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Tag:Matt Kalil
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: USC


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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Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:01 am
 

The biggest shoes to fill in college football



Posted by Tom Fornelli


With teams having already started or starting spring practice over the next few weeks. there are a lot of players across the country who will be charged with replacing someone who has come and gone before them. It's an annual rite of spring in college football, when the senior quarterback from last season is putting the finishing touches on his final semester as a college student, and the sophomore who isn't even sure what he's majoring in yet realizes he's going to be majoring in Playbook 101 for the next few weeks.

Of course, while roster turnover is a common occurence in college football, there are bigger shoes to fill than others, and in this post we take a look at the ten biggest pairs looking for a new owner this spring.

10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

Ryan Broyles began re-writing the Oklahoma record books the moment he stepped on the field in his first game as a Sooner. He caught 7 passes for 141 yards against Cincinnati, both of which were freshman records. Four years later he finished his career having caught more passes than any other receiver in FBS history, pulling in 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

In other words, he's not the type of player that Oklahoma can just replace with anybody. This spring receivers like Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Metoyer will try to replicate Broyles' production in Norman. Whether it will be one of them doing it, or a group effort, Oklahoma will need it to happen if the Sooners want to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title.

9. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Understandably, USC fans were extremely excited by the news that Matt Barkley would be returning for his senior season, and many have pegged the Trojans as a title favorite because of it. What you don't want to do, however, is overlook the fact that the man who was in charge of protecting Barkley's blindside these last few years won't be back.

Though that's how life generally works for offensive lineman like Matt Kalil. As large as they are, they're often overlooked. Kevin Graf, Jeremy Galten, David Garness and Nathan Guertler will all be competing for the unenviable task of being the man in charge of making sure nothing happens to the most valuable piece of the USC offense.

8. Mark Barron, S, Alabama

One of the problems with having a defense as strong as the one we saw in Tuscaloosa last season is that you're bound to lose players to the next level, and the Crimson Tide have no shortage of beasts making their way to greener pastures. Still, the Tide have a knack for churning out defensive lineman and linebackers, but safeties like Mark Barron don't come along all that often.

Barron made 231 tackles for Nick Saban in his four seasons, including 13 for a loss, while picking off 12 passes. Barron was the type of player that could defend the pass and the run, and he won't be easily replaced. Can Robert Lester or freshman Vinnie Sunseri step up and be the next stud in the Alabama secondary?

7. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Based purely on production, there may be no larger shoes to fill in the country than Luke Kuechly's. There may not have been more than 3 plays run by opposing offenses in which Kuechly wasn't in on the tackle. Kuechly finished 2011 with 191 tackles. The next highest total on the Boston College defense belonged to Kevin Pierre-Louis, who had 74.

As our own Chip Patterson put it, "for Boston College, replacing Kuechly is like any other team replacing 2 1/2 players." Though it's been proven that it can be done, as Kuechly himself once had to fill the shoes left behind by Mark Herzlich. Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto -- who has a name that would be hard to replace -- will be the two linebackers looking to repeat the feat.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Many casual college football fans never truly appreciated how amazing a player Morris Claiborne was for LSU in 2011 simply because opposing offenses weren't dumb enough to test him all that often. Throw in some Honey Badger exploits with a bit of Les Miles being Les Miles, and Claiborne gets a bit lost in the gumbo. Still, Claiborne truly was the definition of a shutdown corner for LSU, playing a pivotal role on one of the best defenses in the country.

While Tyrann Mathieu will be back in 2012, he's not the cover corner that Claiborne was, so it will be up to Tharold Simon to fill the role. One he seems capable of considering he led LSU with 10 passes broken up in 2011 playing mostly as a nickel back.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

I won't lie to you. Even when Mark Ingram will still in Tuscaloosa running through SEC defenses, I always felt that Trent Richardson was the best running back on the Alabama roster. Now both are gone, and Richardson will be harder to replace than Ingram was simply because Trent can't replace himself.

Can Eddie Lacy be the next Heisman finalist in the Alabama backfield? He showed some promise in 2011, and in an offense like Alabama's, the opportunities will be there. Still, even if Lacy is extremely talented, there are only so many shoes capable of doing this.

