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February 2012 Archives

Jupiter for Sullivan

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USC women's volleyball's first ever National Player of the Year Alex Jupiter is a semifinalist for the Sullivan Award, given to the nation's top amateur athlete.  The Trojan Family can vote her to the top of the nine remaining candidates.

Click here to vote for Alex Jupiter!!!


The Parisian import led the Women of Troy to back-to-back Final Fours, while setting Trojan records for career kills, points and attempts.  She is a three-time All-American and two-time first team All-American.

Voting ends March 9, so cast your vote early and often!

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Young at Heart

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USC defensive mastermind Monte Kiffin was born on February 29, 1940.  So, is he 18 or 72?  Gary Klein posed the question.

"That's how I stay young," Kiffin quipped to the LA Times

Happy Birthday Coach Kiffin!
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NCAA Hosts

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USC athletics will host the NCAA men's volleyball and men's golf national championships in 2012. 

MVP-Final4-Logo.jpgThe men's volleyball Final Four will take place at Galen Center with the semifinals on May 3 and the final on May 5.

Click here for general and ticketing information.

Men's golf will host NCAAs at historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.  The tournament will span May 29 through June 3.

Click here for general info.

Both Trojan teams expect to be in the hunt.  USC men's volleyball is ranked No. 4 in the country after defeating No. 1 Stanford last week.  Men's golf sits at No. 4 with top talents Jeffrey Kang, Anthony Paolucci and Martin Trainer all threats in the individual race as well.

Facebook Cover

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Facebook has changed the design of your page to the new "timeline graph," which provides space for a cool landscape cover photo.

With spring practice beginning next week, here's the first of three USC football covers that we are rolling out for you...

(Click the photo to enlarge)

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Tennis in Westwood

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No. 1 USC men's tennis puts its 33-match win streak on the line today against No. 8 UCLA in a rivalry showcase at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.

Click here for a match preview.


The match begins at 2 p.m.  Admission is FREE.  Support your Trojans!

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Ous vs. Petros

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Sports media personality and former USC football captain Petros Papadakis challenged USC swimming gold medalist Ous Mellouli to a dual in the pool today to promote the Pac-12 Men's Swimming Championships at East LA College Feb. 29 to March 3.

Click here for a preview of USC at the Pac-12 Championships.


Here's the 50m race between Mellouli, the pride of Tunisia, and Papadakis, the literal anchor of Greek swimming...


Gauntlet Week

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The USC-UCLA crosstown Gauntlet standings are neck-and-neck with the Trojans leading 35 to 32.5 heading into a pivotal week of action.

Wednesday

No. 1 USC Men's Tennis at No. 8 UCLA (LA Tennis Center at 2 p.m.)

Thursday

No. 1 UCLA at No. 2 USC Women's Tennis (Marks Stadium at 1:30 p.m.)

Saturday

No. 3 UCLA at No. 2 USC Women's Water Polo (McDonald's Swim Stadium at 1 p.m.)

Women's tennis is looking to avenge its only loss of the season.
Lao-mobbed-USCWT.jpg(Photo via the USC Tennis blog)

2012 Combine Wrap

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The seven USC players have been poked, prodded and objectified by the football scouting elite at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.  Here's how they graded out according to NFL.com...

Click on the player below for complete Combine profile, stats and results.

Thumbnail image for tupou-Combine.jpgOL Matt Kalil - Grade 94.0 (Top 15 at his position: 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill)

DL Nick Perry - Grade 87.5 (Top 15 at his position: 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump)

DT DaJohn Harris - Grade 72.7

FB Rhett Ellison - Grade 69.5

RB Marc Tyler - Grade 52.5

LB Chris Galippo - Grade 50.0 (Top 15 at his position: 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle)

DT Christian Tupou - Grade 49.5

(Photo of Tupou via OCRegister.com)

Basketball Schedule

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USC men's basketball rounds out the regular season schedule with a pair of Galen Center games against the Washington schools this week. 

The game times and TV coverage were TBA.  Here's the info:

Thursday - USC vs. Washington at 7:30 p.m. streamed LIVE on USCTrojans.com for FREE

Saturday - USC vs. Washington State at 3 p.m. streamed LIVE on USCTrojans.com for FREE

Walk-on Eric Strangis is USC's lone senior.
Strangis-UCLA-PC.jpg(Photo by Pierson Clair)

Cowboy Baxter

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When special teams coach John Baxter is not in football gear, you can usually hear the clacking of his cowboy boots around Heritage Hall.  The proud rancher joined USC in 2010 after 13 seasons with Fresno State.

