The best of spring football at USC 

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
Here’s our look back at the Trojans’ progress during spring.


[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsWill Nelson Agholor become the latest standout receiver at USC?
Garry Paskwietz: Nelson Agholor
Johnny Curren: Agholor
Greg Katz: Agholor, Hayes Pullard

Curren: From the start of spring ball to last Saturday’s finish no other player performed at such a sky-high level, and with such consistency, as Agholor. A practice didn’t ever seem to go by without the talented junior coming up with at least one highlight catch that caught everyone’s attention. An already solid player heading into the spring, he got even better and appears poised to take his place as the next great USC wide receiver.

Biggest surprise

GP: Zach Banner
JC: Scott Starr
GK: Banner

Katz: It has to be redshirt freshman offensive right tackle Zach Banner, who came out of nowhere -- thanks to the wonders of hip surgery -- to claim the starting position. He probably surprised not only his teammates with his newfound agility but himself as well. Still a work in progress, he is not only turning into a grizzly bear on roller skates but potentially a future All-Pac-12 selection. When Banner is able to stay at pad level, it’s like a tsunami of human girth stream rolling a mismatched opponent.

Most improved

GP: Antwaun Woods
JC: Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick
GK: Cope-Fitzpatrick

Paskwietz: Coach Steve Sarkisian called Woods the standard for the defense at one point during spring ball. That is a very strong statement and one that Woods earned with his play. His physical abilities seem to have all come together and he also looked, and talked, like a confident veteran. It was a very pleasant surprise to see such a strong presence in the middle of the line.

Biggest leap in spring

GP: Claude Pelon
JC: Claude Pelon
GK: Antwaun Woods

Paskwietz: The hope was that Pelon would be able to provide immediate help along the interior of the D-line, particularly with the departure of George Uko to the NFL draft. Pelon started at bit slowly but came on strong and moved into the starting lineup by the final stages of spring. Sarkisian commented on the fact that Pelon seemed to adjust to the pace of play and his game took off once that happened.

Under the radar

GP: Khaliel Rodgers
JC: Banner
GK: Walk-on receivers George Katrib, Christian Tober, and Chris Willson. (Katrib got a scholarship late Tuesday night)

Curren: After undergoing surgery on both hips in the fall, it wasn’t even clear if Banner would be physically ready to participate in spring drills. Ultimately, he did a lot more than just show up, he shined at times -- an impressive feat considering he admittedly isn’t quite back to 100 percent. Appearing more flexible and quicker on his feet than at any other point in his Trojans career, he eventually overtook Nathan Guertler midway through camp as the starting right tackle. As long as he continues to develop, there’s reason to believe that he’s going to stay there.

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WeAreSC chat, 2 p.m. PT 

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
WeAreSC reporter Garry Paskwietz will be chatting about USC football today at 2 p.m. PT. Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

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USC spring football review

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
The Trojans recently wrapped up spring drills under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian and here’s an overview of what took place.

Steve Sarkisian

The first thing you noticed about Sarkisian this spring was that he had a plan. With the roster numbers still limited due to sanctions, along with the normal array of injuries this time of year, Sarkisian knew that full-scale practices with live tackling were not a realistic option.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsSteve Sarkisian has a simple plan -- implement his new schemes while getting and keeping players healthy for the fall -- and it was a success.
Instead he focused on the installation of new schemes on both sides of the ball and getting players healthy for the fall. The plan included morning walk-throughs, along with multiple walk-through teaching sessions built in to each practice. When combined with classroom film work, the walk-throughs allowed even the injured players to keep up as much as possible with the mental work that was being done.

There was definitely a teaching atmosphere from the staff, which is comprised of a lot of former players. If there is ever a staff game held, the Trojans would field a pretty good team. And there is an enthusiastic “gym-rat” quality among the coaches when they are working with players or talking about getting to watch film to break things down. With so many of coaches having been together recently at Washington, there is also a foundation of chemistry that is evident as well.

Perhaps the most notable thing that Sarkisian accomplished this spring, however, was to get the players to buy-in from the start. This is not something to be overlooked. Sarkisian took over the job in December under emotional circumstances and he showed a deft touch in handling the team after the departure of Ed Orgeron. By the time spring drills rolled around, the players were ready to hit the field and play for him, which meant a lot of work got done this spring.


