Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cumulative Spring Stats (all 4 Scrimmages)

I attended the Trojan Huddle last Saturday and will provide a bit of commentary based on what I saw in the key competitions...

Matt Barkley 43-of-66 (65.2%) for 562 yards, 4 TD, 5 INT
Aaron Corp 43-of-69 (62.3%) for 543 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Mitch Mustain 20-of-36 (55.6%) for 182 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT

Corp should be the starter if the Trojans had to play today but during the final scrimmage he threw 3 very bad passes that should have been intercepted (all three were dropped by DBs). Corp has very quick feet and doesn't hesitate to pull down a pass when a receiver is covered and gain 7 or 8 yards before the defense can react. My question is how will his lanky 6'4", 205 pound frame hold up when he gets hit by an Ohio State Buckeyes defensive player. Corp also did not look good throwing the ball down the field. He doesn't appear to have great arm strength.

Barkley clearly possesses great arm strength and a more sturdy frame (at about 6'3", 220 pounds). The young freshman needs to realize that he can't gun throws through defensive backs though. Its only a matter of time before Barkley is the starter at USC. The only way Corp will hold him off is to win early and win often.

Mustain reminds me of John David Booty (they are about the same size and appear to have the same mentality). I'm not sure I can clearly evaluate Mustain's play as he was throwing to third string receivers most of the scrimmage. Overall I'd say he is between Barkley and Corp in just about every way - arm strength, running ability, understanding of the offense. It seemed as if he lacked the same level of confidence displayed by Barkley and Corp though.

Running Backs:
Curtis McNeal 36 carries for 218 yards (6.1 ypc) and 2 TDs
Marc Tyler 27 carries for 121 yards (4.5 ypc) and 1 TD
Stafon Johnson 24 carries for 56 yards (2.3 ypc) and 1 TD
C.J. Gable 10 carries for 45 yards (4.5 ypc)
Stanley Havili 7 carries for 45 yards (6.4 ypc)
D.J. Shoemate 4 carries for 19 yards (4.8 ypc)

Stafon Johnson didn't play much during the final scrimmage and couldn't get a block when he did carry the ball. CJ Gable broke a 45-yard run for the only running highlight of the day. Coach Carroll said that Curtis McNeal may have been the offensive MVP of the spring going into the final scrimmage. But McNeal had a rough day, gaining just 7 yards on 8 carries. McNeal was slammed to the turf several times by the defensive and limped off the field at one point. Marc Tyler looked great running between the tackles and will be a threat if he gets much play time this fall. DJ Shoemate was, in my opinion, the offensive MVP of the final scrimmage. Shoemate had 17 yards rushing and 39 yards receiving while serving as the white team fullback.

Damian Williams 13 receptions for 218 yards (16.8 ypr) and 1 TD
Brice Butler 13 receptions for 155 yards (11.9 ypr)
Travon Patterson 11 receptions for 145 yards (13.2 ypr) and 1 TD
Ronald Johnson 9 receptions for 148 yards (16.4 ypr) and 1 TD
Jordan Cameron 8 receptions for 87 yards (10.9 ypr) and 2 TDs
David Ausberry 8 receptions for 82 yards (10.3 ypr) and 1 TD
Brandon Carswell 5 receptions for 49 yards (9.8 ypr)

Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson are the clear starters at receiver. I am very concerned that Coach Carroll lists David Ausberry as the #3 receiver though. Ausberry has been somewhat of a disappointment over the past couple of seasons. I think he plays like a finesse receiver when he should be using his 6'4", 235 pound frame to physically dominate DBs like former Trojan Mike Williams did. Ausberry couldn't get open during the scrimmage and dropped the one pass that was thrown to him. Redshirt freshman Brice Butler looks like a much better option. Butler is 6'3" and 215 pounds and consistently finds seams in the defense. Travon Patterson and Jordan Cameron also looked ready to contribute as back-ups.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Decision