Super Bowl champion Bear Pascoe of the New York Giants was one of Baxter's protegees during his Bulldog days.  The two men and their families teamed up last weekend for some team roping action. 

Click here for the video!!

Coach Baxter was proud of his heel loop technique.
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From left: Sean, Julie and Bear Pascoe, John and McKenzie Baxter and Vic Pascoe.
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Family Ties

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

For any teenager in college, the father-daughter relationship can be complicated.  When the father also happens to be your head coach, that's a whole different story.

Freshman driver Monica Vavic (pictured below by the Daily Breeze) is currently living that reality during her first year on the USC women's water polo team, as her father, 10-time National Coach of the Year Jovan Vavic, looks to guide the Women of Troy to their second NCAA title in three years.
 
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"I really like having my dad as the coach, because growing up I had several different coaches, but whenever I needed questions or had advice I'd go to him," Monica Vavic said. "Even when I wasn't playing for him, his advice and guidance always took precedence. So, it's kind of nice having him as my only voice now. It also helps that I love playing under his system and style of coaching, not to mention I have the utmost respect for him."

That familiarity between father and daughter has helped the duo lead the Trojans to an 11-2 start and a No. 2 national ranking. Through 13 games, the freshman has tallied 17 goals and five multi-goal games.

"I knew from the time I was young that I would only play for him if I played collegiate water polo," she said. "I would never want to compete against him, and so growing up I always prepared like I was his player, and he was my coach. That preparation has really been a big key for me in terms of adapting to playing under him at USC."

While the 18-year-old admits her close connection with his father is built on their love of water polo, she also says their relationship is strong outside the pool.

"I have a really good relationship with both my parents," said Vavic. "Because I live only 30 minutes away, often times I go home a lot to spend time with my family. It's not hard for me to separate between me being his player and being his daughter. It's nice for both of us." 

Drama Queens

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USC women's tennis is led by true freshmen Zoe Scandalis and Sabrina Santamaria, but the third member of this year's prized recruiting trio, Gabriella DeSimone, clinched Saturday's upset of No. 5 Cal and earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for her efforts.  The young Women of Troy have now beaten three ranked teams in their last five matches.

The No. 7 Trojans sit at 9-1 with a lone loss to UCLA.  They will get their shot to avenge that defeat in a Thursday rivalry matinee at Marks Stadium (1:30 p.m.).

Here's a gallery of USC's thrilling 4-3 victory over Cal courtesy of John McGillen...


Podium Finish

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USC women's swimming and diving finished a solid third for the third straight season at the Pac-12 Championships behind Cal and Stanford.  

Swim-Dive-Cheer-P12.jpgSenior Katinka Hosszu  led the way with three wins in as many races.  Right on her tail, junior Haley Anderson went two-for-two in distance swims, while springboard champion diver Victoria Ishimatsu retained her two conference titles.

"This year's Pac-12 meet was the most competitive meet in the past five years and we were in the hunt all the way," USC head coach Dave Salo said. "Our team goal was to challenge Cal and Stanford for the team title then focus on NCAA's.

"Our women did a great job and we had special performances from Katinka Hosszu, Haley Anderson, Tanya Krisman and the diving crew was awesome behind the performance of Tory Ishimatsu. Our team has come along way over the past five years and are knocking on the door to a Pac-12 team championship and NCAA team title."

Click here for all the results.  (Photo via Pac-12.org)

The NCAA Championships begin March 15.

Grand Slam Start

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Sitting at 6-0 and going for the sweep of Akron, USC baseball got off to a sleepy start Sunday.  Down 3-0 in the bottom of the 2nd inning, the Trojans were in danger of losing the early season momentum.

Not this team.  Not yet at least.  Something special is happening for Frank Cruz's squad in 2012.

USC crawled back to 3-2 and loaded the bases for senior slugger Alex Sherrod who promptly launched the first pitch to the parking structure over the right field wall. 

The Trojans are hot right now.  How hot?  At 7-0, the baseball program is off to its best start since 1988. 