4. Brandon Weeden/Justin Blackmon, QB/WR, Oklahoma State

A bit of a cheat, I know, but the truth is that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon felt like extensions of one another for the past two seasons in Stillwater. Their success was as a duo. I mean, Blackmon caught 40 touchdowns over the last three seasons, which accounted for 53% of the 75 touchdown passes Weeden threw with the Cowboys.

Now we know that Oklahoma State is going to continue putting points on the board without them, but will the offense ever be as prolific when the combination is Clint Chelf or Wes Lunt to Tracy Moore? We'll get our first clues this spring.

3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Maybe you think that LaMichael James isn't all that hard to replace given the weapons Oregon has in the backfield. I can see your point, but I can also point out that James nearly doubled Kenjon Barner's rushing total (1,805 yards to 939) in 2011. I mean, this is a man who rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry in 2011, yet we didn't think it was so amazing based simply on the fact we'd already seen him do similar things in the previous two seasons.

We just got used to it.

Yes, Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are extremely talented backs, but the fact is there's no easy way to replace a back who accounted for 5,888 all-purpose yards and 58 touchdowns in three seasons as a Duck, all at the speed of light.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Will it be harder to fill RG3's shoes, or his socks? Neither will be easy. While we all know how talented Griffin was as a quarterback for Baylor in 2011 and the two seasons before it, it's his impact on the program that will leave the biggest impression. Baylor went from a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big 12 to a team that can call itself the home of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Nick Florence will be the favorite to replace Griffin this spring, but he'll never be able to have the impact on the Baylor program that Griffin did. Instead he'd be much better served to focus on replacing the production on the field. Something that won't be easy, either, but given Art Briles' history with quarterbacks and the way Florence performed in place of Griffin against Texas Tech, it may not be that far-fetched, either.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman Trophy like Robert Griffin did, but that doesn't diminish the impact he had on the Stanford program. In the three seasons before Luck showed up in Palo Alto, Stanford was 10-26, including a 1-11 season in 2006. In Luck's three seasons the Cardinal went 31-8, played in two BCS bowl games and became a national program.

Stanford is essentially the school Notre Dame used to be, and it's all thanks to Luck. Of course, the question now is whether or not Stanford can maintain the success they had under Luck with a new quarterback. Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will all enter spring practice looking to replace the most important player in the history of Stanford football, and that's a list that includes John Elway.

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Matt Barkley staying at USC?

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you're a USC fan checking out Twitter on Thursday morning then you are probably enjoying a lot of the tweets your reading. While there has been no official announcement, there have been quite a few tweets from a number of different people, including CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, that it looks like Matt Barkley will not be declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft. Instead he's going to stay at USC for another season.



"So does Matt Barkley stay or does he go?? In my opinion, I think he stays!! You heard it first here," tweeted former USC quarterback Matt Leinart.

What does it mean for USC if Barkley does in fact return for another season? Nothing but good things.

You may have noticed that USC looked like one of the best teams in the country over the final weeks of the season, and just about every major player on the roster will be back in 2012 save for tackle Matt Kalil. Still, with Barkley returning as well, not only does that give the Trojans a Heisman frontrunner for next season, but odds are it will make the Trojans one of the favorites for a BCS title.

Because not only will Barkley be back, but USC's postseason ban won't be in affect in 2012 and they'll be eligible to play in any bowl game, including the BCS.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 4:20 pm
 

2012 NFL Draft Early Entry Tracker



Posted by Chip Patterson


With many draft-eligible juniors deciding to file the official evaluation paperwork with with NFL, we take a look at the hottest prospects with the option of declaring for the 2012 NFL Draft. Of the 32 players on Rob Rang's latest Big Board, 19 of them are eligible to return to school for at least one more season.

Keep up the marquee names from Rob's Big Board, with a few notable additions here at the CBSSports.com NFL Draft Early Entry Tracker.