Coach Carroll named Aaron Corp as the starting QB for this Saturday's Trojan Huddle scrimmage. Matt Barkley was second and Mitch Mustain third in the much publicized QB battle. The deciding factors in order of importance were third down efficiency (1-Barkley, 2-Corp, 3-Mustain), turnovers (1-Corp, 2-Mustain, 3-Barkley) and ability to run the offense via signals from the coaches on the sideline (1-Corp & Mustain tie, 3-Barkley). Coach Carroll acknowledged that if Barkley can progress on his understanding of the offensive signals, he will be able to directly challenge Corp in fall camp. Mustain says he has no plans to transfer and will continue to compete. While he kept silent on his discussions with new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, Mustain may feel he hasn't gotten the same opportunity with the first team offense as Corp and Barkley.

The 2009 USC Football poster features S Taylor Mays, RB Stafon Johnson, WR Damian Williams, OG Jeff Byers, DE Everson Griffen, S/CB Josh Pinkard and RB Joe McKnight. Mays is in the center position (not surprising). But what about RB C.J. Gable? Gable hasn't slipped behind Stafon Johnson or Joe McKnight on the depth chart, so why the snub? Is Gable still in the fumblitis doghouse?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cumulative Stats from 3 Scrimmages

Matt Barkley 31-of-46 (67.4%) for 438 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
Aaron Corp 29-of-46 (63.0%) for 386 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Mitch Mustain 13-of-24 (54.2%) for 97 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Running Backs:
Curtis McNeal 28 carries for 211 yards (7.5 ypc) and 2 TDs
Marc Tyler 20 carries for 77 yards (3.9 ypc)
Stafon Johnson 19 carries for 60 yards (3.2 ypc) and 1 TD
Stanley Havili 6 carries for 41 yards (6.8 ypc)
C.J. Gable 5 carries for -8 yards (-1.6 ypc)

Damian Williams 10 receptions for 180 yards (18.0 ypr) and 1 TD
Brice Butler 8 receptions for 105 yards (13.1 ypr)
David Ausberry 8 receptions for 82 yards (10.3 ypr) and 1 TD
Ronald Johnson 6 receptions for 113 yards (18.8 ypr) and 1 TD
Travon Patterson 4 receptions for 88 yards (22.0 ypr) and 1 TD
Jordan Cameron 4 receptions for 49 yards (12.3 ypr) and 1 TD
Brandon Carswell 2 receptions for 20 yards (10.0 ypr)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Man in the Straw Hat

Did you happen to catch the USA Today article featuring the Alabama spring football game this week? Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban was quoted in the article as saying "We do nothing to promote it (the spring game). We don't advertise on the radio. I was in Georgia this past weekend and they advertised their spring game every other commercial on the radio, getting people to come. We don't do anything, they just come."

Oh really Coach Saban? Then why is the official title of your spring game "the Golden Flake A-Day Game at Alabama?" Why is your spring game also sponsored by Cook's Pest Control? Then why did USA Today run a full page story on your game? Why did you arrange for ESPN to televise the game live? Why did the University of Alabama pay for an advertisement to run several times during the ESPN telecast that featured Alabama football players with the theme "This is Alabama Football - at some places they play football but at Alabama we live it." The ad touted Alabama's 92 first team all-americans, 56 bowl appearances, 31 bowl victories, 21 SEC championships and 12 national championships.

And you say you don't promote the Alabama spring game Coach Saban? Really? It seems to me you did everything you could to make this a big time recruiting tool. Another reason why Saban is my least favorite college football coach. I really don't care if you promote your game, heck USC does the same thing, but don't deny that you do it! I guess this is to be expected from the guy that claimed he wouldn't leave LSU for the NFL and he wasn't interested in leaving the Miami Dolphins for the Alabama job.

In Austin Powers in Goldmember, actor Michael Caine says "Don't play the laughing boy. There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch."

The two things I hate in this world - the arrogance of LSU/SEC fans and Nick Saban.