"We are obviously pleased with the 7-0 start," said head coach Frank Cruz.  "I'm happy for our guys and for our program, but we are in no way satisfied. We have plenty of room for improvement and we have some tough tests coming up this week."

USC hits the road now and the strength of schedule increases.  The Trojans will surf to Pepperdine for an afternoon affair on Tuesday before jetting to Chapel Hill for a weekend three-game set against No. 6 North Carolina.

Here's a look at Sunday's game courtesy of Pierson Clair...


Plus Athlete

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Mike Williams was not an elite wide receiver prospect coming out of Tampa, FL, but the Trojan coaches saw something they liked in him...on the basketball court.  Williams' athleticism on the hardwood convinced Norm Chow that he could explode on the outside.

No one has any questions about the athletic prowess of USC's latest Florida recruit Nelson Agholor.  The hybrid running back and wide receiver will likely start his Trojan career out of the backfield given the depth issues at tailback, but he proved on the basketball court that he is more than capable of going up and getting the football if needs be.


They Might Be Giants

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In 2011, USC men's volleyball were the hunted.  Coming into this season under the national radar, the Trojans were positioned as the hunters.

Led by Tony Ciarelli, who had 28 kills and 11 digs, No. 6 men's volley claimed a mighty scalp Saturday in Palo Alto by knocking off No. 1 Stanford in 5 sets.  The Trojans closed out the upset 15-13 in the 5th.

USC returns to Galen Center this weekend for a pair of showdowns with Hawaii (Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.).

Ciarelli-NCAA-Pac12.jpg(Photo via Pac-12.org)

Bubblicious

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The USC women's basketball seniors are all too familiar with this position.  The last two years, the Women of Troy entered selection Sunday squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble only to see their hopes burst.

Now with the regular season winding down, one final surge has USC as the first team OUT of the field of 64 in the latest ESPN.com Bracketology.  Michael Cooper's experienced squad knows what needs to be done.

The Trojans trip to the Washington schools this week before returning home to host the Pac-12 Tournament.  A pair of road wins followed by a conference tournament semifinal or even final berth should secure safe passage to the Big Dance.

The 2012 senior class is hoping to finally take part in March Madness.
Senior-Day-WBK-2012-Kondrath.jpg(Photo by Jon Kondrath)

Perry Power

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Nick Perry rocketed up NFL draft boards today with a spectacular athletic display at the NFL Combine. 

Lane Kiffin memorably said last spring that his defensive ends ran faster 40 times than USC's running backs, but there's no shame in coming up second best to Perry, who clocked in at 4.64 officially (4.50 unofficially), which placed him 3rd among defensive ends.

At 6'3" and a bulked up 271 lbs., Perry's vertical leap and broad jump were also top 10 showings for his position.  Plus, he repped 35 times in the bench press.

Showing size, speed and power, the former Trojan defensive end has made himself a viable candidate to remain a 4-3 DE and shown the versatility to be a 3-4 outside linebacker a la Clay Matthews or DeMarcus Ware.

Click here for Perry's NFL Combine profile.

Perry made his case to be an NFL 1st round pick.
Perry-Combine-Carden.jpg(Photo via Kevin Carden)

Kalil at the Combine

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LT Matt Kalil solidified his position as the top offensive line prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft with an impressive showing at the NFL Combine today.

At 6'6 5/8" and 306 pounds with 34.5 inch arm length, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, "When you draw up that left tackle, that's the height, weight, arm length you're looking for."

Kalil showed off his strength and speed at the NFL's annual meat market in Indianapolis.

Click here to watch video of Kalil's 40.

The big man officially ran a 4.99 40-yard dash (unofficial 4.96), one of only three offensive linemen to break the five second mark, and completed the ten-yard split in just 1.70 seconds.  He also pressed 225 lbs. 30 times, which ranks in the top 20 at his position.

Kalil-Combine.jpg(Photo via UltimateTexans.com)

Survivor of the Century

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As we celebrate "100 Years as Trojans," we have detailed the history of USC's nickname and the man who originally penned it, but the story of a man who predated it is just as compelling. 

Herb Nootbaar may not have known USC as the Methodists or Cards, but he was born in 1908, four years before the Trojans came into existence.  Now 103, he has lived the "Trojan for life" mantra. 

Nootbaar-Grandson-DA.jpgNootbaar first attended a USC football game in 1927 and has owned season tickets since 1929, which makes him the longest tenured season ticket holder.  For context, the Coliseum opened in 1923, but did not host the Olympic Games until 1932.