[Updated Dec. 21]

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 1
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: In a surprise to no one, Luck believes he is "absolutely" ready to enter the NFL.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 2
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Matt Barkley has decided to return to USC for his senior season.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 3
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Richardson has decided not to make his decision until after the title game. He suggested that he would return for another year earlier in the season, but his tone has changed since the completion of the Tide's regular season. "I'm going to sit down with coach and my mom after the last game of the season and see what's best for me and my family and see what's best for the team," Richardson explained.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 4
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Kalil ended any hopes of a "package deal" return with Matt Barkley when he announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft.

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 5
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. Alabama, Jan. 9
The Latest: Claiborne won't make his decision official until after the title game, but many LSU fans expect he will take advantage of his high stock and make the jump after this season.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 6
What's Next: Alamo Bowl vs. Washington, Dec. 29
The Latest: Griffin hasn't committed to returning to Baylor for another season, but he hasn't announced the intention to turn pro either. However, his parents are reportedly interviewing prospective agents. So there's that.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 7
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Stanford, Jan. 2
The Latest: Blackmon ended the speculation early and has already declared his intentions to enter the NFL Draft. "I think it's just time. It's that time to go. I came back last year to win a Big 12 championship, set us up for a BCS bowl and I think we did that," Blackmon said.

David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 8
What's Nextst: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: CBSSports.com's Rob Rang reports that DeCastro will indeed enter the 2012 NFL Draft, capitalizing on his status as one of the top interior lineman in the class.

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 11
What's Next: Insight Bowl vs. Oklahoma, Dec. 30
The Latest: Reiff has started the last 25 Hawkeye games, but will not make his decision until he plays at least one more. "I haven't really thought about [the NFL Draft] yet at all," Reiff said. "When the time is right, I'll sit down and think about it. Right now, I'm just worried about the bowl and bowl preparations."

'Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 12
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Kirkpatrick has not addressed the NFL Draft, and likely will not until after the title game. Some scouts have considered Kirkpatrick a little raw, which may lead to his return for another year at Alabama. But the All-American corner has not given any hint which way he is leaning.

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 13
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Martin is considered the second best tackle in the class behind Kalil, who reportedly has decided to make the leap to the NFL. Martin has yet to give any hint which way he is leaning, though with such a high position in the eyes of most scouts it would not be surprising to see him go.

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 14
What's Next: Boston College finished the season 4-8, missing the postseason for the first time since 1998.
The Latest: The star linebacker broke school and ACC records for career tackles after leading the nation for the second year in a row with 191 tackles in 2011. The Lombardi Award winner said he hopes to announce his plans for next season "shortly after Christmas."

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 19
What's Next: Memphis finished the season 2-10, TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente was hired to replace Larry Porter as head coach. The Tigers went 3-21 in two seasons under Porter.
The Latest: Poe has "just been focusing on the here and now" and is in the process of gathering information on his draft stock. After Memphis' final game he said his mother, Sandra, will have the final say.

Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 23
What's Next: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Iowa State, Dec. 30
The Latest: The official word from Rutgers' athletic department is that no underclassmen have made a decision regarding the NFL Draft, but a report last week in Metro New York claims Sanu has informed the coaching staff of his decision to return to the Scarlet Knights for one more season.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 24
What's Next: Music City Bowl vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 30
The Latest: Cox will not address the decision to enter the NFL Draft until after the Music City Bowl. Head coach Dan Mullen said all of the juniors, including Cox, have filed their draft evaluation papers with the NFL.

Nick Perry, DE, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 25
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Perry is reportedly joining Kalil in the 2012 NFL Draft class.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 26
What's Next: Orange Bowl vs. West Virginia, Jan. 4
The Latest: Dwayne Allen has submitted the NFL paperwork for an official analysis from the league, but will not make his final decision until likely early January. That will give him two weeks to make a decision before the Jan. 15 deadline.

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 27
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, Jan. 2
The Latest: Worthy told The Grand Rapids Press a decision regarding the NFL Draft would be made after the Outback Bowl.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 32
What's Next: After a 6-6 finish, Miami declared themselves ineligible for the postseason in response to the current NCAA inquiry into the football program.
The Latest: Lamar Miller has already declared his intentions to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, Jan. 2
The Latest: Jeffery has submitted the evaluation paperwork to the NFL, and will reportedly make his decision after getting his response in early January.

