Tag:Southern California
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:04 pm

Stars sit out USC ProDay; Armstead makes NFL jump

LOS ANGELES -- USC's biggest stars did not do a lot of work at Pro Day on Wednesday but there was no lack of drama.

Offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry, ranked in NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 with Kalil in the top five of Rob Rang's Big Board, did some position drills but did not replicate any of their NFL combine work because they were pleased with their initial results.

"These drills come easy to me," said Kalil, who is projected to be the third pick in the NFL draft. "It's cool to look at (mock drafts). But anything can happen on draft day."

Kalil (6-foot-6 5/8, 308 pounds) said he would take USC coach Lane Kiffin to New York as a guest for the NFL draft in April, when he'll be one of the dozen or so prospects in attendance at the Thursday primetime event.

"Coach Kiffin did a lot for me," he said. "He will be in the green room with me."

Perry, who weighed 270 pounds, said he "could have done better" on some of his position drills but was pleased overall, especially combined with his combine results. He is projected to be a first-round pick.

"I get asked a lot by NFL teams about certain schemes because everyone wants to know if I can also play in a 3-4 (defense)," Perry said. "It's good to be in the conversation (for the first round)."

USC defensive tackle Armond Armstead was not as fortunate.

He was informed by the school Tuesday night that university attorneys would not allow him to participate in Pro Day because of liability issues.

USC would not clear Armstead to play last season because of an unspecified medical condition that was discovered last spring. Armstead experienced chest pains last year but neither he nor school officials ever disclosed any medical problems.

He was expected to transfer to another school for his senior year but recently decided instead to turn pro.

"One of my main reasons to transfer was to play with brother (Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead)," Armond said. "But I wasn't allowed (by USC) to transfer to another Pac-12 school."

Armond Armstead said he was "perfectly healthy" and would have his own Pro Day on April 9. He underwent an NFL evaluation following the 2010 season and said was projected as a second-round pick. He looked noticeably slimmer and weighed 285 pounds at USC on Wednesday.

"I'm in good shape," Armstead said. "I'm not combine ready. I'm just looking for an opportunity to play football. "

Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, who mysteriously did not work out at the NFL combine after arriving in Indianapolis, said he was medically excluded because a Cleveland Browns doctor discovered he had a natural heart defect known as patent foramen ovale.
A "PFO" is a flap or valve-like opening present in everyone before birth but seals shut for 80 percent of the population. It does have symptoms. Harris said his personal cardiologist emailed all NFL teams to assure them he was OK.

"I hope teams realize I was fine," Harris said. "I feel I did pretty good."Harris (6-3, 304) ran the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds.

Tailback Marc Tyler, who experienced a disappointing combine, redeemed himself with a time of 4.64 in the 40. He said he pulled a hamstring in Indianapolis and was nervous throughout his workouts.

"It was way better (Wednesday)," Tyler said.

Tyler said NFL teams asked him about a possible drinking problem after his famous video on TMZ.com last summer that resulted in a one-game suspension.

"I've gotten a lot of questions," he said. "I just told the truth. I made mistakes and drank too much."
Posted on: December 22, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:46 pm