Click here for more on Nootbaar.

He also became a fervent Trojan baseball fan during Rod Dedeaux's glory days and was later inspired by Mike Gillespie to fund the Herbert V. Nootbaar Baseball Office and Hall of Fame Complex.  Now, Nootbaar is a true hardball loyalist as his great grandson Nigel Nootbaar is a freshman pitcher on Frank Cruz's squad.

Last Sunday, Herb and Nigel closed the four generation gap with one pitch.  The Trojan Family's elder statesman still had enough juice to toss one to his great grandson, who smiled back with delight. 

"It's amazing," Nigel Nootbaar told the Daily Breeze. "It definitely is special."

Nootbaar-Pitch-DA.jpg(Photos by Dan Avila)

Trio Triumphs

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USC women's swimming and diving surged on day two of the Pac-12 Championships behind podium topping performances by Katinka Hosszu, Haley Anderson and Victoria Ishimatsu. 

Hosszu (200y IM) and Anderson (500y free) defended their Pac-12 swimming titles by breaking the USC school records in their respective events.  Ishimatsu (pictured) won the 1-meter springboard for the third consecutive year.

Click here for all the results.

Halfway through the meet, the Women of Troy have scored 390 points, which places them behind only Stanford (462) and Cal (426.5).

Ishimatsu-Podium-P12.jpg(Photo by Pac-12)

Cooooop!

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USC women's basketball head coach Michael Cooper already owns 5 NBA championship rings as a player and 2 WNBA titles as coach.  Now, he can add a bobblehead to his trophy case.

cooper-bobblehead.jpgThe first 1,500 fans who attend Saturday's home finale at 2 p.m. against Arizona State will receive their own FREE Cooper bobblehead.

While Cooper is a Los Angeles basketball fixture, adjusting to the college game has proven to be one of the most difficult challenges of his storied hoops career.  However, he is in it for the long haul.

"This is it for me. I'm here as long as I can win and keep my job," Cooper told the Daily News. "As long as I keep this program moving in the right direction this is where I'll be and this is where I will retire."

The Women of Troy are sitting in prime position for a Pac-12 conference tournament run.  At 15-11 overall and 9-6 in conference, the Trojans are the No. 3 seed, which means they would avoid Stanford (25-1, 16-0) until the championship game at Staples Center.   

The Story Behind the Man

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Today, we celebrate "100 Years as Trojans."  That's the headline story courtesy of Owen Bird, the Los Angeles Times sports editor in 1912, who is credited with USC's enduring nickname. 

Beneath the triumphs of Troy in the century since lies the remarkable story of Bird, who flew quickly south.  His tale of mystery and adventure was thoroughly captured by LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke.

Click here to read the fascinating full story.

Bird left his legacy at age 25 after encompassing the USC fighting spirit in one enduring pronoun, but he turned his back on newspapers two years later.  From there, his life spiraled through battles, misadventure and even murder. 

The column is a must read.

Owen-Bird-LAT.jpg(Photo via Los Angeles Times)

Cool Hand Yannick

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

For the first time since 1988, the USC men's tennis team took home the ITA National Team Indoor Championships last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, thanks to a heroic effort from the most unlikeliest source. 

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With the top-ranked Trojans deadlocked 3-3 with No. 3 Ohio State in the finals Sunday, the indoor title rested on the freshman shoulders of No. 5 singles Yannick Hanfmann (pictured right by the Pac-12).

Hanfmann, a native of Karlshule, Germany, had already lost his doubles match with reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson earlier in the day, and his winner take all tussle with Buckeyes' redshirt junior Devin McCarthy did not start according to plan.

"In that first set I just got outplayed," Hanfmann said on falling behind after dropping the set 3-6. "[McCarthy] just played very well, and I struggled to match his intensity. From there, I just tried to play my game and knew he couldn't keep up with the pace he had established in the first set. In a lot of ways, I think it was great for me to lose my doubles match earlier in the day, because I felt prepared to face any adversity that might come my way in the final match."

After breaking McCarthy in the second set, the poised freshman never looked back, taking the final two frames with relative ease en route to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

100 Years as Trojans

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100th_logo1.jpgFriday, February 24, 2012, marks a special anniversary for USC athletics.  A century ago, we were dubbed Trojans for the first time and we've embodied the fighting spirit ever since.