The biggest news from spring was the implementation of the up-tempo style of play, which impacts everything from huddling to player substitutions and conditioning. It is a lot to take in and Sarkisian wasted no time in setting the pace at roughly 120 plays per day, as opposed to the 75-80 that would have been run in previous years. USC fans were hoping to see a little more from the offense during the spring game but a vanilla playsheet and less-than-crisp execution left the fans wanting more. Sarkisian made it clear that he expects more too, and there certainly is plenty of talent available to make that happen.

There was a quarterback competition this spring, but there really wasn’t. Technically, Cody Kessler held on to his job with the official announcement coming from Sarkisian last week but there was never any real doubt about the outcome. Kessler came into the spring as the incumbent who finished the season strong. He was the clear leader of the team, but there was a challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne who has a ton of potential and came into spring ready to go.

Kessler transitioned smoothly to the new offense and Sarkisian praised his decision making, presence in the locker room and arm strength. Browne improved too but not as much as Kessler and the decision was clear to see on the field. Early enrollee true freshman Jalen Greene showed a strong arm, though not always accurate, and some good moves in and around the pocket. It will be interesting to watch his development.

Running backs
One of the big questions coming into spring was the rotation at running back. Sarkisian had primarily used a “bell-cow” tailback in his time at Washington but his current USC roster had several options available at the position. At this point it appears as if Javorius Allen and Tre Madden have secured spots at the top of the rotation as they were listed as co-starters on the end-of-spring depth chart. This move makes sense, Allen picked up where he left off last fall as the team MVP while Madden made a strong comeback after missing time last fall with a hamstring injury.

Ty Isaac missed a lot of time due to injury this spring and probably didn’t do enough to lock down a spot in the rotation. Justin Davis sat out all of spring rehabbing from injury but he will be given every opportunity to see if he can earn some time in fall camp. There were a few D.J. Morgan sightings in walk-throughs although it’s still unclear where things stand in terms of his potential return. Both fullbacks -- Jahleel Pinner and Soma Vainuku -- saw limited action in this system, although each had a few reps carrying the ball.

Wide receivers
[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsSimply put, WR Nelson Agholor was the best player on the field in the spring practices.
Nelson Agholor was the best player on the field with a work ethic that definitely set the tone. There is a strong chemistry between Agholor and Kessler, which makes sense since they are also roommates. Darreus Rogers ended spring on a high note and is the clear front-runner to start opposite Nelson. Both Victor Blackwell and George Farmer, who looked good coming back from knee surgery, showed enough to be in the rotation this fall. Steven Mitchell -- who is rehabbing a knee injury -- was limited to walk-through drills this spring but is expected to be fine for the fall. Former walk-on George Katrib earned a scholarship and a spot with the first unit on the end-of-spring depth chart based on his play in spring.

Tight ends
Randall Telfer was out of action the entire spring recovering from a knee injury so that meant an extended audition for Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and he took advantage of it. Cope-Fitzpatrick had waited his turn for two years and seems ready for a bigger role. Walk-on Chris Willson is a former quarterback who continues to improve after the position switch to tight end.

Offensive line
This was perhaps the position group that needed to get settled the most and how successful that was is still to be determined. There was a lot of good, namely that Max Tuerk took care of the top priority by claiming the center spot. You can’t understate how important that was. Chad Wheeler didn’t skip a beat in holding onto the vital left tackle spot, which was also key. And then there was a pleasant development with Zach Banner showing up with improved agility after surgeries on both hips last fall. Banner was quickly moved to the first unit at right tackle and looks to be there heading into fall. What remains unsettled are the two guard spots. Khaliel Rodgers (RG) and Toa Lobendahn (LG) both did enough to earn starting spots in spring but it remains to be seen what will happen in the fall when veterans Aundrey Walker and Jordan Simmons return from injuries. Walker, the incumbent starter at right guard with 18 career starts under his belt, could be a valuable veteran presence in the lineup.