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon, Jan. 2
The Latest: Peter Konz has also submitted the official evaluation paperwork with the NFL, and will not address the decision until after the Rose Bowl. Konz missed the final three games of the season with an ankle injury, but is expected to begin practicing again soon.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Insight Bowl vs. Iowa, Dec. 30
The Latest: Jones has applied for draft evaluation, and recently acknowledged starting to think about the decision "a little bit more."  He will likely wait until after the bowl game, and hearing the results of his evaluation from the league.  “If it's right for me to go, I'm going to go," Jones explained on Tuesday.  "If it's right for me to stay, I'm going to stay. I just have to kind of think about it a little bit more.”

Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Hightower will not make an official decision until after the bowl game, but many expect the All-American linebacker to make the jump after this season.

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl vs. UCLA, Dec. 31
The Latest: The All-American defensive end has been busy collecting end-of-season honors and has not made an official announcement, but Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline reports that Mecilus will likely forgo his final season with the Illini and go pro.

Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, Jan. 2
The Latest: Like Jeffery and the rest of the South Carolina juniors, Gilmore has applied for evaluation from the NFL.  Assistant coach Lorenzo Ward believes a "first or second round grade" from the evaluation would convince the junior to enter the draft.

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Charles has applied for NFL evaluation along with the rest of his draft eligible teammates. "It's really going to come down to what the Lord wants me to do," Charles explained. "I'm going to pray about it, talk to my family and definitely wait until after the Michigan State game, and take it from there."

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Like Charles, Rambo has publicly delayed the decision until after the bowl game and hearing a response from the league's draft evaluation.  Rambo leads the SEC with seven interceptions and was named an AP First Team All-American, but wants to see "what everyone thinks of me and what I can improve on."


For much more news, analysis and the latest mock drafts check out our CBSSports.com NFL Draft homepage

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: December 16, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 4:39 pm
 

Report: USC's Nick Perry to enter draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

For the second time in as many days, a key USC Trojan has reportedly elected to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.

Thursday it was tackle Matt Kalil announcing he would forgo his senior season in L.A., and on Friday ESPNLosAngeles.com's Pedro Moura reported that two-year starting defensive end Nick Perry had made the same decision. Sources cited in the report said that Perry had already signed with sports agency Lock Metz Malinovic, which currently represents multiple other former Trojans.

Perry is projected to be selected as early as the late first-round and could play as either a down lineman or a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.

Though not a surprise, Perry's decision will leave a sizable hole in the Trojans' 2012 defensive line rotation. His 9.5 sacks led the Pac-12, put him among the top 20 pass-rushers nationally, and equaled the output of the entire rest of the Trojan defensive line combined. His 13 tackles-for-loss were on shy of doubling the high for any other player on the team, and he ranked fifth on the Trojans in tackles overall.

Lane Kiffin has never shied away from encouraging his players to leave for the pros if their draft projection was optimistic enough, and even after Kalil and Perry he may not be done with 2011's early defections yet; quarterback Matt Barkley has been the subject of much speculation and safety T.J. McDonald could also decide to make the leap.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:32 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 12:50 am
 

USC tackle Matt Kalil to enter NFL Draft

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Although there had been a few rumors that he would return to school, USC left tackle Matt Kalil will forgo his senior season and apply for the NFL Draft. ESPN's Chris Mortensen first tweeted the news that Kalil would be leaving.

"It was definitely a tough decision because I love SC," Kalil told the LA Times. "But it’s a special opportunity. It’s time to move on."

Kalil did not allow a sack this past season and was one of the rocks for an offensive line that allowed the lowest sack total in the country. The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder also blocked four kicks on special teams when he wasn't protecting quarterback Matt Barkley's blind side.

Depending on who else declares for the NFL draft, Kalil is currently ranked as the third overall prospect in the 2012 CBSSports.com NFL draft rankings - behind underclass quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Barkley.

