Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at USC.
Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 6.
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14.
Returning Starters: Nine on offense, eight on defense and both specialists.
Three Things To Watch For:
1. Dealing with expectations.
USC safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley are easy to tell apart if you see them walking around Heritage Hall or roaming around the Coliseum but they could not be more alike on paper after a remarkable run to close out last season. Both are captains, suit up in the cardinal and gold wearing number seven, each runs half the team and, most importantly to the Trojans in 2012, Barkley and McDonald announced they would return to school for their senior seasons on back-to-back days in late December. After two years without a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the message both talked about was so clear that it's become the program's unofficial motto as they head into spring practice: unfinished business.
In many ways, this is about where everybody expects USC to be year-in and year-out given the program's history. A No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll to close out 2011 and, with 19 starters returning and a favorable schedule, expectations are running high for the first time since Lane Kiffin took over in Los Angeles.
"I really don't think it's expectations as much as it is being free - we kind of feel like we're being let out of prison," Kiffin said. "It's normal now. It's refreshing not to have the negative distractions. People will talk about expectations and all of that but the good thing is we have practice at dealing with that from our time here before."
USC will likely end up as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country and despite scholarship limitations, will bring in ninth-ranked recruiting class with several five-star playmakers to supplement the group that will head out to Howard Jones field. It may be a return to normal with the national spotlight once again on Troy and Heisman candidate Barkley but for this group, it is something new. While the media will certainly be swarming like they did in the good old days and accolades and praise will come early and often, it's worth remembering that from the seniors to the freshman, this team hasn't faced anything like these expectations before. Will they play too loose or be wound too tight? It's something to keep tabs on.
"This is all about going out and preparing really well and practicing hard," Kiffin added. "It has been very refreshing to not deal with so much negativity and distractions, some of which was based on me and some on the sanctions."
2. New staff and new look.
For the first time in the Kiffin-era, the still youthful head coach has had to deal with some staff turnover. While the big stage the program provides has attracted more than it's fair share of coaches looking to boost their resume, the fact that two coaches left so close to spring practice definitely added a question mark or two to the team's outlook. Scottie Hazelton will take over as linebackers coach and was a surprise pick by many but he brings a solid resume that includes being the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State last season as they won the FCS national championship. It's not a flashy hire by any means and it will be interesting to see how Hazelton deals with the level of competition taking a leap but luckily for him he'll have most of last year's linebacking corps back.
USC hasn't had a full-time secondary coach since right before the 2011 season following the sudden departure of Willie Mack Garza due to NCAA issues. Kiffin took his time in landing a replacement but lured Marvin Sanders out West after he had just taken over as FAU's defensive coordinator. Mostly known for his time as Nebraska's secondary coach, Sanders has coached several top NFL draft picks and contributed to some very good Cornhuskers defenses. He'll take over a group that needs some development but is among the deepest on the team, especially at safety.
"It's going to be refreshing to have a spring with all these guys in place," Kiffin said. "There will be some growing pains but we'll be rolling by the time we get to the fall."
The final hire might have drawn the most press given new receivers coach Tee Martin's place in Tennessee lore. Though his group dealt with drops in his final season at Kentucky, Martin is known for being a good recruiter and helped turn Randall Cobb into an All-American the year before. He'll have the best group of wide receivers in the country to work with this spring, led by All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to go along with former five-star George Farmer.
3. Line depth.
The biggest question marks surrounding the Trojans are centered on the trenches. Four of the five offensive linemen return but replacing a top three NFL Draft pick in Matt Kalil will be not be easy despite the unit becoming the biggest surprise of the team last year. The interior of the line is the strength with Marcus Martin and John Martinez solid at the guard spots and All-American candidate Khaled Holmes leading the way at center. Kevin Graf will get first shot at replacing Kaili at left tackle while Aundrey Walker will be on the other side. Both played those positions in high school and, with several starts under their belt already, should ease some concerns. Beyond that though, and depth is still an issue until the fall.
The outlook at defensive line is not so rosy, with three starters gone and the Pac-12 leader in sacks impressing everybody at the NFL Combine. Pencil in Wes Horton and Devon Kennard at the end spot but depth behind them and who takes over at tackle will be the reason Ed Orgeron is up late at night (and not just the Red Bull). Those inside the program expect a lot out of sophomore George Uko.
"I'm really looking at seeing how well these tackles, Aundrey and Kevin do," Kiffin said. "I also really want to seeing the continued development of our defense with so much experience coming back and with two new coaches. I really want to be a dominant defensive team like (USC in) '02 or '03. Big five turnover or seven sack games, the type where you have just a suffocating defense."
If the Trojans are going to live up to expectations, figuring things out along the lines will be paramount this spring.
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Tags: Aundrey Walker, Bryan Fischer, Devon Kennard, Ed Orgeron, FAU, FCS, George Farmer, George Uko, Heisman Trophy, John Martinez, Kentucky, Kevin Graf, Khaled Holmes, Lane Kiffin, Marcus Martin, Marqise Lee, Marvin Sanders, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, North Dakota State, Pac-12, Randall Cobb, Robert Woods, Scottie Hazelton, Spring Practice, Spring Practice Primer, Spring Practice Primer 2012, Spring Practice Primers, T.J. McDonald, Tee Martin, Tennessee, USC, Wes Horton, Willie Mack Garza
Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:25 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 10:26 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
With Spring Practice only a few weeks away, USC head coach Lane Kiffin had three open coaching spots and little time to fill them. As of Sunday, he had filled two of the spots, hiring North Dakota State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton to coach linebackers and Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders to coach defensive backs, according to multiple reports including the LA Times.