Here's the link to the story:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scrimmage Stats

Here is the statistical roll-up after the first two spring scrimmages:

Matt Barkley 16-of-25 (64.0%) for 252 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Aaron Corp 16-of-28 (57.1%) for 216 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Mitch Mustain 10-of-18 (55.6%) for 64 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Running Backs:
Curtis McNeal 18 carries for 149 yards (8.3 ypc) and 1 TD
Stafon Johnson 14 carries for 46 yards (3.3 ypc)
Marc Tyler 11 carries for 28 yards (2.5 ypc)
Stanley Havili 3 carries for 26 yards (8.7 ypc)
C.J. Gable 5 carries for -8 yards (-1.6 ypc)

Damian Williams 6 receptions for 51 yards (8.5 ypr) and 1 TD
Brice Butler 5 receptions for 74 yards (14.8 ypr)
David Ausberry 4 receptions for 38 yards (9.5 ypr) and 1 TD
Ronald Johnson 3 receptions for 84 yards (28.0 ypr) and 1 TD
Travon Patterson 3 receptions for 79 yards (26.3 ypr) and 1 TD
Brandon Carswell 2 receptions for 20 yards (10.0 ypr)

Spring Practice Day 9

Quarterbacks: Coach Carroll stated that while a starting QB will be named at the end of spring practice, the competition will still be open in the fall. Mitch Mustain took just 1 snap during 11-on-11 drills during Tuesday’s practice compared to Matt Barkley’s 20 and Aaron Corp’s 19. So the competition appears to be between Barkley and Corp. It is likely that Corp will be named the starter at the end of spring, but Barkley has a real chance to win the job this fall after a strong spring. Coach Carroll said: "It might take a little longer (to determine a starting QB) than usual. In all fairness, this competition could go a long time. If Matt (Barkley) gets a summer and another fall camp, he'll surely be better."

Running backs: C.J. Gable had an MRI on the hip he injured during Saturday's scrimmage. Marc Tyler sat out because of a minor hip injury.

Offensive Line: Sophomore Tyron Smith and redshirt freshman Matt Kalil took all the reps at right and left tackle on Tuesday with Charles Brown (groin), Butch Lewis (groin) and Nick Howell (hamstring) sitting out due to injuries.

Defensive Backs: CB Brian Baucham missed practice due to illness.

Special Teams: Joe Houston (4-for-4) and Jordan Congdon (2-for-2) made all of their FG attempts on a windy day.

Recruiting: DT Dakota Smith (6'7", 350) of Westchester H.S. in Los Angeles verbally committed to USC this week. Dak's father, Tody Smith, was a member of USC's original Wild Bunch. Smith hasn't been rated yet by the Rivals recruiting service so he would be considered a minor recruit at this point. Arizona, Hawaii and UCLA were also considered in the running for Smith.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Practice Day 7

Quarterbacks: Freshman QB Matt Barkley had his best performance of the spring on Thursday, completing almost every pass during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Barkley threw 3 TD passes, one to WR Damian Williams, one to WR Jordan Cameron and one to WR Travon Patterson. QB Mitch Mustain worked with the first team offense on Thursday but didn’t have an opportunity to throw the ball down the field. Mustain told reporters he feels that he is still in the race for the starting QB spot. But many reporters feel that Aaron Corp has pulled into a solid lead. With Barkley charging fast, Mustain will have to make some big plays, while not turning the ball over, over the next two weeks to have a chance. O.C. Register reporter Michael Lev reports that Mustain may have the edge over Corp and Barkley in leadership intangibles. According to Lev, Mustain appears to have assumed the role previously filled by Mark Sanchez of being the vocal encourager to the offense on and off the field. The funny thing is that I’ve seen plenty of Mustain (Springdale H.S., Arkansas and USC) and Barkley (Mater Dei H.S.) but I’ve only seen Aaron Corp throw the ball four times (twice at Virginia and twice at Ohio State). I never saw any footage of Corp playing high school football at Orange Lutheran.

