kiffin likes to begin his postgame news conferences after USC wins by telling reporters what the "story of the day" was.

Sometimes, he's right on target; sometimes he's not. He was exactly right with his opening comments this time.

"I think that the game was won at the line of scrimmage," Kiffin said, pointing out that his Trojans had seven sacks to Cal's zero.

That really was the single biggest reason USC beat Cal on Saturday, the single biggest reason the Trojans were able to put last week's upset loss at Stanford behind them despite a decidedly less-than-perfect performance on offense and in the secondary.

"They came around today," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said of his unit.

USC's linebackers have been the defense's strength over the last season-plus, and it's not necessarily any different now, but the Trojans' linemen really made the three 'backers look good Saturday.

"It's great when the linemen are rotating, staying fresh and keeping their linemen off us linebackers," said middle linebacker Lamar Dawson. "Then we can make plays."

Weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard said the linemen forced Cal quarterback Zach Maynard into some unusual mistakes.

Defensive end Wes Horton, who played at full strength for the first time this season, said the Trojans noticed in meetings this week that Cal's offensive linemen wouldn't be difficult to beat if schemed correctly.

"They were OK," Horton said. "It was a matter of creating the right moves to beat them."

Horton and fellow end Morgan Breslin certainly found them -- Breslin was credited with three sacks, the most by a USC defender since Rey Maualuga's 2008 Rose Bowl performance against Illinois.

(Read full post)

Halftime Analysis: USC 17, Cal 3

September, 22, 2012
Stat of half: 293 total yards
The Trojans have been fairly balanced with 158 rushing yards and 135 passing yards and actually had passed the 300-yard mark of total offense for the half before Matt Barkley stumbled for a loss on USC's final play of the half. To contrast, California has 98 yards of total offense.

Player of the half: USC's defensive line
The Trojans have been able to put good pressure on Cal quarterback Zach Maynard and have three sacks by three different players (Wes Horton, Morgan Breslin and George Uko).

What’s working: USC run game
Curtis McNeal has gone over the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in his career (he has six carries for 113 yards) and Silas Redd added a 33-yard touchdown run.

What’s not working: Passing game precision
It’s not like the Trojans are having a bad day throwing the football, but it could be a lot better. Barkley has thrown two interceptions and both Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have dropped catchable long passes -- the one to Lee would have likely gone for a touchdown.

Postgame notes: Stanford

September, 16, 2012

STANFORD, Calif. -- Here are notes, quotes and video that won't make it into our other coverage of No. 2 USC's 21-14 loss to No. 21 Stanford on Saturday at Stanford Stadium:

Holmes' absence an issue

The Trojans were without their best offensive lineman against Stanford, and it really hurt them.

Center Khaled Holmes appeared to hurt his right ankle in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Syracuse. He dressed and warmed up with his teammates Saturday and was treated as a game-time decision, but he was limited to an assistant-coach role, not playing at all against the Cardinal.

It was unfortunate luck for USC, who would've already had trouble blocking Stanford's tough front seven but found it virtually impossible without Holmes.

"If there was a game on the schedule you'd pick that you wouldn't want to be missing your senior center, this is it," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said after the game. "I think any time you miss what I think is an All-American center who has been there a lot and played with Matt a lot, he misses a hard game."

Right guard John Martinez said he and his offensive line mates had confidence in Holmes' replacement, redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi, going in, but admitted they missed "Khaled's presence and his intangibles."

Quarterback Matt Barkley refused to accept Holmes' absence as a reason his team lost.

"I don't think you can put the blame on that," Barkley said. "There's a lot that can go on besides that."

(Read full post)

Game-time updates: USC-Stanford

September, 15, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -- We're just about set to go here at Stanford Stadium for No. 2 USC against No. 21 Stanford. Here are some last-minute updates as we approach the 4:50 p.m. PT kickoff:
  • In true John Baxter fashion, USC backup kicker Alex Wood has switched numbers this week from No. 6 to No. 48 -- which happens to be the number that starting kicker Andre Heidari wears normally. Heidari did not make the trip to the Bay Area.
  • Center Khaled Holmes, who went down in the fourth quarter of last week's Syracuse game because of an apparent ankle injury, suited up and participated in warmups. He did not appear severely limited but was wearing a brace on his right ankle. Backups Abe Markowitz and Cyrus Hobbi were also snapping the ball in warmups.
  • Defensive end Wes Horton warmed up pregame despite missing the second half of Syracuse because of an unspecified injury. Fellow end J.R. Tavai, who also missed the second half last week, was not warming up with his teammates. It could really hurt USC to not have him against the Cardinal, considering he has proven adept at run-stopping in his USC career.
  • The weather at Stanford Stadium is a perfect 72 degrees, with temperatures set to drop into the high 50s by the second half. Fans began to pile in an hour and a half before kickoff.

We'll have extensive postgame coverage after today's game on



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