ESPNLA.com reported later that Kalil is expected to sign with agent Tom Condon of CAA Sports. Condon is a well-regarded agent who also represents Kalil's brother, Ryan, who recently signed a $49 million extension that made him the highest paid center in the league. The elder Kalil was a second round pick out of USC in 2007.

The winner of the Morris Trophy given to the Pac-12 best offensive lineman, Kalil will be tough for the Trojans to replace given limited depth at the position.

It is unclear whether Kalil's decision will have an effect on Barkley's decision to turn pro as well. The two are close friends and the left tackle previously said the two would either stay at USC together or leave for the NFL together.

Barkley has until January 15th to declare for the draft and has applied for an evaluation and met with coaches.

For more on Kalil's decision and the latest NFL Draft news, jump on over to the Eye on Football blog.


Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Pac-12 conference, which placed three teams in the top 10 in the first year as a 12 team league.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

A redshirt junior, Luck led the Cardinal to a second consecutive 11-1 regular season and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Against Notre Dame, Luck set a new school record for touchdown passes and broke the Stanford career record held by John Elway with 80 in three seasons. The Cardinal offense averaged 43.6 points per game this year and 480.9 yards of total offense and no one in the conference has meant more to an offense than Luck does to his. Thus, the future top draft pick is CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Player of the Year. Just as important, the native Texan also came back to complete his degree during his final semester on the Farm - in architectural design

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, California

A tackling machine during his time in Berkeley, Kendricks once again led the Bears in tackles and was fourth in the conference in tackles per game. He also had 13 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and helped lead the Cal defense to rank 27th nationally in total defense.   

FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR

Marqise Lee (USC) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Both players from the Los Angeles area burst onto the scene early and produced highlight play after highlight play for their teams this season. Lee finished the season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns while paired with his former high school teammate Robert Woods. He was instrumental in USC's upset win over Oregon with 187 yards receiving and a total of 325 all-purpose yards. Thomas set a Ducks freshman record with 16 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,921 all-purpose yards to finish second in the Pac-12 to his teammate LaMichael James.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lane Kiffin, USC

In his second season in charge of the Trojans, Kiffin has deflected criticism and NCAA sanctions to finish 10-2 and ranked in the top five in the country. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the country, USC finished 17th in the country in total offense in 2011 and the defense jumped nearly 30 spots nationally. Under Kiffin the team essentially won the Pac-12 South division and beat rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. USC lost to 4th-ranked Stanford in triple overtime but ended Oregon's 19-game winning streak.

All-Pac-12 Offense

QUARTERBACK

Matt Barkley, USC

Wait, the player of the year wasn't the best quarterback? Such was the case in the Pac-12, which had an embarrassing amount of good signal-callers. Barkley took the leap to another level this season despite his two best wide receivers being underclassmen. The junior passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and threw for 3,528 yards. Though Barkley wasn't named a Heisman finalist or had the same load to shoulder in the offense like Luck, he makes the first team as the best quarterback in the conference. You could say the margin at quarterback was so thin between the two that Luck's receiving abilities put him over the top for player of the year.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, Oregon, and John White, Utah

Despite missing two games, James still led the conference in rushing with 1,646 yards - 242 yards more than second place White. The flashy Ducks running back also led the nation in yards per game and was third in total purpose yardage. In his first year in a BCS AQ conference, White certainly made a lasting impression as the focal point of the Utes offense that dealt with plenty of injuries.

WIDE RECEIVER

Marquess Wilson, Washington State, and Robert Woods, USC

Here's a scary thought if you're a Pac-12 defense, four of the top five receivers in the league were either a freshman or sophomore. That includes Wilson and Woods (both sophomores) who turned in brilliant seasons that land both of them on the All-Pac-12 team. Wilson is a name many people don't know about because he plays on the Palouse but he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Woods was hampered by injury late in the year but still finished with a school and conference record 111 catches to go with his 15 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Coby Fleener, Stanford

It was pretty much a lock for one of the Cardinal's tight ends to fill this spot given their role in the offense. Fleener turned in a productive senior campaign, leading all tight ends in yards (648) and touchdowns (10). He also finished the year with an impressive 20.3 yards per catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Tony Bergstrom, Utah; Garth Gerhart, Arizona State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Matt Kalil, USC

There were plenty of great quarterbacks and offenses in the Pac-12 this year and one reason why was the abundance of great offensive linemen. Stanford allowed nine sacks all year while USC allowed a nation's best eight.