Running Backs: RB Joe McKnight (dislocated toes) fielded punts and participated in some individual drills on Thursday. Even though he didn’t participate in scrimmages, his trash talking to the defense was loud enough to catch the attention of O.C. Register reporter Damian Calhoun.

Receivers: L.A. Daily News reporter Scott Wolf says that David Ausberry is the #3 WR and Brice Butler is the #4 WR. Travon Patterson and Jordan Cameron are the #5 and #6 WRs ahead of Brandon Carswell.

Offensive Line: Sophomore Tyron Smith may have wrapped up the starting RT spot with his performance this spring. Smith has played so well that Butch Lewis, who started 7 games at RT in 2008, has been moved to RG. The starting O-Line this fall will likely be LT Charles Brown, LG Jeff Byers, C Kris O’Dowd, RG Butch Lewis and RT Tyron Smith. The primary back-ups will be OT Nick Howell, OG Zack Heberer and OG Alex Parsons. Howell has missed several practices with a sore hamstring and Parsons has a cast on his injured hand. I haven’t heard much on the highly touted OT Matt Kalil this spring. OG Khaled Holmes and OG Martin Coleman are also trying to break into the rotation.

Linebackers: LB Luthur Brown (shoulder strain) will likely miss the rest of spring practice. Brown, a fifth year senior, has been plagued by injuries throughout his collegiate career. If Brown can’t play in 2009, and there is no indication that he’ll be able to stay healthy, the already thin LB corps can’t afford any more injuries. Michael Morgan, Chris Galippo and Malcolm Smith are solidly entrenched as the starting LBs but Galippo has also had the injury bug through the early stages of his USC career. The second team LBs will be Unoa Kavienga, Jordan Campbell and possibly Nick Garratt. The incoming freshmen LBs (Jarvis Jones, Frankie Telfort and Marquis Simmons) will have a good chance to play early in 2009!

The Trojans scrimmage at the Coliseum at 11:30am (PST) on Saturday April 11th.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Best 11

I received the "ESPN College Football Encyclopedia" as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. I never got around to reading it as I've been on the move quite a bit since fall 2006. This past week I opened it up and was drawn to a section titled BEST 11. ESPN asked several prominent college football commentators for their "BEST 11" in various categories. Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Keith Jackson and Beano Cooke were just a few of the participants. I decided to put together a couple of BEST 11 lists of my own.

MY BEST 11 OVERALL PLAYERS (ONE FOR EACH POSITION). In this category I picked any player I had seen play a college football game live or on television since 1985. '85 is the year I first remember really paying attention to college football. Prior to that I'd been devoted to the NFL (the first NFL games I can remember were from the 1978 season). The quarterback position came down to four candidates: Peyton Manning (best passing QB), Michael Vick (best running QB), Tim Tebow (the best combination of passing and running and quite possibly the best leader I've seen in college football) and Matt Leinart (best under pressure). I ultimately selected Tebow for his leadership qualities. I picked Calvin Johnson as the WR by a very slim margin over Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss (all three are amazing athletes). Picking Marvin Jones as the best LB was also a tough choice. There were several great LBs since '85, but I remember Jones as being the one I would have been most intimidated by on the gridiron. I selected Charles Woodson at CB over Deion Sanders by a slight margin too. I will never forget how dazzling Woodson was during the 1997 season. And finally, I couldn't decide between Rocket Ismail and Desmond Howard as my all-purpose player (Reggie Bush was my third place AP player).

