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 6, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 1:48 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Matt Barkley declared he would return for his senior season at USC to complete his career's "unfinished business," the Trojans got more than another year of All-American-caliber quarterbacking and a likely preseason No. 2 ranking--they got the inspiration for a snazzy gift to season ticket buyers.
That gift (via the Twitter feed of Scott Enyeart) is this T-shirt, featuring Barkley and star safety T.J. McDonald:
Like we said: snazzy. But we can't help but note that the Trojans are using Barkley's image and Barkley's slogan to sell tickets to see Barkley play, all without giving Barkley a single extra thing in return. So it goes in the NCAA. With any luck, Barkley will at least be able to score one of the T-shirts for himself.Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.
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Posted on: December 16, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 4:39 pm
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 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
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.
AwardsOFFENSIVE 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 DefenseDEFENSIVE 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: 2011 CBSSports.com All-Conference Team, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Andre Heidari, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, CBSSports.com All-Conference Team, Chase Thomas, Coby Fleener, David DeCastro, De'Anthony Thomas, Dion Jordan, Eddie Pleasant, Garth Gerhart, Heisman Trophy, Jackson Rice, John Boyett, John Elway, John White, Jonathan Martin, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Marquess Wilson, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Mychal Kendricks, NCAA, Nick Perry, Nickell Robey, Notre Dame, Pac-12, Ray Guy Award, Robert Woods, Stanford, Star Lotulelei, T.J. McDonald, Tony Bergstrom, Travis Long, UCLA, USC, Washington State
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:53 am
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?
Tags: BCS, Biletnikoff Award, Bryan Fischer, Curtis McNeal, Dan Guerrero, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Kevin Prince, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Matt Leinart, NCAA, Oregon, Pac-12, Pac-12 Championship Game, Pat Haden, Pete Carroll, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, T.J. McDonald, Tevin McDonald, Tim McDonald, UCLA, USC
Posted on: November 5, 2011 7:14 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
STANFORD WON. It's safe to say that the Cardinal is very much a second half team this season. What looked like a game that could be another one of those miracle upsets that Mike Riley seems to get every year in Corvallis turned into just another big Stanford win. Things weren't all positive for David Shaw however, as he saw two offensive threats, tight end Levine Toilolo and Chris Owusu, get knocked out of the game.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 12:23 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The USC Trojans and Pac-12 officials have suddenly gotten very well acquainted in the days since the team's triple-overtime loss to Stanford.
We've already told you that Lane Kiffin got tagged with a $10,000 fine and a reprimand for saying conference officials had "lied" to him at game's end, but he wasn't the only Trojan target from Larry Scott's office Monday: safety T.J. McDonald was also hit with a half-game suspension for a late hit against "defenseless" Cardinal receiver Chris Owusu.
McDonald will miss the first and second quarters of the Trojans' game this Friday at struggling Colorado. Scott issued a statementwith the following explanation:
“While Mr. McDonald was appropriately penalized on the field, I have deemed it necessary to add a a half-game suspension ... This process was part of our weekly review of all targeting and unnecessary roughness hits.”Kiffin, naturally, disagreed:
"He made a bang-bang play and his intent was not to hurt the receiver or launch his body at the receiver or lead with his helmet. If you watch the hit in real time, we feel it is impossible to competitively play that play any differently.For his part, McDonald said he "accept(s) my penalty" and apologized to both Stanford and his own team. But before you dismiss Kiffin's complaint as more generalized whining about the officials ... consider that he might actually be right in this case. Here's the play in question:
It's a rough hit, and despite the gripes from Trojan fans, it's not fair to ask the officials to keep their flags in their pockets after seeing something that violent in real-time. But an after-the-fact suspension? That we'll disagree with, since:
1. McDonald is clearly leading with his shoulder rather than his helmet, which is even turned away from the impact rather than taking McDonald into it
2. McDonald makes contact with Owusu's head not because that's where he's aiming, but because Owusu sinks towards his knees in an effort to catch the ball; if he had stayed upright, McDonald likely would have hit him in the chest
3. While it's easy to tell that the ball has gotten away from Owusu on the replay, we have serious doubts McDonald had any chance of pulling up in the split-second between the ball's arrival and its bouncing away (heck, even Owusu is still futilely trying to make the catch as McDonald arrives).
The bottom line: we don't know, really, what Scott wants McDonald to do. If Owusu had been able to catch the ball, McDonald's hit might have dislodged the ball and been credited as a great play ... but because Owusu can't quite come up with it and lowers his head into McDonald's hit, now it's suspension-worthy?
