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Tag:Willie Mack Garza
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 13, 2012 10:25 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 10:26 am
 

Reports: Kiffin makes two staff hires

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: November 8, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Oregon releases more Will Lyles documents

Posted by Bryan Fischer

With most of the college football world focused on the developing story at Penn State, Oregon found a convenient time to release multiple documents related to their ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program's relationship with scout Willie Lyles and possible recruiting violations.

According to the The Oregonian, the pages and pages of documents detail aspects of the combined NCAA and school investigations and include scouting reports, the cell phone records of head coach Chip Kelly, an invoice from the law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King - which is conducing the school's internal investigation - and email exchanges.

Also included was correspondence from attorney Michael Glazier, a partner in Bond, Schoeneck & King, indicating that he expected the firm to conclude it internal investigation by November of this year at the latest, and correspondence relating to NCAA interviews with Lyles.

The school released email exchanges between Glazier, Ron Barker, Pac-12 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement; Steve Duffin, NCAA associate director of enforcement; Angie Cretors, NCAA associate director of agents, gambling and amateurism activities; Bill Clever, UO executive assistant athletic director for compliance, and James O'Fallon, UO law professor emeritus and the athletic department's faculty rep, about interviews with UO coach Chip Kelly, and Josh Gibson and Jim Fisher, both assistant directors for football operations.

The NCAA is looking at Lyles, a Houston-based football scout, and his relationship with several current and former Oregon players from the state of Texas such as LaMichael James, Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams. Lyles met with enforcement staff members in Los Angeles in late August to talk about the case. Following the meeting, USC assistant coach Willie Mack Garza abruptly resigned from his position after being connected to the probe after it was discovered he wired Lyles money for an unofficial visit while coaching at Tennessee.

The issue at the heart of the case stems from whether Oregon's $25,000 payment to Lyles for a national scouting package was similar to what it paid for other comparable packages. An invoice from Digital Sports Video Inc., of Aliso Viejo, Calif., was released to The Oregonian Tuesday showing at least one other scouting service billed the school $25,000 for scouting services.

Oregon received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA in September.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 7:40 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 7:40 pm
 

Seastrunk's hardship waiver denied by NCAA

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After transferring from Oregon to Baylor in August, running back Lache Seastrunk applied for a hardship waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to suit up and play this season rather than sitting out the entire year. Well, that request has reportedly been denied by the NCAA.

"NCAA informed Baylor University officials this afternoon that redshirt freshman running back Lache Seastrunk’s waiver and subsequent appeal of the organization’s transfer residency requirement have both been denied," the school said in a statement.

"The Temple, Texas, native and University of Oregon transfer will have three years of eligibility to play three seasons when he takes to the field for the 2012 Bears. Seastrunk redshirted as a true freshman at Oregon a year ago."

Seastrunk, of course, found himself in the midst of a gathering storm while at Oregon thanks to his connection to Willie Lyles. At the time his transfer was announced, Seastrunk said that he "felt like something was about to go down" at Oregon. Something did go down, too, as the school was hit with a notice of inquiry from the NCAA three weeks later. Seastrunk's name also came up in regards to former Tennessee assistant Willie Mack Garza allegedly wiring Lyles $1,500 to bring Seastrunk to Knoxville on an unofficial visit.

That's a whole lot of attention from the NCAA for a running back who has yet to see the field in college.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:16 am
 

Report: Former Vols assistant wired cash to Lyles

Posted by Adam Jacobi

USC fans wondering why former assistant Willie Mack Garza resigned so abruptly two days before the start of this season now have an answer -- and that answer has a paper trail. According to a report by Yahoo Sports, Willie Lyles informed NCAA investigators that Garza had wired him $1,500 in 2009 to get coveted tailback Lache Seastrunk onto the Tennessee campus for an unofficial visit; Garza had been an assistant of Lane Kiffin at UT at that point, before Kiffin brought Garza with him to USC's staff in 2010.