QB - Tim Tebow (Florida)
RB – Marshall Faulk (San Diego State)
WR – Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech)
TE – Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
OL – Orlando Pace (Ohio State)
DT – Warren Sapp (Miami)
DE – Julius Peppers (North Carolina)
LB – Marvin Jones (Florida State)
CB - Charles Woodson (Michigan)
S – Sean Taylor (Miami)
AP – Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame)
AP - Desmond Howard (Michigan)

MY BEST 11 NON-USC PLAYERS THAT I'VE SEEN PLAY LIVE SINCE 1991. This category was heavily biased to Pac-10 players since that's what I see the most in live games. Drew Bledsoe's arm strength and touch passes against USC in 1992 was amazing. Bledsoe threw for 358 yards and 2 TDs in a losing effort (he also rushed for a TD). Marshall Faulk lit up USC's defense for 220 yards and 3 TDs in 1992 resulting in a 31-31 tie. Peter Warrick had 6 receptions for 112 yards and a TD to lead FSU to a 30-10 win over the Trojans in Tallahassee in 1998. Marcedes Lewis went 0-4 against his USC brethren from Long Beach Poly (Darnell Bing, Herschel Dennis, Winston Justice and Manuel Wright). Tedy Bruschi was the heart and soul of Arizona's "Desert Swarm" defense. Zach Thomas played his heart out only to watch Keyshawn Johnson run wild through the secondary against Texas Tech in the 1995 Cotton Bowl. Lawyer Milloy was as hard a hitter as there's been in the Pac-10. Maurice Drew would have been a superstar if he could have gotten out of the shadow of crosstown rival Reggie Bush.

QB – Drew Bledsoe (Washington State)
RB – Marshall Faulk (San Diego State)
WR – Peter Warrick (Florida State)
TE – Marcedes Lewis (UCLA)
OL – Jonathan Odgen (UCLA)
DT – Tedy Bruschi (Arizona)
DE – Terrell Suggs (Arizona State)
LB – Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
CB – Antoine Cason (Arizona)
S – Lawyer Milloy (Washington)
AP – Maurice Drew (UCLA)

MY BEST 11 USC TROJANS SINCE MY FRESHMAN SEASON IN FALL 1991. Leinart beats out Carson Palmer because Palmer had one great season while Leinart had three great seasons. Mark Sanchez might have challenged Leinart if he would have stuck around for the 2009 season. Reggie Bush and LenDale White are the second best tandem of USC RBs to share a backfield behind Charles White and Marcus Allen. Keyshaun Johnson edges out the sensational Johnnie Morton, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Fred Davis climbed out of Coach Carroll's doghouse all the way to winning the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. Tony Boselli edges out Sam Baker by the slightest of margins. Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Sedrick Ellis all deserve praise for their outstanding play, but it was Cody that is credited with being the key recruit in returning Troy to glory on the gridiron. Willie McGinest is slightly ahead of Keneche Udeze and Lawrence Jackson at the DE position. LB was another tough call as I loved Chris Claiborne, Zeke Moreno, Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. But Claiborne's play was the only real positive spot of the late 90's for the Trojans. While Daylon McCutcheon was probably the most talented USC CB since 1991, Brian Kelly was the biggest playmaker from the CB position. I don't think the Trojans have had a truly great CB in the 18 seasons I've been a Trojan. Maybe T.J. Bryant will change all that? Troy Polamalu wins the S spot, but I also loved Sammy Knight and Taylor Mays could be closing fast! Since Reggie already made the team as my RB, I selected Curtis Conway as my return specialist.

QB – Matt Leinart (USC)
RB – Reggie Bush (USC)
WR – Keyshawn Johnson (USC)
TE – Fred Davis (USC)
OL – Tony Boselli (USC)
DT – Shaun Cody (USC)
DE – Willie McGinest (USC)
LB – Chris Claiborne (USC)
CB – Brian Kelly (USC)
S – Troy Polamalu (USC)
AP – Curtis Conway (USC)