While so much attention was being paid to the new up-tempo offense, the USC defense was quietly installing new schemes of their own. There are variations of the 4-3 and the 3-4, including a rush end and a strongside linebacker who can also be a stand-up end. During the spring game, the defense showed a lot of promise with seven sacks and no touchdowns for the offense.

Defensive line
One of the first things that jumps out when seeing the Trojans defense is the huge defensive front, particularly along the interior. And that’s without All-American Leonard Williams, who sat out the spring rehabbing a labrum injury. Antwaun Woods was consistently praised by Sarkisian for his solid play and he looks to be the anchor of the line at the nose tackle spot. Junior college transfer Claude Pelon came on strong the final two weeks of spring and had a pair of sacks in the spring game while Texas Tech transfer Delvon Simmons also showed he can be a productive body in the middle. When you add Kenny Bigelow as a reserve at nose as well as Greg Townsend, who continues to get healthy, the Trojans suddenly have a nice rotation in the middle of the line.

At rush end, Scott Starr was another pleasant surprise as he ran with the first unit throughout spring and showed good energy. J.R. Tavai missed some time with injury but he is a proven and versatile guy who can also move inside if needed. Charles Burks has some pass rushing skills and he also saw time both on the inside and outside.

On the opening drive of the spring game the offense drove the ball inside the five-yard line and looked poised to score until Hayes Pullard broke through the line to force a tackle-for-loss and eventual field goal. He’s the leader of the USC defense in every way and a key teaching aide for the coaches this spring as they installed the new defense. Anthony Sarao worked with the first unit alongside Pullard while Lamar Dawson sat out spring with an injury. Michael Hutchings was behind Hayes until injuring his wrist the final week of spring. At the strongside spot, it was the most competitive battle of camp as Quinton Powell and Jabari Ruffin ended up listed as co-starters on the depth chart.

This has a chance to be a much improved group. Josh Shaw did not play due to a stress fracture in his foot but he did say he will be at corner when he returns in the fall. There had been some question about where Shaw would line up, although the coaches say he could still see time at safety if needed. With Shaw out, Kevon Seymour was at one corner spot and looked to have taken a step up from last year, while redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins did enough to be in the rotation once the season starts. At safety, Su'a Cravens is set at one spot but he sat out the last half of spring with a knee injury. Leon McQuay III was getting the reps opposite Cravens and Gerald Bowman returned to the field after his shoulder injury to look strong over the final two weeks.

Special teams
There wasn’t a lot of work done on live punt or kickoff drills but placekicker Andre Heidari did hit 4-of-5 field goals in the spring game.

Lunch links: A Utah man, no more

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
And I've been up all night, I might sleep all day;
Get your dreams just right, and let them slip away.

Pac-12 recruiting roundup

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
It’s been about a month since we last checked in on the recruiting front. The Bears have gotten on the board with two commits in the last week, ASU added a hometown quarterback, UCLA added a third ESPN 300 player, the Trojans picked up a commit from the No. 3 offensive tackle and the Huskies got a commitment from the nation’s No. 4 pocket passer.

Here’s a look at where each school stands in the recruiting game.


2015 commits: 4
Player(s): Taren Morrison, RB, Mesa, Ariz.; Darick Holmes Jr., RB, Westlake Village, Calif.; Ricky McCoy, TE, Fresno, Calif.; Finton Connolly, DT, Gilbert, Ariz.

Arizona State

2015 commits: 5
Player(s): Morie Evans, WR, Huntsville, Texas; Bryce Perkins, QB, Chandler, Ariz.; Nick Ralston, RB, Argyle, Texas; Tony Nicholson, Ath., Grand Prairie, Texas; Raymond Epps, TE, Yuma, Ariz.


2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Austin Aaron, WR, Napa, Calif.; Malik Psalms, CB, Chino Hills, Calif.


2015 commits: 3
Player(s): T.J. Fehoko, DE, Salt Lake City; N.J. Falo, OLB, Sacramento, Calif.; Dillon Middlemiss, OG, Arvada, Colo.


2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Zach Okun, OG, Newbury Park, Calif.; Jake Breeland, WR, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Oregon State

2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Tyrin Ferguson, OLB, New Orleans; Treshon Broughton, CB, Tustin, Calif.; Kyle Haley, OLB, Anaheim, Calif.