The "100 Years as Trojans" celebration begins tomorrow as USC's undefeated baseball program and No. 1 men's tennis team are in action to kickoff the year-long tribute to Troy.

The Trojan moniker was given to USC by then Los Angeles Times sports editor Owen Bird, who recognized that the underdog track team had a fighting spirit that belied its stature and disadvantages.  Without announcement or fanfare, Bird casually referred to the USC Trojans in a story previewing the track meet with Occidental (click photo of article to enlarge!).

100 years trojans highlighted newspaper.jpg"I came out with an article in which I called attention to the fighting spirit of USC athletes and named them 'Trojans.' From then on, we used the term 'Trojan' all the time, and it stuck," Bird later explained.  "The term 'Trojan' as applied to USC means to me that no matter what the situation, what the odds or what the conditions, the competition must be carried on to the end and those who strive must give all they have and never be weary in doing so."

Before Trojans, USC had been dubbed the Wesleyans and Methodists, which were labels then university officials were happy to shed.  In the same article as the historic first Trojan reference, the LA Times also called USC "the cards," which referred to our school's primary color.

Since adopting the name, USC teams have won 116 national championships.  Trojan athletes have captured 363 individual NCAA titles, 123 Olympic gold medals (including at least one gold in every summer Olympics from 1912) and four Rhodes Scholarships.

"What an incredible 100 years it has been since we adopted the Trojans name," said Pat Haden, USC's Charles Griffin Cale Director of Athletics' Chair.  "'Fight On,' Trojan Family, 'Trojan for life,' all those things resonate with me.  Saying you are a Trojan is not just a moniker, it is a way of life."

The 1912 USC Trojans track relay team.
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Tee It Up

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USC football officially announced the hiring of wide receivers coach Tee Martin today, which completes the 2012 coaching staff.

Tee-Martin-SI.jpgMartin comes to Troy from Kentucky, where he held the same position, but he is best known for winning the BCS National Championship at Tennessee as Peyton Manning's successor.  The former quarterback is also renowned for his tenacious recruiting.

"We are extremely fortunate to make Tee Martin the final addition to our coaching staff," said head coach Lane Kiffin.  "Not only does he bring instant credibility as a national championship quarterback, but he has grown into a nationally-recognized coach and recruiter.  We look forward to him taking our record-breaking receivers to an even higher level."

Martin will happily inherit All-American Robert Woods and Freshman All-American Marqise Lee as the starting wideouts in his first season.

Click here for Tee Martin's bio.

Junior Media Day

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Written by Paul Goldberg, USC Sports Information

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All-Americans Robert Woods and T.J. McDonald are hard at work preparing for the start of spring practice, which is just a few weeks away. 

On Wednesday in USC's Sports Information Office, the standout wide receiver and safety got a little work done honing their interview schools with a group of eighth graders from nearby Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy.

The students have been immersed in a sports journalism program at their school designed to develop their reasoning, writing and social development skills. On Wednesday, they got a chance to test out those skills during Q&A sessions with both Woods and McDonald. When Matt Barkley stopped by the office to do a radio interview, the students were able to get a few words with the quarterback as well.

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Growing Reputation

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The tennis world is starting to take notice of USC's youth movement.  The No. 7 Women of Troy moved into the top 10 for the first time in almost two years this week.

Richard Gallien's squad features a lineup that starts three true freshmen singles talents led by team No. 1 Zoe Scandalis.  After a successful trip to the ITA Indoor semifinals in Virginia, the Trojans return home this week for a pair of match-ups.

USC women's tennis hosts No. 66 UCSB this afternoon, but the real showdown is Saturday (Noon pt) against No. 5 Cal.  The Bears mark the third top 10 opponent in the Trojans last five matches.

WTennis-Flex.jpg(Via the USC tennis blog)

USC NFL Combine Preview

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The NFL Combine officially began Wednesday, but the NFL Network's television coverage does not begin until Saturday.  Seven Trojans were invited to participate in the annual scouting-palooza in Indianapolis.

The Combine is broken down by position, so here's a look at the schedule with the corresponding USC prospects...

