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After Saturday's scrimmage, the USC Trojans officially went from training-camp mode to game-prep mode, a feeling they -- especially quarterback Matt Barkley -- have been waiting for since the winter, according to the Orange County Register.
"Since Dec. 22, or whatever it was, I've been waiting for this day to come," Barkley said. "I really can't wait for next Saturday, when that kickoff happens. Then we're back at it."
Barkley announced he was coming back to school for his senior season on Dec. 22, and since then the Trojans have been the talk of college football. With a two-year postseason ban behind them, the Trojans are now ranked No. 1 in the country heading into a much-anticipated season.
USC begins its season with a game against Hawaii at home.
The Trojans are also trying to remain as healthy as possible, as their depth -- due to only being able to carry 75 scholarship players -- is the one flaw on the team that could be its undoing by season's end.
"There's no magic formula," said head coach Lane Kiffin. "There's no free agency. We'll just have to figure it out."
The biggest news from Friday's practice didn't even happen on the practice field as USC announced that starting cornerback Isiah Wiley has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.
It is a big blow for the USC Trojan defense as the senior was an instrumental part of USC gaining steam towards the end of last season. Wiley started the last six games and recorded a high of 11 tackles against Stanford.
To make the cornerback position even more thing, junior Nickell Robey sat out a few plays. He met with athletic trainers before returning to finish the practice.
Sophomore wide receiver George Farmer was back in action after sitting out Thursday's practice.
USC will conduct a mock game Saturday in full pads but without tackling.
For more on the USC Trojan practice sessions, head over to Conquest Chronicles and join the discussion.
Projected starter Isiah Wiley will not play this season for the Trojans.
The USC Trojans football team saw four of their players, including Heisman Trophy Candidate Matt Barkley, named to the 2013 Senior Bowl watch list on Thursday. Khaled Holmes, Wes Horton, and T.J. McDonald join Barkley on the first ever official watch list for the game.
Barkley has also been named to the Davey O'Brien, Manning, and Maxwell Award watch lists for the 2012 season. He chose to forego the NFL Draft and return for his senior year after throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns as a junior.
The Senior Bowl picks the top 100 seniors each year to compete in a postseason game that allows them to showcase their skills for professional scouts against the best competition in the country. This year's event will take place Jan. 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
At 6-foot-9, USC freshman offensive tackle Zach Banner's size could be an asset for the Trojans on special teams. Not only can he protect on field goals and punts, but his height allows him to be a force blocking extra points and field goals. If Banner is going to play in 2012, however, he will have to contribute on more than just special teams.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday that Banner wouldn't play this season unless he also has a role on offense.
Kiffin said he would "not" burn Zach Banner's redshirt year unless he played on offense. Not just special teams— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) August 24, 2012
Banner, who was ranked as a four-star recruit by Scout.com and a five-star recruit by Rivals.com, could have filled the designated field-goal blocker role that Matt Kalil handled last year. If Banner does indeed redshirt, the field goal blocker role will likely be filled by Marcus Martin, Max Tuerk or Leonard Williams.
The USC Trojans' season opener against Hawaii has sold out, and the game becomes the third sellout of the season, according to the athletic department. USC opens the year against the Warriors on Sept. 1.
The Nov. 3 game in the Coliseum against the No. 5 Oregon Ducks and the Nov. 24 regular season finale against Notre Dame are also sold out.
According to the athletic department, the only way for fans to get their hands on tickets for the three sellouts are by purchasing VIP packs.
Via the team website:
"VIP packages, limited to two per customer, include two game tickets located between the 15- and 50-yard lines, two Cardinal and Gold party tickets and one parking pass. The cost is $550 for the Hawaii, California, Colorado and Arizona State games and $800 for the Oregon and Notre Dame games."
Hype is apparently building for Lane Kiffin's Trojans, who enter the season as the preseason No. 1 team. Also helping the excitement around the program is USC's return to the postseason after missing out due to NCAA sanctions.
Check out more USC Trojans coverage at Conquest Chronicles.
Saturday, September 01, 2012, 4:30PM: Hawaii at USC. The Trojans start off the season with a warm-up test when they face the high-octane Rainbow pass attack. The Trojan defense got torched the last time these two teams met; they'll be hoping for a better showing here.
Saturday, September 08, 2012, 4:30 PM: Nebraska at UCLA. Jim Mora's first big home game is a doozy, as he takes on a potential Big Ten title contender in the Rose Bowl.
Saturday, September 15, 2012, 4:30 PM: USC at Stanford. Last year's game was an epic. But can the Cardinal keep this one close with no Andrew Luck?
Saturday, October 06, 2012, 12:00 PM: UCLA at Cal. Both the Bears and the Bruins are looking to turn things around after mediocre seasons.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
12:00 PM: Utah at UCLA. UCLA will have another crucial home test when they take on the Utes.