On unofficial visits, recruits and their families are responsible for all costs incurred, so if Garza supplied that money to Lyles for the purposes of getting Seastrunk to campus, that's a serious violation of NCAA rules. Whether Garza gave money to Lyles is not in question, though; Yahoo Sports has a copy of the Moneygram record of that transaction, and sure enough, there's $1,500 going from Garza to Lyles. Being that Lyles himself told the NCAA that the money was to pay for Seastrunk's plane tickets, which totaled $1,446.80 in a purchase two weeks prior to the Moneygram transaction, there doesn't appear to be much wiggle room for Garza.

CBSSports.com first reported that Garza's departure from USC was related to an NCAA probe of Tennessee's recruiting practices on the day that Garza resigned, on September 1. That report has now been proven accurate by this Yahoo story. 

For Garza's efforts above and beyond the NCAA guidelines, Tennessee didn't get much; not only did Seastrunk not commit to the Volunteers, of course, he didn't even take an official visit to Knoxville once it was time to make those choices. Seastrunk famously chose Oregon over Auburn in a recruiting process that still leaves a sour taste in Tigers fans' mouths to this day, and once the reports surfaced of Lyles maintaining close relationship with recruits even while getting paid large sums of money by the schools recruiting them, Seastrunk ended up transferring to Baylor.

For as bad as this report makes Garza look in the eyes of the NCAA, however, the real entity in danger here is Tennessee; that athletic department was hit with a failure to monitor charge in August among various major infractions perpetrated by then-head basketball coach Bruce Pearl, and the program is nowhere near completing its two years of probation handed down by the NCAA. If the NCAA finds this to be another egregious flouting of recruiting regulations, Tennessee is liable to be considered a "repeat offender" by the Committee on Infractions, and that easily could mean serious, long-lasting consequences for the entire athletic department.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:25 pm
 

Sources: USC coach resigns due to NCAA probe

Posted by Bryan Fischer

USC defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza resigned from his position Thursday due to his involvement with a NCAA recruiting probe, two sources told CBSSports.com.

Garza cited personal reasons unrelated to the school as the reason for his departure in a statement but sources said his resignation was a direct result of his involvement with former scout Will Lyles and a related NCAA probe into possible recruiting violations.

Lyles interviewed with NCAA investigators for several hours with his lawyers present on Tuesday. During the interview, Lyles revealed that he had a "relationship" with Garza prior to becoming an assistant at Tennessee according to sources. USC officials were notified on Wednesday of the connection and moved swiftly to work out Garza's departure. 

NCAA enforcement staff is currently investigating Lyles' scouting service connections to several programs, including Oregon and LSU. A source said it was not related to Tennessee's NCAA case that was recently completed.

Garza, a former safety at Texas, followed head coach Lane Kiffin from Tennessee to USC in 2010 and was entering his second season with the Trojans before abruptly resigning. USC is currently on NCAA probation stemming from the school's major infractions case involving former running back Reggie Bush.




Posted on: September 1, 2011 3:32 pm
 

USC secondary coach Willie Mack Garza resigns

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Nearly 48 hours before their season opener, USC will shockingly take the field without a key staff member.

Trojans' secondary coach Willie Mack Garza resigned Thursday afternoon effective immediately citing personal reasons, according to a school statement.

"I stepped down today from my coaching duties at USC," Garza said. "I have some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address.  I wish the Trojans the best and I am sorry I won't be with them in what I know will be a very successful season."

Garza was entering his second year with the program and followed head coach Lane Kiffin to Los Angeles from Tennessee. The 42-year-old assistant also had coaching stops at Western Michigan, TCU, Tarleton State and North Dakota State before connecting with Kiffin and the Volunteers in 2009. Several USC beat writers confirmed that he was not at practice on Wednesday and that players were informed via text message Thursday morning.

Graduate assistant and former Trojan and NFL defensive back Sammy Knight is expected to take over Garza's responsibilities. USC plays Minnesota at 12:30 PM on Saturday.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com