2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Arrington Farrar, S, College Park, Georgia; Christian Folau, ILB, Salt Lake City; Rex Manu, DT, Mililani, Hawaii.


2015 commits: 6
Player(s): Josh Rosen, QB, Bellflower, Calif.; Alize Jones, TE-Y, Las Vegas; Tevita Halalilo, OG, Moreno Valley, Calif.; Jaason Lewis, ATH, Virginia Beach, Va.; Victor Alexander, OLB, Jacksonville, Fla.; Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB, Clovis, Calif.


2015 commits: 4
Player(s): Chuma Edoga, OT, Powder Springs, Ga.; Ricky Town, QB (PP), Ventura, Calif.; David Sills, QB (PP), Elkton, Maryland; Taeon Mason, CB, Pasadena, Calif.


2015 commits: 7
Player(s): Jake Grant, OT, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tuli Wily-Matagi, ATH, Kahuku, Hawaii; Donzale Roddie, WR, Paramount, Calif.; Chayden Johnston, K, South Jordan, Utah; Brandon Snell, WR, Miami; Corey Butler, WR, Wilmington, Calif.; Zach Lindsay, OT, Kaysville, Utah.


2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Jake Browning, QB, Folsom, Calif.; Trey Adams, OT, Wenatchee, Wash.; Myles Gaskin, RB, Seattle.

Washington State

2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Thomas Toki, DT, Mountain View, Calif.; Austin Joyner, RB, Marysville, Wash.

Best NFL-producing programs

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23

Not so long ago, Penn State was widely known as "Linebacker U."

Under Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions produced a cavalcade of top-notch linebackers -- bone-crushers such as Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan, Andre Collins, LaVar Arrington and Paul Posluszny, just to name a few -- and many of them went on to have outstanding NFL careers, as well.

Around the same time, perhaps a little earlier, USC was being referred to as "Tailback U" because of Heisman Trophy winners Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen -- not to mention a few other All-American running backs who didn't take home the bronze statue.

That got me to thinking about which colleges are currently the best at producing NFL difference-makers within a specific position group. I looked at draft picks, number of players to start games and number of players to make the Pro Bowl in recent seasons, which helped me compile a short list. It doesn't include the offensive glamour spots -- quarterback, running back and wide receiver -- because aside from Georgia Tech having two of the most freakishly talented wideouts in the league (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas), not much is there for one school to brag about.

With that said, here are the biggest college pipelines of NFL talent at specific positions. These eight groups stood out to me in this order.

1. Offensive line -- USC Trojans

This might not be the first position group that people associate with USC, but it's the spot where the Trojans are making their biggest impression in the league currently. It starts with All-Pro center Ryan Kalil, but the most noteworthy thing about this crop of USC linemen is the number of successful offensive tackles. Sam Baker, Charles Brown, Winston Justice, Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith each has started at least 12 NFL games at tackle in the past two seasons. That's some serious value.

Who's next: Mel Kiper ranks USC's Marcus Martin as the best center in this year's draft.

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Agholor makes statement with stellar spring

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Before Nelson Agholor walked up the Coliseum tunnel on Saturday following USC’s spring game -- which marked the conclusion of five weeks of practice sessions under a new coaching regime led by Steve Sarkisian -- the junior wide receiver took a moment to reflect.

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC wideout Nelson Agholor is hoping to take the next step in 2014 after finishing last season with 56 catches for 918 yards and six touchdowns.
“This spring wasn’t just about today,” he said, “it was about 15 practices that we got to get better. So, for me, I got better every practice that I had a chance to practice, whether it was weightlifting, field work ... it didn’t matter. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity.”

Few took more advantage of that opportunity than Agholor. Described as a “gym rat” by USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin for the tireless work ethic that Agholor has put on display throughout his time on campus, the dynamic athlete made highlight play after highlight play, standing out as arguably the most consistent performer of the entire slate of workouts.

It was a case of an already proven player taking his game to another level, and according to Agholor, it was his attention to detail that made the difference.