Saturday (2/25) - K, OL and TE (LT Matt Kalil and TE Rhett Ellison)

Sunday (2/26) - RB, QB and WR (RB Marc Tyler)

Monday (2/27) - LB and DL (LB Chris Galippo, DE Nick Perry, DT DaJohn Harris and DT Christian Tupou)

Tuesday (2/28) - DB

If you want to support the Trojans at the Combine, follow their progress on the NFL Combine Facebook app.  Here's a preview of the top three USC pro prospects according to the NFL Network...


Aquatics Center Redesign

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In the latest State of Troy, USC AD Pat Haden announced plans to redesign the aquatics center, which has not been renovated since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. 

The athletic department has already received a substantial gift to get this project underway, but if you would like to get involved, go to TrojanAthleticFund.com.

Here is a sneak preview of the new home of USC swimming, diving and water polo...

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As Good As It Gets

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USC men's water polo goalie Joel Dennerley capped his phenomenal college career by becoming the fifth Trojan ever to be named National Player of the Year to go along with the 10th career Coach of the Year honor for Jovan Vavic.

Click here for the full story.

The Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches justly honored the four-time defending national champions with eight All-Americans in total.  Fellow senior captain Peter Kurzeka joined Dennerley (pictured below) on the first team.

Sophomores Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic were featured on the second team, while Kostas Genidounias, Tobias Preuss, Mace Rapsey and Michael Rosenthal made the honorable mention list.

Dennerley-Save-DA.JPG(Photo by Dan Avila)

Olympic Spotlight: Eva Orban

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Orban-Eva-2008.jpgName: Eva Orban

Age: 28

Hometown: Papa Veszprem, Hungary

Event: Hammer

Resume: Hungarian National Record Holder (71.33m); 2008 NCAA Champion (USC)

Q.) How are you preparing differently for the summer games in London than you did for Beijing or Athens?

This is the first year that I do not have to balance throwing and doing well in school. I can only focus on the hammer. In 2004, I had just graduated from high school, so I did not really have time to focus on hammer until June because of finals. In 2008, I was still in school as well. So this is the first year when I can solely focus on track, and I really enjoy it and can't wait to see the outcome of my hard work.

No. 2 in LA

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USC surpassed the Dodgers as the second most popular team in Los Angeles, according to a recent study done by the Marketing Arm. 

Click here for the full results.


The Trojans sit right behind the Lakers in winning Los Angelenos hearts.  The Angels are third now with Albert Pujols and UCLA did not make the top eight.

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Springboard to Success

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USC diver Victoria Ishimatsu has already done it all.  She has been named Pac-10 Diver of the Meet the last two years, while winning back-to-back titles in both the springboard events, including the 3-meter the last three years.

Ishimatsu-Pac12.jpgIn her final season, she only needs to do it again.  If Ishimatsu can take top of the podium in the 3-meter springboard, she will become the first woman in conference history to win any diving event four consecutive years.

Ishimatsu will lead a talented USC women's swimming and diving squad into the inaugural Pac-12 Championships.  The No. 7 Women of Troy begin competition today at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash.

The Trojans finished third last season with Katinka Hosszu taking Swimmer of the Meet honors.  Hosszu, Haley Anderson and Kasey Carlson are favored to tally the most points for Dave Salo's team against the Pac-12's best in 2012.

Click here for live results. 

Indoor Champions

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Tennis is the most democratic of the collegiate sports.  While the USC men boast the No. 1 singles player in the country in Steve Johnson, his match-winning point carries the same value as the No. 6 singles dual. 

In that spirit, the three-time defending NCAA champions overcame Ohio State 4-3 to win the ITA National Indoors thanks to a gutsy title-clinching victory from true freshman Yannick Hanfmann, who was later named Pac-12 Player of the Week.  The German import, playing in the No. 5 singles slot, battled back from a set down to win 6-4 in the third.

The Trojans took home the indoor title for the first time since 1988 and third time in program history. 

Johnson and Nguyen enjoy the spoils of victory.
Johnson-Nguyen-Indoors.jpg(Photo via USC Tennis Blog)
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Combine Week

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The NFL Combine begins Wednesday in Indianapolis.  LT Matt Kalil is USC's top pro prospect with mock drafts projecting him as high as the No. 2 overall pick.

Here's a look at the preparations Kalil is taking in anticipation of the Combine and his first NFL season...