The pair replace Joe Barry, who left to coach linebackers for the San Diego Chargers, and fill a void left after Willie Mack Garza resigned as the secondary coach right before the 2011 season.
Hazelton spent six years with the Bison, the last two coordinating the defense and won the FCS championship last season. Sanders spent only two months at Florida Atlantic, following Carl Pelini from Nebraska where he served as defensive backs coach for four seasons and sent several players to NFL. In addition to his stop in Lincoln, Sanders also served as defensive coordinator for two seasons at North Carolina.
The school has not officially confirmed the hires but numerous recruits were told during USC's Junior Day on Sunday.
The Trojans begin spring practice on March 6th. Kiffin still has to find a replacement for wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore, who left to take the same position with the Oakland Raiders.
Posted on: February 5, 2011 12:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
There's been quite a bit of speculation about coaching changes in the works at Nebraska in the last few days. During Nebraska's post-signing day dinner, three assistant coaches were all absent. Secondary coach Marvin Sanders was one, and he's already announced his resignation and been replaced by Indiana's Corey Raymond. The other two coaches were offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore, so naturally, people are now wondering what the future of those two is in Lincoln, or whether they even have any.
Especially when job postings for an assistant football coach are popping up on Nebraska's website. One's asking for somebody who would be "responsible for offensive game preparation, on-field strategies and game tactics. Conduct student-athlete recruiting, monitor academic progress of current student athletes and provide instruction to team in the execution of offensive schemes and techniques."
Of course, when asked about this job posting on Friday, Bo Pelini told the Omaha World-Herald that he had no idea what it was talking about.
“What job posting?” Pelini told the paper. ”That could be for an internship or it could be that (Jeff) Jamrog (assistant AD for football) put that up there. Sometimes when we have lower-level openings, we do that.”
Yes, a lower-level opening or internship that will involve game preparation and recruiting. Something tells me that Pelini isn't exactly being truthful. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that Larry Frost has also told the Omaha World-Herald that his son Scott Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback, has interviewed with Nebraska about a job. Scott Frost is currently receivers coach at Oregon, and according to his father, while he'd love to coach at Nebraska, he wouldn't leave for anything other than a coordinator position.
Which means that Bo Pelini is interviewing a lot of coaches for a job opening he doesn't even know exists.
Posted on: February 4, 2011 12:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When we last discussed the Nebraska coaching situation, Huskers secondary coach Marvin Sanders was expected to be on his way out. Expectation became reality later in the afternoon as Sanders officially resigned . With Indiana coach Kevin Wilson having told the world on Signing Day that one of his coaches had already been hired as Sanders' replacement, the timing of Sanders' departure looks curious: why wait until the day after Signing Day to make public information that's clearly been available for some time?
The easy answer is "because Bo Pelini didn't want to risk scaring off any of the Huskers' commitments," and that's why one of those commitments -- Spring (Tx.) cornerback Charles Jackson -- isn't pleased at all about having been kept in the dark , per the Omaha World-Herald:
“I'm not in the happiest mood right now ... I was pretty close with [Sanders]. He was there one day, and then he just left. It was like, OK, Coach Sanders isn't going to be coaching me. Who's going to be coaching me?" ...
Ironically, Pelini had been asked about the impact of staff changes on recruits the day before and had said that "as long as you're honest with them every step of the way ... you develop trust." From Jackson's perspective, at least, it appears the Huskers have not been that honest and that trust has not been developed.
Even that won't be enough to keep Jackson out of Lincoln, though; he said he remains "excited" to honor his NLI signature and play for new coach Corey Raymond, and added he would have made the same decision even if he'd been informed of Sanders' plans beforehand. But with rumors of further changes to the staff swirling, Jackson may not wind up the only 2011 Husker signee whom arrives on campus less than entirely thrilled with how his new head coach has handled an increasingly awkward-looking situation.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 2:17 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Signing Day at Nebraska was plenty celebration-worthy when it came to the actual signing: the Huskers inked one of the Big Ten's best classes, and maybe the program's strongest since the 2007 haul that netted Prince Amukamara and Jared Crick.
But that didn't keep one local columnist from calling the day "awkward" and "uncomfortable" for Bo Pelini and the Huskers all the same, thanks to some questions swirling around the makeup of the Nebraska coaching staff.
Those start with the status of current Husker secondary coach Marvin Sanders. New Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said Wednesday that Hoosier assistant Corey Raymond would be departing Bloomington for Lincoln to join Pelini's staff, and what's more, he'd be coaching the secondary. So where does that leave Sanders? Pelini :
"I'll address any staff questions at another time ... This is not the time or the place."Given that "is this coach a member of your staff?" isn't exactly a complicated question, it's fair that the situation itself is complicated. Sanders was also a no-show at a recruiting event Wednesday night, though offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore were also missing-in-action, sparking (still unfounded) rumors that Pelini had decided to initiate a more comprehensive staff overhaul.
Adding more fuel to the fire: per the above-linked Lincoln Journal-Star column , Pelini has already spoken to Oregon assistant and former Husker quarterback hero Scott Frost about potentially making to move to Lincoln.
But where Sanders looks likely to be on his way out (and the under-fire Watson may follow), another coach looks likely to be on his way in. Ohio linebackers coach Ross Els -- assistant to former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich and a former colleague of current Husker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini when Pelini was on staff at Ohio -- has emerged as the leading candidate to replace previous linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who left Lincoln to coach at ... wait for it ... Indiana.
It's a tangled web the situation here is weaving. But there's a chance it becomes more tangled still before we know exactly who'll be coaching the Huskers in 2011.