“I felt like I definitely fine-tuned my fundamentals, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Agholor, who made the trek west to USC from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep as member of the Trojans’ signing haul of 2012. “It’s all about getting the fundamentals back under you, controlling your effort, and practicing with great concentration.”

Martin was anything but surprised by what he saw out of his star pupil. After all, Agholor showed glimpses of what he was capable of last fall, when, with Marqise Lee hobbled during a portion of the season due to injury, he was leaned upon heavily. Agholor responded by catching 56 passes for a team-best 918 yards and six touchdowns, while developing into one of the nation’s most dangerous punt returners.

“You started seeing it last year during the season when he started really taking on that role of, ‘Call my number. I want to be the guy,'" Martin said. “He’s a guy that works hard and he wants to be that guy. I like his attitude and he got a lot better this spring.”

Of course, Agholor figures to have the added pressure heaped upon his shoulders that will come with being expected to follow in the footsteps of Robert Woods, USC’s all-time leading receiver, and Lee, the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner, as the next great Trojans receiver.

After putting in the time and effort, it’s a role that Martin believes Agholor is more than prepared to take on.

“I think he’s ready for it,” Martin said. “I think that he came to USC for that. If you go back and look at his signing day interview, he said that this day would be here for him today, and he’s worked for it. So I’m happy for him. You know, he’s had Robert Woods to learn from, he’s had Marqise Lee to learn from, and now it’s his turn.”

Unlike Woods and Lee, however, Agholor’s moment in the sun will come at a time when USC will showcase a new up-tempo, no-huddle offense put in place by Sarkisian. Agholor is encouraged by the strides that he, as well as his teammates, made within the system during spring drills.

“I’m very excited because this is an offense that’s really going to show off all of our weapons -- all of our receivers, our tailbacks, our tight ends,” he said. “We’re going to have guys making plays all over the field.”

Before USC’s opener against Fresno State on Aug. 30, Agholor has the long offseason ahead of him, and he’s ready to begin what he expects to be a demanding training regimen with Trojans strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis and staff.

“This summer is a great opportunity for us,” Agholor said. “We’re going to get a chance to get a whole summer with our new strength coaches. We had a wonderful spring with them, now we get the summer with them to develop our bodies, and then we’re going to do a lot of fieldwork and stuff like that. It’s going to be good for us.”

With his mindset focused in the right direction, all of the pieces appear to be in place for Agholor to fulfill every expectation thrown his way.

“He’s someone that we know is dependable, and he’s going to come through for us,” Martin said. “I look forward to seeing what his fall camp will be like, and what the season will be like for him.”

Lunch links: Remembering Tillman

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
There's a tiny door in my office, Maxine. It's a portal and it takes you inside John Malkovich. You see the world through John Malkovich's eyes... and then after about 15 minutes, you're spit out ... into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

Recruiting notes: Jefferson favors USC 

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
In both the literal and figurative sense, Las Vegas-based defensive lineman Noah Jefferson was the biggest out-of-state recruit to visit USC on Saturday for the annual spring game.

Alongside many of the top locals who made the quick drive, Jefferson stood on the field inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with his mother next to him, and looked around in amazement at what could be his future home. He saw an estimated crowd of 17,500 directly across the field, the sun beaming down and a pleasant breeze swirling through, and wondered what the stadium would look like with five times as many people.

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Ball security in the Pac-12

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Teams that commit the fewest turnovers generally win more football games. Teams that turn the ball over frequently generally lose more football games. These are fairly safe axioms to live by, because more often than not they hold true.

But not always, especially in the sometimes-backward Pac-12, where the offense is fast and furious and the defense is underrated.

An examination of turnover margin in the league the last three seasons reveals some very interesting results, trends and trend-busters.