All-Pac-12 Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dion Jordan
, Oregon; Nick Perry, USC; Travis Long, Washington State; Star Lotulelei, Utah

Perry led the league in solo sacks with nine, good enough for 12th in the nation, and had 14 tackles for loss this season. Jordan wasn't too far behind him in terms of numbers and was an issue for opposing offensive lines all year. Lotulelei was the top nose tackle in conference and Long was one of the bright spots in an average Wazzu defense.

LINEBACKER

Mychal Kendricks, California; Chase Thomas, Stanford; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Kendricks was an impact player for Cal's stingy defense and Thomas led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. Hoffman-Ellis didn't put up gaudy stats but was a strength on the Cougars defense.

SECONDARY

Nickell Robey and T.J McDonald, USC; Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett, Oregon

Despite his size, Robey locked up opposing receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw to the other side of the field while McDonald roamed around and delivered some vicious hits. The Ducks defense wasn't quite as sharp as it was last season but it was still tough to throw against Pleasant and Boyett, who helped Oregon finish with 16 interceptions.

SPECIALISTS

PK Andre Heidari, USC; P Jackson Rice, Oregon; Returner De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Heidari made 15-of-17 field goals and every extra point this year. Rice led the Pac-12 in punting and was sixth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. Opponents returned just 12 of his punts and he was also named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the country's top punter. Thomas had two kick returns for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards a return.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:53 am
 

USC routs UCLA as attention turns to Barkley



Posted by Bryan Fischer


LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin did what he could to get Matt Barkley to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

USC receivers just kept running routes and, thanks to Barkley, UCLA fell on the wrong end of a rout once again.

It had been 534 days but USC could finally say they were bowl eligible too.

The Trojans have to win at least six games next season to qualify for a bowl of course - a near certainty given the amount of talent returning in 2012 - but on the Coliseum turf Saturday night, they could finally say they had the right to play in one after shutting out their crosstown rival UCLA 50-0.

The only question left in 2011: One more year or thanks for the memories Matt?

"This night is too special to take away from what we've done," Barkley said. "I don't want to worry about my future, I want to spend my time enjoying the night. We've worked hard for this and we deserve to celebrate a little bit."

Barkley's team jumped the gun a little, singing the fight song while he was in the middle of his press conference.

"That gave me chills."

In what could have been the quarterback's final performance under center, he went out close to perfect: 35-for-42, 423 yards and a school record-tying (his own, by the way) six touchdown passes.

The fans want an encore next year and you can understand why.

"When he gets back from New York we will sit down," Kiffin said. "Unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he is not coming back.

"I probably shouldn't say this but I look up to Matt Barkley. He has been through a lot of adversity. Basically all of his dreams about football were taken away with the sanctions. I don't know any 39-year olds that can handle things the way he did, much less any 19-year olds."

The pitch to stay is easy enough he doesn't have to say much at all.

USC started just only four seniors, two of whom were on offense. Just nine players who saw any significant playing time won't be back next year prior to any NFL defections. Biletnikoff finalist Robert Woods (13 catches for 113 yards, two touchdowns) will return and Marqise Lee (13 catches for 224 yards, two touchdowns) will be just a sophomore. Every starter on the offensive line could return, including potential first round left tackle Matt Kalil, who he said is a "package deal" with Barkley earlier in the week.

Even the defense is loaded, with two freshman tying for the lead in tackles for the first time in school history.

So the question will be, for the next several weeks, will he stay or will he go?

"I've been in his ear trying to get him back," Woods said. "Of course the decision is his but I feel like we could go a long way with him."

"I haven't started yet," Lee said with a grin. "But I'm going to."