USC surprise: Barkley puts NFL on hold

Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley isn't going anywhere.
Barkley, the second-ranked player in NFLDraftScout.com's overall rankings, announced Thursday that he will be back at USC for his senior season in 2012.
"I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player," Barkley said, adding that the USC team has some "serious unfinished business, and I intend to play a part in it."
"I am prepared to play quarterback in the NFL. It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL," Barkley said Thursday at Heritage Hall on the campus of USC. But he said he will finish the "exceptional and unique journey he has had at USC" following in the footsteps of Luck and eventual top 10 pick Matt Leinart, who after the 2004 season opted to return for his fifth year.
Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in '04, when many projected Leinart to be the top available quarterback at the end of the season. But Leinart had surgery for elbow tendinitis, which would've surely reduced his draft value, before his senior season and wound up as the No. 10 overall pick.
Jake Locker (Washington), Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Eli Manning all returned for their senior seasons despite buzz that they would be a cinch to be drafted in the top 10.
How Barkley's decision, arrived upon after meeting with coach Lane Kiffin, athletic director Pat Haden and current and former USC players, to give Tinseltown one last spin but pass on the NFL will play out is unknown. But there's no argument about the level of talent returning at USC, which is expected to have a top five preseason ranking in 2012.
There are few doubts about Barkley as a pro prospect, but there are questions. He solicited a detailed evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee earlier in the month.
The actual grade Barkley was given by the NFL Advisory Committee is likely to remain a secret, NFLDraftScout.com has spoken to enough high-ranking pro scouts to confirm our own ranking of the Trojan passer as a legitimate first-round talent. Barkley ranked No. 2 behind only Andrew Luck in NFLDraftScout.com's quarterback rankings, which lists only those potentially available for the 2012 draft. He was also the No. 2 prospect overall.
University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, who worked with Barkley when coaching at Southern California and has faced his former pupil and Stanford's Andrew Luck twice since he moved to Seattle, told the media in November that, "If I'm an NFL head coach right now, I'd pick Matt Barkley ahead of Andrew Luck."
Scouts do have some reservations about Barkley's physical tools. Listed by Southern California at just 6-2, 220 pounds, he doesn't possess the height or bulk preferred at the position and has been protected by a strong Trojan offensive line throughout his career.
Some talent evaluators question whether Barkley has the arm strength to make every NFL throw. Though Southern Cal operates out of a pro-style offense, Barkley is rarely asked to drive the ball to the opposite hash. When he does so, his passes tend to wobble slightly. Because the USC junior has a technically clean set-up, delivery and release, the wobbly passes are thought to be an indication that Barkley may have small hands and only moderate overall arm strength.
While these traits do serve as potential red flags, scouts have much more to like about Barkley than they dislike. As mentioned, Barkley is a technically refined passer well-groomed in a pro-style offense. While many of today's rookie quarterbacks require time on the sideline to acclimate, Barkley is seen as relatively ready to "plug and play." His leadership and toughness have drawn raves from those close to the Southern Cal program. In the history of Southern California no true freshman quarterback had ever earned the starting role in the season opener until Barkley. Operating under the constant glare of Los Angeles sans an NFL team, Barkley is used to being a high-profile athlete in a major media market.
While there may be little in terms of NFL readiness for Barkley to gain in returning for his senior season, the allure of team and personal goals ultimately proved too much for the Trojan passer to leave school early. After being banned the past two years from bowl games due to the Reggie Bush scandal, Southern Cal is eligible for a bowl next year and is, not surprisingly, loaded to make a big run.
The loss of left tackle Matt Kalil early to the NFL is offset by the fact that Southern Cal is expected to return their other four starters up front. Southern Cal was one of only seven teams this season that didn't start a senior on their offensive line. The fact that Barkley is returning to throw to arguably the best receiving corps in the country in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and their leading rusher from last season, Curtis McNeal.
Completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards and a sparkling 39-7 touchdown to interception ratio, Barkley was as effective as any quarterback in the country. The fact that despite these numbers and Southern Cal being the high-profile program it is Barkley wasn't even invited as a Heisman finalist may have also contributed to his decision to return early.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:46 pm

T.J. McDonald returning to USC for senior season

The Trojans may have lost offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry early to the NFL, but they can take solace in the fact that junior free safety T.J. McDonald will be returning for his senior campaign.

McDonald, the son of former Southern Cal All-American and San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald, announced via an interview at  USCTrojans.com the news Wednesday afternoon.

The video, which can be seen below and by following this link, as well, shows McDonald in full USC regalia answering various questions about his decision, the role his father and head coach Lane Kiffin played in the decision and what, if any, impact T.J.'s choice may have on Southern Cal's other prominent junior known to be considering making the NFL leap, junior quarterback Matt Barkley.

McDonald cites both team and personal goals as seasons why he made the choice to return. The potential to play in a bowl game as well as match his father's All-American pedigree, compete for the Thorpe Award and get his degree are specifically mentioned.

Though McDonald is rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 free safety potentially available for the 2012 draft, the decision is a sound one. McDonald, who like former USC standout Taylor Mays, is at his best driving downhill towards the line of scrimmage, would be challenging a relatively strong class of senior safeties and is likely to enter next year as the elite prospect at his position.