Here’s how Pac-12 teams have shaped up the last three seasons:

Some intriguing takeaways (pun intended):
  • Stanford, the two-time defending conference champion, is well known for its hard-nosed defense. Yet in 2013, it had a turnover margin of zero (19 takeaways, 19 turnovers) and the Cardinal are in the lower half of the league the last three seasons in total turnovers generated. Worth noting, however, that Stanford also takes care of the ball better than anyone in the league, with a conference-low 54 turnovers in the last three seasons.
  • Oregon has more takeaways than any team in the conference the last three seasons, including a robust turnover margin of plus-21 for the 2012 season (tops in the league for a single-season over that three-year stretch). Wait a second: Doesn’t Oregon catch flak for not playing defense? Huh. The Ducks are second in the league behind Stanford with just 57 turnovers over the last three seasons.
  • Only Arizona State, Oregon and Washington had a positive turnover margin in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
  • Only California, Colorado and Washington State had a negative turnover margin in all three seasons.
  • Stanford is the only team to have a zero margin in a season during the last three years.
  • ASU is the only team in the league to have at least 30 takeaways in all three seasons.
  • During that three-year stretch, only two teams have created more turnovers than Oregon State. During that same stretch, only two teams have committed more turnovers than Oregon State. So while the Beavers' 83 takeaways look great on paper, the 80 turnovers don’t. Makes sense that in the Beavers' best season, 2012, they had a plus-8 margin with 31 takeaways and 23 turnovers. In its worst, 2011, it was minus-8 with 23 takeaways and 31 turnovers.
  • Washington State has the most total turnovers (86) in the last three years. But Colorado has the worst turnover margin. Worth noting that last season the Buffs cut their margin down to minus-3 from the minus-19 in 2012.
  • USC tied with Colorado in 2012 for most turnovers in the league (34). So despite 71 takeaways the last three seasons, their 69 turnovers gives the Trojans only a plus-2 margin. Worth noting that after back-to-back seaspns of negative turnover margin in 2011 and 2012, USC was on the plus side last season at plus-5.
  • Arizona reached the plus side of the turnover margin last season (plus-4) after back-to-back seasons of negative margin in 2011 and 2012.
  • The most turnovers in a season in the three-year stretch was from Washington State, which had 35 last season.
  • The most takeaways in a season in the three-year stretch was by Oregon, which had 40 in 2012.
  • Washington’s much-maligned defense of 2011 still finished the season with a plus-1 turnover margin. Though during the last two seasons under then-coordinator Justin Wilcox (now with Steve Sarkisian at USC), the Huskies are plus-12.
  • The fewest turnovers in a season in the last three seasons is 16 – both from Washington and UCLA last season. Stanford is the only team in the conference to be in the teens in turnovers all three years.
  • Until last season, Utah had been solid at getting takeaways. It led the Pac-12 in turnovers and turnover margin in 2011 (33 takeaways, plus-10 margin). Even in 2012, the Utes were on the plus side, but failed to make a bowl game. Last year Utah dipped to minus-9.

So as you can see, there is obviously some correlation between turnovers and wins/losses. The three Pac-12 teams that didn’t make the postseason last season -- Cal, Colorado and Utah -- each had negative turnover margins.

But it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that the team that has the most turnovers will lose every game and the team with the most takeaways wins. Stanford is a perfect example of that, winning the league last season with an even margin. You don’t need a lot of takeaways to play great defense, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

UCLA's biggest recruiting win over USC

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
UCLA's biggest recruiting victory in 2013-14 didn't involve a high school player.'s recruiting guru Jeremy Crabtree has a nice story on how USC unsuccessfully tried to hire UCLA's ace recruiter and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm away from Westwood. It begins like this:
UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was returning from a recruiting trip this past December, when he received a call from new USC coach Steve Sarkisian with an offer that all but included the opportunity to use the Trojans' famed white horse, Traveler, any time he wanted to avoid traffic on the 405. But UCLA coach Jim Mora wasn't about to lose one of his top assistants to the school across town, so he did what any good coach would do. He made an in-home visit and left with a commitment.

Sark's a smart guy. He knows that Klemm is an elite coach and recruiter, and luring him away from a crosstown archrival would make the hiring a double-whammy.

And Mora is a smart guy, too.
"I was out of town recruiting, and I landed and drove right to his house at about 10 at night," Mora said. "I think I stayed until till or 1 or 2, until I was sure USC wasn't going to come by. ... Until he signed that contract, I wasn't leaving. I wasn't going to lose him."