4:00 PM: USC at Washington. Washington trapped USC the last time they came to Seattle, but the Trojans are a much better team now.
Saturday, November 03, 2012: 4:00 PM: Oregon at USC. The main event. The Trojans and Ducks meet in what could be a Pac-12 Championship preview.
Talk about the schedule with Pac-12 fans at Pacific Takes, with USC football fans at Conquest Chronicles and with UCLA football fans at Bruins Nation. Hit up the SB Nation college football hub for more coverage.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit ranked USC sophomore Marqise Lee as the best receiver in the nation in his Herbie Awards, and asked about the high praise on Wednesday, the Trojans wide receiver was flattered but humble.
Lee: "I appreciate it but I have big shoes to fill because I actually have to show them what I can do and prove the statement correct."— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) August 22, 2012
Lee need not look far to find someone who disagrees with Herbstreit's statement. Teammate Robert Woods, a junior, has been the Trojans' best receiver for the past couple of years but Herbie placed Woods at No. 3 in his wide receiver rankings.
The numbers are favorable to Woods. He led the team in 2011 with 1,292 yards and 111 catches for 15 touchdowns last season. While Lee wasn't far off with 1,143 yards on 73 catches for 11 touchdowns, you could make the argument that all the attention sent Woods' way has something to do with the success of the then-freshman.
Check out Conquest Chronicles for more on the USC Trojans.
One of the shadier practices in college football (the conditional one-year scholarship to a walk-on) took place earlier today. Pedro Moura has more.
Lane Kiffin confirmed that some of the 3 former walk-ons have had their scholarships taken away tentatively.— Pedro Moura (@PedroMoura) August 22, 2012
This was a possibility going into the season. The USC Trojans are short on scholarships because of NCAA sanctions, forcing them to hand out only 75 rather than 85 a season. It's quite possible that when Trojan players transferred out of the program and allowed opportunities for walk-ons to pick up their spots, those scholarships were given to walk-ons. But on one condition: They were one-year scholarships. They would serve as placeholders until talent replenished the Trojan ranks.
Still, it's a bit distressing to see a group of college football players give up scholarships they probably worked really hard to earn.
The biggest, and possibly best news, to come out of USC Trojans' practice today was the return of defensive ends Wes Horton and J.R. Tavai. Both players missed a majority of practices last week due to injury. Tavai appeared to be back at full speed, while Horton was taking it easy. The return of both players, completely healthy or not, will ease the minds of some in Troy who were concerned about the lack of depth at defensive end, especially after losing true-freshman DeVante Wilson for an entire season. Coach Lane Kiffin added to the good news saying he was particularly impressed by defensive end Morgan Breslin's performance in a scrimmage.
As for the offense, Kiffin wasn't happy with a lackluster performance by the group in a scrimmage on Saturday. The Trojans players got the message and practiced up to the head coach's expectations on Monday. Kiffin's predecessor Pete Carroll used to push his players to compete against each other for the top spot at their particular position in an effort to keep the competitive edge up. Kiffin takes a slightly different approach when it comes to preventing complacency in the players, "We try to challenge our guys not to be the best at their position group but to be the best in the country."
The USC Trojans defense looked dominant in their final dress rehearsal of the preseason Sunday, forcing five turnovers in an intrasquad scrimmage.
Linebacker Luke Scott had two of the four interceptions with safety T.J. McDonald and DT George Uko picking off one each. Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods also recovered a fumble on the first play of the scrimmage.
But for as ready as the defense looked to go, the offense was that much out of sync. Quarterback Matt Barkley only completed eight of his 19 pass attempts while managing just one touchdown drive (25-yard pass to fullback Soma Vainuku). Both Barkley and backup Max Wittek also had two interceptions each.
Penn State transfer Silas Redd rushed for 59 yards on nine carries but did lose a fumble on his first attempt. Tailback D.J. Morgan scored the offense's only other touchdown of the day on a 20-yard run (31 yards overall).
The number one ranked Trojans kick off their season on September 1 at home against Hawaii.
For more information on USC football leading up to the opener, head over to Conquest Chronicles.
Previewing the 2012 USC Trojans football schedule.
Chris Brown of Smart Football writes a recurring column at Grantland, and today he touches on the play Barkley refers to as his favorite. Barkley did a question-and-answer session on Reddit a month or so ago, where he would go on the popular community and field questions from individuals. He was asked about his favorite play and this is what he said.
"Solo Personel [sic]. 'Z Mo to Trouble Right 82 Stay Sluggo Z Win.' On Two. TD."
Barkley takes a three-step drop and pump fakes to the slant. If the sluggo receiver is open after breaking back up the field, Barkley will toss him the ball up the sideline for a big play. But more often than not, the defense overreacts not only to the pump fake but also to the second part of the route. This opens up the "Z win" on the backside. Let's look at an example of exactly that.