Frankly, it seems the reason McDonald has been suspended isn't the hit as much as it is that he's T.J. McDonald ... who, as Scott accurately points out, has had a healthy share of personal foul penalties already this season. And if McDonald had committed another cut-and-dry late hit, the worthy aim of protecting the players who play college football would indeed require a suspension.
But this wasn't cut-and-dry. This wasn't that kind of hit. And as much as we applaud Scott's efforts to make the Pac-12's defenders think twice about going headhunting, this wasn't the right place or the right play to make that stand.
Posted on: August 11, 2011 9:10 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here is one writer's choices for the preseason All-Pac-12 team.
Andrew Luck, RsJunior, Stanford
For those that know him, Luck's decision to return to Palo Alto and pass up millions as the sure-fire first pick in the NFL Draft wasn't surprising. Following a season in which he passed for 3,338 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, the native Texan just wanted to complete his degree - in architectural design. The Heisman runner-up does a pretty good job on the field of designing plays that end in a completion (71% of the time last year). He's not bad at running the ball either but earns his spot on the first team as the top signal-caller in the Pac-12.
Also watch for: The conference of quarterbacks is a pretty appropriate for the Pac-12 considering there are a number of players who can give Luck a run for his money. USC's Matt Barkley is a possible first round pick as well and has a talented receiving corps at his disposal. Oregon's Darron Thomas will put up big numbers through the air and on the ground and could take the top spot by beating Stanford. Arizona's Nick Foles and Utah's Jordan Wynn are also in the conversation.
LaMichael James, RsJunior, Oregon
The Doak Walker Award Winner as the nation's best running back last season, James is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He was the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 1,731 yards and is in position to break just about every Oregon record left in the books. He's not the biggest back but he does deliver the most production on the field.
Chris Polk, Junior, Washington
Polk burst on to the scene with a 1,000 yard season his freshman year and ever since then has been in the conversation for all-conference honors. He can catch the ball out of the backfield (4th leading receiver last year) and it will be tough to stop him from having another big season with the Huskies' offense revolving around him.
Also watch for: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor was Toby Gerhart's replacement last year and should be able to build on a very good breakout season. Newcomer Rodney Stewart from Colorado is a bright spot for the Buffaloes and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin should put up some good numbers in the school's Pistol offense.
Robert Woods, Sophomore, USC
Woods wasn't even supposed to be the best receiver at his high school but he nevertheless turned into a Freshman All-American and was the Trojans' most consistent pass catcher. He should surpass his total of 792 receiving yards easily this year as Barkley's favorite target.
Jermaine Kearse, Senior, Washington
The speedy Kearse averaged 16 yards a catch last year in route to a 1,000 yard season as the Huskies most consistent receiver. He doesn't get the attention nationally that he deserves but with a talented receiver group around him in 2011, he could be freed up to torch a few secondaries even with a new quarterback.
Also watch for: Arizona's Juron Criner is 1c as far as Pac-12 receivers go. Marquess Wilson out of Washington State is the best receiver no one has heard of and sophomore Kennan Allen is a dynamic playmaker for Cal. If healthy, Stanford's Chris Owusu is in the mix, as is Oregon State's James Rodgers.
David Paulson, Senior, Oregon
Expected to take on a bigger role in the offense, Paulson has a great pair of hands and managed to sneak behind linebackers fairly often last year to average 17.4 yards a catch.
Also watch for: This position is surprisingly deep and even newcomer Ryan Deehan from Colorado could emerge as the top guy in his new conference. Oregon State's Joe Halahuni has to stay healthy but is a big target and Stanford's Coby Fleener will put up good numbers with Luck throwing to him all season.
Center Garth Gerhart, RsSenior, Arizona State
Named to the Remington Trophy Watch List, Gerhart is one of only three returning centers in the conference and is looking to step out of his older brother's (Heisman finalist Toby) shadow.
Guard David DeCastro, RsJunior, Stanford
The anchor for a line that only gave up 13 sacks all season, the Lombardi Award candidate is excellent in space while pass blocking.
Guard Ryan Miller, Senior, Colorado
Miller can play either guard or tackle and the mammoth 6-foot-8, 295-pounder is excellent in space and one of the top guards in the country.
Tackle Matt Kalil, RsJunior, USC
A possible first round draft pick if he chooses to leave early, Kalil has the size and the pedigree (older brother Ryan is a starter for the Carolina Panthers) to be the next great Trojan left tackle.