It's an interesting story because it touches a lot of bases -- the recruiting process, a battle between rival coaches -- it's also notable that Sarkisian and Mora are (were?) friends -- and a rising coaching talent and how he became so coveted.

Definitely worth a read, even you're not a Bruin or Trojan.

Updating top post-spring QB battles 

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen Icon SMI/USA TODAY SportsKenny Hill and Kyle Allen are both competing for Texas A&M's starting QB spot.
Quarterback battles do not always resolve themselves in the spring -- in fact, it’s somewhat rare -- but this cycle provided some news and emerging figures from notable programs across the country.

Starting with an open-but-refined race to replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, here are some of those QB battle updates and what they might mean for the 2014 season.

Texas A&M Aggies

Contenders: Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen

In the space of three weeks at A&M recently, Hill, a sophomore, had been suspended for a minor arrest, and veteran Matt Joeckel let his coaches know that he intended to transfer. Hill will eventually be reinstated, but for now that leaves Allen, a freshman, as the only true eligible option to replace Manziel.

Jake Spavital, approaching his first full season as the Aggies’ playcaller, tells me that the message for the two young quarterbacks is very different. And it remains to be seen how each receives that summer counsel and where Allen and Hill land by preseason camp in August.

For Allen, now four months into his time in college, it’s clearly a matter of education. But the staff saw enough mental and physical aptitude to know Allen is a legitimate candidate to start from day one.

“He came pretty far [during the spring],” Spavital told me Monday. “I’m telling you, he’s very mature for being 18 years old. I threw the entire offense at him. . . . We threw him in and tried to see how he learns.”

For Hill -- suspended for allegedly passing out in a flower bed outside a bar in College Station -- it’s a matter of growing up.

“Kenny’s been through it all,” Spavital said. “He’s just got to mature and be a leader. He has the tools to do it, but he has to show to the entire team that he can do it.”

Unlike Allen, Hill does at least have some experience. He played in four games last season, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and a score. Only one of the games featured an SEC opponent (Vanderbilt), and all of his snaps came in blowouts.

Still, it’s something. And Spavital said Hill has shown strides in terms of comprehension.

“He knows how to operate the whole entire [offense],” he said. “He knows what’s right and wrong. He doesn’t make as many rookie mistakes as Kyle.

“It comes down to a leadership standpoint with Kenny. Is he capable of leading the team?”

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Tale of the tape: UCLA vs. USC 

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
There have been some significant pendulum swings in the rivalry between UCLA and USC since 1991.

That was the year in which the Bruins embarked on an eight-game winning streak against USC, which was countered by the Trojans winning 12 of the next 13 meetings -- though two were later vacated because of NCAA sanctions. Now, UCLA and head coach Jim Mora are riding high after two wins in a row in the rivalry, and things have gotten very interesting on the recruiting trail.

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Slow start won't doom Pac-12 recruiting 

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Though two of the top quarterbacks in the country are committed to Pac-12 schools, in terms of numbers at this point in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the conference doesn't stack up to the rest of the power conferences.

And while fans of the various Pac-12 programs might be ready to hit the panic button, there's no such worry behind the scenes.

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OT Chuma Edoga commits to USC

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21

The USC Trojans, after receiving a commitment from one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Ricky Town, back in January, got a commitment Monday from a player who is expected to protect Town's blind side -- offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.

Edoga, who is the No. 3 offensive tackle and the No. 21 overall player in the ESPN 300, announced his decision on Twitter and confirmed his decision with ESPN.

"I committed to USC. I feel like I can get the best of both worlds by going to USC," Edoga said. "First with football and then with their academics. I have a great relationship with coach [Tee] Martin and coach [Tim] Drevno. They are all pretty cool guys -- real laid back. They really love the game of football and they are focused on what is best for me, they want to make me the best man I can be -- just real genuine guys."

The 6-foot-4, 277-pound athletic lineman from Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern chose the Trojans over Tennessee, Texas A&M, Stanford and his home-state Georgia Bulldogs.

"It was a pretty tough decision," Edoga said. "They are all awesome schools. Anyone would die to go to some of those other schools but I'm pretty solid, I feel like I made a good decision to go to USC."

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