McDonald finished 2011 with 67 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 205 pound junior led the team with three interceptions and also blocked a kick and recovered a fumble in earning First Team All-Pac-12 honors this season.

Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:58 pm

Kalil, Lotulelei win Pac-12's Morris Trophy

One of the earliest lessons I learned as an NFL scout was to ask players for their opinions of their peers. They know, perhaps better than anyone else, who can really play and who is being overrated.

The Pac-12 is unique in that it is the only conference in BCS football that appears to agree with this rationale. As such, they give the conference's offensive lineman an opportunity to vote for the league's most dominant defensive lineman. The Pac-12's defensive linemen get the same treatment. Their opinions are the only ones that matter in recognizing the conference's elite offensive lineman. The top vote-getter is rewarded with the Morris Trophy.

Though the Pac-12 hasn't officially announced the winners yet for this season, NFLDraftScout.com has learned their identities.

The winners this year couldn't be much different.

To no one surprise, the Pac-12's defensive linemen voted Southern California junior left tackle Matt Kalil as the dominant offensive lineman in the conference. While overshadowed by USC's talent at the skill positions, savvy followers of the program know that the 6-6, 295 pound Kalil played a critical role in the Trojans' averaging an eye-popping 35.8 points per contest. That number may pale in comparison to many of the spread schemes proliferating the country, but for a ball-control offense playing against the caliber of competition USC faced this season, the production is very impressive. The younger brother of former USC standout (and current Carolina Panthers' Pro Bowler) Ryan Kalil, Matt could elect to leave after his junior season and be a likely a top ten pick. Kalil currently ranks No. 4 on my Big Board and is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated offensive tackle potentially available for the 2012 draft.

The defensive winner, on the other hand, is a name that few outside of the Pac-12 will recognize. In fact, many inside of the conference likely don't know much about Utah junior defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The conference's offensive linemen, however, obviously think quite highly of the 6-3, 325 pound defensive tackle.

Lotulelei signed with Utah from Snow Junior College just last year but emerged as a starter by season's end. This season, he's been virtually unstoppable despite the fact that he's often double-teamed. Lotulelei, who was named a First Team all-conference pick by the league's coaches, registered 38 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss on the season. His combination of size and power could make him a highly valued commodity -- especially for NFL teams looking for a potential nose guard. As such, Lotulelei is quickly rising up NFL draft boards. He is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 8 rated defensive tackle in the class of 2013.

Just as they likely are doing with Kalil, Pac-12 opponents can only hope the NFL proves so enticing that Lotulelei -- who is married and has a little girl -- elects to leave school early. 
Posted on: December 15, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2010 5:18 pm

USC Trojans lose OT Smith, DT Casey to NFL

I argued prior to the beginning of the season that USC was less talented than we'd grown accustomed. Now, it seems that Lane Kiffin will have an even tougher time of turning this Trojan team back into a perennial BCS contender as USC's two most talented linemen are heading early to the NFL.

Offensive tackle Tyron Smith and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey , each First Team All Pac-10 picks this season, are heading to the NFL, according to a report last night from Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

Smith, 6-5 and 285 pounds, is the higher rated prospect of the two. Scouts love his upside, as he possesses the prototype athleticism to man the blindside position in the NFL. Of concern, however, is the fact that Smith has struggled to add weight during his career and will likely be asked to make the transition from right tackle (where he's started each game of his career with the Trojans) to the left side in the pros. That fact could push Smith into the middle to late portion of the first round despite the fact that he boasts as much upside as any of the senior offensive tackles.

Listed at 6-1, 305 pounds, Casey doesn't have the frame to fit inside or out for the 3-4, but possesses good strength and quickness to collapse the pocket as a 4-3 under-tackle. He registered 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season and was recognized Sunday as the Trojans' Most Valuable Player. Casey also earned USC's Defensive Lineman of the Year award, the second consecutive year in which he's won the award.

The two-year starter is highly active and could earn a similar grade as former cross-town rival (and similarly built) Brian Price had last year coming out of UCLA. Price, 6-1 and 303 pounds, was the third pick of the second round, going No. 35 overall to the Bucs.

As always, remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com