Kiffin has been on record saying that sure-fire first round picks should leave but his tune has changed over the past few months. Not much of a joker, he's cracks plenty about his quarterback coming back.

With Barkley the Trojans can emerge from their bowl ban (and start scholarship reductions) as a top five team, primed to compete not only for a Rose Bowl but a national title like the good old days under Pete Carroll. The blond-haired Southern California kid could lead his dream school out of the program's toughest days and back to the promise land.

"We are coming out of the dark," said Kiffin about 2012.

USC has a great film department so they may have already sold the script to Disney.

"It means a lot knowing the Trojan family has my back. It's going to be tough," the signal-caller added. "I'm still enjoying that game and enjoying this night."

The Coliseum crowd started the "One more year" chant early. After watching the Trojans' scoreboard get a workout though, it wasn't clear who they wanted to come back more, Barkley or UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.

The loss dropped him to 26-32 overall, 17-15 in the conference at his alma mater. Though Neuheisel has yet to beat USC, he talked about the gap between the school 14 miles away being closed earlier in the week - after UCLA backed into the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon.

"That was a pretty strong statement to make," Kiffin said. "Our players took that very personal. It was talked about a lot and not by me at all. I think they really felt disrespected."

After Saturday, the gap may never have been wider.

"I'm going to evaluate this program at the end of the year like I always have," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "We've got another game to focus on and it's a big game.

"It's a devastating loss for any Bruin fan or anybody in that locker room or any of the coaches."

UCLA gave up a 98-yard scoring drive and defensive backs had trouble all night preventing receivers from getting behind them for long scores. They allowed the Trojans' smallest offensive player, running back Curtis McNeal, to take a simple off tackle play 73-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Quarterback Kevin Prince was the lone bright spot but ended up as the team's leading rusher, not exactly the plan.

In many ways it was over before it began.

"The first drive," Neuheisel said of when he knew he had a problem. "We couldn't stop them and we were too inconsistent on offense to be in a scoring fest and it just got out of hand."

The Pac-12 office said USC could only say they finished in first with their 10-2 record and could not call themselves South champions. They gave their blessing for UCLA to do, despite finishing second, however.

Tomato, tohmato. First place vs. South champion, the scoreboard did the talking.

"It shows who really is the Pac-12 champion," Kalil said.

In the locker room after the game, the team found shirts adorned with "Pac-12 South Champions" awaiting them from athletic director Pat Haden.

Across the country there are plenty of fierce rivalries but nothing quite like the crosstown showdown that takes place at the end of the season every year in Los Angeles. Office bragging rights are at stake. Friends won't speak to each other afterward. In plenty of cases it pits brother versus brother - including on the field.

Tim McDonald was a two-time All-American safety for USC. Son T.J. followed in his footsteps and started for the Trojans when he was a freshman at the position. Younger brother Tevin took a different path and signed with the Bruins, ending up as the starter opposite his brother Saturday night.

T.J. will take home bragging rights once again and likely spend Christmas detailing his interception in the red zone that ended one of the few Bruins scoring threats.

"It's a big thing," McDonald said of the pick. "But for us to get that shutout, for this crosstown rivalry, to play this way in the last game of the season, this was our bowl game. We had nothing to leave out on the field and we did that."

Kiffin's squad took the title of city champions for the 12th time in 13 years. Though they had the (NCAA) book thrown at them and doubters aplenty, they lived up to the school's 'Fight On' motto throughout the turmoil that had engulfed the program the past few years and, it seems, is starting to disperse.

"We had a lot to play for this year," Barkley said. "We were playing for this university, the history of this program. You're playing for personal pride, you don't want to just flush the season down the toilet. There were a ton of things that we were playing for and that motivated us."

Woods became the school and conference leader in receptions early in the second half. Barkley broke Matt Leinart's school and conference record with his 39th touchdown pass of the season.

"It's unreal, I never thought this would happen," he said. "I remember watching that year that he had."

The Trojans were not eligible for the Pac-12 championship or a BCS bowl but they stated their case one final time that they could beat anybody in the country in 2011.

"The way we're playing, I think we could," Barkley said.

So what about next year?

 
 
 
 
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