The 82 Sluggo Route is one of those plays that's very difficult to defend if the offense is operating correctly. When you have first round lottery picks like Matt Kalil blocking for you and top receiving talents like Robert Woods and Marqise Lee catching for you, you're operating on a level few other college football offenses can muster.
Expect to see plenty of 82 Sluggo this season in USC's march to try and reach the BCS title game.
The Trojans have apparently named their punt returner, or says defensive back Nickell Robey, who believes it will be him. Receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods will handle kickoff returns. Robey is also at the top of the depth chart at one cornerback position.
Starting linebacker Hayes Pullard also returned to fall camp practice. More details available on the official Trojans' blog.
Do yourself a favor, Pac-12 fans, and scroll down further in this blog. You'll see a photo of Olympic track relay silver medalist Bryshon Nellum, who was back on campus Thursday to do some interviews. And if you are a longtime Washington Huskies fan, you will probably cringe at the sight of a familiar face in another previous blog entry.
The USC Trojans have Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley. Can Barkley stay on top of the pack all season?
Back in the day, my coach used to tell us that practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Obviously the USC Trojans have already perfected practicing if they are pulling off moves like this.
Whoa. That was spectacular on both counts.
Robert Woods is permanently in beast-mode, even during team practices. The science to support how he made that catch is yet to be discovered, because the laws of physics do not apply to how he managed to haul that pass in with just one hand.
Than there's Marqise Lee, showing off his acrobatic skills with an impressive front flip down the sideline. He must have been inspired after watching two weeks of Olympic action, though he could have taken a page from the gymnast's books and stuck the landing a bit better.
Yeah, I think it's safe to say the Trojans are gonna be good this year.
While many analysts consider USC to be the No. 1 team in the country, depth remains a concern, and the Trojan defensive line depth took another hit on Wednesday. USC head coach Lane Kiffin announced that defensive end DeVante Wilson would go undergo season-ending surgery after tearing his ACL during practice Tuesday.
Wilson, a true freshman, suffered the left knee injury during a noncontact portion of Tuesday's practice. It is the second ACL injury for Wilson in the last year as he tore the ACL in his right knee in August 2011. He will redshirt during the 2012 season as he undergoes rehab on the knee and will still have four years of eligibility remaining.
Wilson was expected to play a backup role for the Trojans this season, but his loss only makes a thin area of the team even thinner. USC already lost one defensive end for the foreseeable future when senior Devon Kennard tore his pectoral muscle in July.
While coach Lane Kiffin's policy is to keep quiet about the nature of his players' injuries, Bailey was seen with his arm in a sling. Pullard showed up to practice late and not dressed. He told ESPN's Pedro Moura he wasn't hurt at all, while Bailey said he was just a bit banged up.
Meanwhile, Dawson's right foot was in a boot. He might be the biggest concern of the three, and Pullard said he's been doing extra conditioning to slide from his weakside spot over to middle linebacker, where Dawson usually plays.
CBS Sports' Jerry Palm predicts an LSU-USC national championship game and has USC no. 2 in his preseason college football rankings.
Palm lauds the Trojans top 22 but is worried that their lack of depth at key spots could be their undoing if injuries were to mount up. It's amazing enough that the Trojans are even in the discussion for a national title with only 75 scholarships instead of 85 due to NCAA sanctions.
Palm is aware that having Heisman favorite Matt Barkley return for his senior season is a major reason that the Trojans are ranked this high. 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions will make people fawn over you just a little bit.
"Right now, we kind of feel like we're in a perfect storm with so many good things going," coach Lane Kiffin said at Pac-12 media day.
Just steer clear of any signs of rain.
For more on the Trojans, check out Conquest Chronicles.
Lane Kiffin is still a coach. He just won't be voting in the coaches poll this season.
After it was discovered that Kiffin selected his own Trojans as the no. 1 team in the country heading into the season, Kiffin has since relinquished his membership on the voting panel for this season.
"It is an opportunity and responsibility that I do not take lightly," Kiffin said in a letter to USA Today and Grant Teaff -- executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "However, I find it necessary to relinquish my voting status."
The controversy has raised concerns about USA Today's conflict of interest as the means in which the American Football Coaches Association's poll is administered. The votes are supposed to be kept confidential. USC had this to say in a statement:
"...The fact that the leadership of the American Football Coaches Association, which tasks USA Today to administer its poll, joined with the poll administrators from USA Today to decide to breach that confidentiality by providing a reporter a coach's vote in its preseason poll is disappointing and attacks the integrity of the poll. Further, that the reporter who was given this information represents the very organization that conducts the poll is a conflict of journalistic interest."
USC received 19 first-place votes to finish No. 3 in the preseason poll.
USC opens its season on September 1 against Hawaii at the Coliseum.