Tackle Tony Bergstrom, Senior, Utah
Bergstrom has started every game the past two seasons and did not allow a sack during the regular season.
Also watch for: Oregon guard Carson York is a key player for the Ducks and Bay Area tackles Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Mitchell Schwartz (Cal) give defensive ends fits all game long.
End Junior Onyeali, Sophomore, Arizona State
Not the biggest end on the field but he's a terror off the edge. With the quickness and speed of a linebacker, he's not someone the offensive tackle enjoys blocking.
End Datone Jones, RsJunior, UCLA
He missed all of last year with a broken foot but seems back and better than ever. He can play the run just as well as the pass and is the anchor for the Bruins' line.
Tackle Alameda Ta'amu, Senior Washington
The rock of the Huskies defense, he closed out the year strong. He ends up commanding double teams due to his size (6-foot-3, 337 pounds) and ability.
Tackle Justin Washington, Sophomore, Arizona
Washington has the quickness of an end but he's inside and makes his presence known. He had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss as a true freshman last season.
Also watch for: Colorado's Will Pericak and Josh Hartigan are a great tandem from Boulder and Washington State's Travis Long is under the radar but excellent as well. USC's Nick Perry and George Uko are both primed for a break out year.
Vontaze Burfict, Junior, Arizona State
There's talk of him being more mature and a better leader which is actually a bit scary for opponents considering he is one of the quickest, most instinctive linebackers in the game and someone you don't want to get hit by.
Shayne Skov, Junior, Stanford
Turned in a great sophomore campaign and is relentless with his pursuit of the play. He's an intense tackling machine who always seems to find himself around the football.
Mychal Kendricks, Senior, Cal
An experienced outside linebacker, he's sliding inside in the Bears' scheme this year. Athletic enough to be a disruption when dropping into coverage, Kendricks can also be found in the backfield. Often.
Also watch for: Patrick Larimore is the Bruins middle backer and their defensive stopper. Chaz Walker out of Utah and a healthy Chris Galippo from USC are both solid playmakers at times.
Corner Cliff Harris, Junior, Oregon
Though he's suspended for the opener, the ball-hawking corner will immediately give a boost to the Ducks secondary with his ability to cover receivers.
Corner Trevin Wade, Senior, Arizona
He had an off year last year but is the anchor of the secondary for the Wildcats and has good size and a knack for knocking away the ball.
Safety Delano Howell, Senior, Stanford
Howell has seen just about everything you can possibly throw at him and reads and reacts like the best of them. He's not just a cover guy either as he's a very good tackler.
Safety, T.J. McDonald, Junior, USC
One of the bigger players roaming the secondary, McDonald is following in his All-American father Tim's shoes. He's more comfortable in year two of Monte Kiffin's system and should see his level of play rise as a result.
Also watch for: Oregon's John Boyett is tough to face playing with Harris and Tony Dye at UCLA is a bright spot for the Bruins' defense last year.
Kicker Erik Folk, Senior, Washington
The strong legged Folk is perfect on his PATs for his career and is seems to always come through despite any pressure in late game situations.
Punter Bryan Anger, Senior, Cal
Annually in the running for the Ray Guy Award for best punter, Anger has a big leg and usually can pin opponents deep in their own territory.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Bryan Anger, Cal, Carolina Panthers, Carson York, Chaz Walker, Chris Galippo, Chris Owusu, Chris Polk, Cliff Harris, Coby Fleener, Colorado, Darron Thomas, Datone Jones, David DeCastro, David Paulson, Delano Howell, Doak Walker Award, Erik Folk, Garth Gerhart, George Uko, Heisman, James Rodgers, Jermaine Kearse, Joe Halahuni, John Boyett, Johnathan Franklin, Jonathan Martin, Jordan Wynn, Josh Hartigan, Junior Onyeali, Juron Criner, Justin Washington, Kennan Allen, LaMichael James, Lombardi Award, Marquess Wilson, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Mitchell Schwartz, Mychal Kendricks, NCAA, NFL Draft, Nick Foles, Nick Perry, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Pac-12 preview, Patrick Larimore, preseason All-Pac-12, Ray Guy Award, Remington Trophy, Robert Wooods, Rodney Stewart, Ryan Deehan, Ryan Kalil, Ryan Miller, Shayne Skov, Stanford, T.J. McDonald, Toby Gerhart, Tony Bergstom, Tony Dye, Travis Long, Trevin Wade, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State, Will Pericak