11 BEST FILL IN THE BLANKS ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SINCE 1985. The 1995 Cornhuskers absolutely destroyed every team on their schedule. The only team that could stand a chance against them would have been the all-star Hurricanes of 2001. The USC Trojans of 2004 didn't qualify because they survived several close games. 2008 has to be the wildest season of college football I can remember as Georgia, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and Florida all spent time at #1. Four teams ended the 2008 season with a legitimate argument that they were the best team in the country (Florida, Texas, USC, and Utah). The 2005 USC victory over Notre Dame was the best game I've ever seen. Every star on both teams came up huge in that game! Why would I pick a game USC lost for the best bowl game? Because it was a back-and-forth duel between two offenses that just wouldn't quit. Some fans might point to the Oklahoma/Boise State Fiesta Bowl or the Miami/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl. Both games went into overtime and had spectacular finishes. But I think the Texas/USC slug fest was dramatic from start to finish while the other two contests just had fantastic finishes. I've been to many great college football venues over the years (the Big House, the House that Rockne Built, the Swamp, Between the Hedges, the Rose Bowl) but I can't ever get over the feeling of a sold out L.A. Coliseum when the Olympic torch is lit over the Peristyle at the start of the 4th quarter. The Michigan Wolverines uniform is a symbol of college football in itself. I also love Florida State and USC's uniforms. My favorite college football books are "Meat Market" by Bruce Feldman and "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. I'd also recommend "Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls" by Stewart Mandel and "The Trojan Ten" by Barry LeBrock.

BEST TEAM = Nebraska (1995)
BEST GAME = USC–34, Notre Dame–31 (2005)
BIGGEST UPSET = Stanford–24, USC–23 (2007)
BEST BOWL GAME = 2006 Rose Bowl (Texas–41, USC–38)
BEST FANS = Nebraska Cornhuskers
BEST UNIFORMS = Michigan Wolverines
BEST BOOK = “Meat Market” by Bruce Feldman
FAVORITE PLAYER = Marshall Faulk, San Diego State

Spring Practice Day 6

Offensive Notes: Coach Carroll said the first six spring practices featured “conservative” play calling but for the rest of spring the quarterbacks will be encouraged to “push the ball down the field.” During Tuesday’s practice, Mitch Mustain was the only QB to throw an interception. Mustain says he won’t play conservative just to try to make up ground on Aaron Corp. QB coach Jeremy Bates said that Mustain isn’t out of the running yet for the starting job and the fact that Mustain worked exclusively with the second team offense during last Sunday’s scrimmage was just an oversight.

Defensive Notes: Coach Carroll said that DT Averill Spicer is leading the competition to replace Fili MoalaS Will Harris intercepted the errant pass from Mustain.

Special Teams Notes: There is a renewed emphasis on special teams this season with new assistant coach Brian Schneider leading the effort. Practices begin with special teams work and it will be interesting to see if having a full time special teams coach makes a difference in 2009. PK Joe Houston was 3-for-3 on FGs and has built a clear lead over PK Jordan Congdon who was 2-of-3.

Injury Notes: RB Joe McKnight (dislocated toes) participated in limited drills Tuesday and is expected to be 100% on Thursday in order to play in Saturday’s scrimmage. TE Anthony McCoy (hamstring) missed his third consecutive practice but is expected to play on Thursday. OL Alex Parsons (hand) did not practice but is expected to participate in some drills on Thursday. DT Christian Tupou (shoulder) is out indefinitely which will give the coaches an opportunity to conduct a more thorough evaluation of Derrick Simmons and Jurrell Casey. LB Luthur Brown did not participate in drills due to a shoulder injury. CB Shareece Wright (neck) had the wind knocked out of him after colliding with CB/S Josh Pinkard. Wright is not participating in full contact drills while recovering from surgery. Walk-on C Abe Markowitz tore a ligament in one of his fingers and will be limited in practices for the rest of the spring.

Academic Notes: RB Curtis McNeal missed Tuesday’s practice to focus on academics although he did attend team meetings.

Recruiting Notes: HEAVY ON OFFENSE IN 2009 BUT VERY FEW 5.0-star recruits (maybe RB Malcolm Smith and TE Xavier Grimble)! One of the biggest recruits to attend last Sunday’s practice was 4.0-star WR Robert Woods (6’1”, 175) of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, CA. Woods has already received offers from Arizona State, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Washington, and Washington State.