Doing the Double

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USC women's basketball dominated UCLA Sunday to sweep the season series against the rival Bruins.  The Women of Troy controlled the paint led by sophomore Cassie Harberts (26 points and 9 rebounds) and senior Briana Gilbreath (10 points and 12 rebounds).

The Trojans will enjoy the season's final home stand this week with battles against Arizona (Thursday at 7 p.m.) and Arizona State (Saturday at 2 p.m.)  The game against the Sun Devils also marks a special Senior Day celebration for Gilbreath and Ashley Corral, culminating two accomplished college careers.

Here's a look at the crosstown rivalry blowout courtesy of Pierson Clair...


What About Bob?

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

Freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers has only donned a Trojan uniform for a little over a month, but if the first 11 matches of his career are any indication, USC fans are in for a four-year block party.
 
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Feathers, known as "Bob" by coaches and teammates, has taken little time adjusting to the college game. Going into the Trojans' road matches this weekend against No. 12 Pacific and No. 4 Stanford, the native of Pacific Palisades leads the nation in blocks per set (1.77).

"It's weird to think about, but I can't really focus on it," said Feathers (pictured below by the Palisadian-Post). "In the back of my head, I know I am accomplishing that feat. At the same time, I have to realize we are only midway through the season. It may be helping the team, but I don't want to be selfish. It's all nice and sweet to know that I am contributing, but that stat alone won't help us win matches. Regardless of where I rank, I'm still trying to go out and improve everyday with my blocking, hitting and strength in the weight room. Right now, it's all about winning matches not looking at statistics."

While Feathers may not be solely focused on his early season success, the former standout from nearby Loyola HS admits there is a science behind becoming an elite blocker.

Out of the Box

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USC baseball jumped out to a perfect start this weekend by sweeping away Jacksonville in the season opening three-game series.  The Trojans were led by their pitching, which did not give up more than three runs in any game.

Senior DH Brandon Garcia, who cranked a pair of homeruns with 4 RBI, and junior infielder Adam Landecker, 5/8 with 4 runs scored, were the hitting heroes.  On the mound, starters Andrew Triggs (6 IP and 2 ER), Ben Mount (6 IP and 1 ER) and Stephen Tarpley (5.2 IP, 2 ER and 9 Ks) set the stage for three wins.

Here's a look at opening night courtesy of John McGillen...


McGee Sisters Honored

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USC All-Americans Pam and Paula McGee had their jerseys retired at halftime of Sunday's women's basketball victory over UCLA.  The sister act was an emotional celebration featuring Women of Troy legends Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie.

Take a look...


Angel in the Infield

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Amidst a season opening sweep of Jacksonville (more on that Tuesday), USC baseball got a visit from new Los Angeles Angels superstar Albert Pujols.  On his way to spring training in Arizona, the three-time NL MVP visited the Trojans' clubhouse, took some batting practice (video below) and fielded groundballs at first base.

Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $254 million contract to join the Halos this offseason, was not the only high-priced AL West acquisition in town.  Japanese import Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers rookie right-hander, also threw a bullpen at Dedeaux Field this past weekend.

Here's a look at Pujols' day in Troy...

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State of Troy: February 2012

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Each month, we interview athletic director Pat Haden to find out the latest news around Heritage Hall.  In this month's edition, two fans asked the AD a question.

Click here to email Pat Haden a question for State of Troy.


McKay-Center-2_16.JPGWhat are the plans for public tours once the John McKay Center is completed?  -- Jeff Zakaryan

We are hoping the John McKay Center will open its doors in late July or early August.  Our team will move in approximately August 1.  I am anticipating a special opening ceremony around the time of our first football game.  We will be giving tours certainly on home game days as well as other special events.  We have some surprises in store for our fans when they get inside the building for the first time.

What is on your wish list for facility upgrades and fundraising efforts after the McKay Center? -- Steve Brown


We have two projects right on the heels of this one.  First, we plan to remodel Heritage Hall as soon as possible.  Secondly, we will refresh the aquatics center, which has not been improved since 1984.  We have a substantial lead gift for which we are thankful.  That will get us started, but we always need and appreciate more support from the Trojan Family as we look to improve the facilities for all 21 sports.

KO-Haden.jpgYou have been firm in your support for Kevin O'Neill continuing as the men's basketball head coach.  Why?

Kevin works as hard as anybody does.  We are happy with his success graduating student-athletes and providing discipline throughout his program.  Obviously, nobody is happy with our record this season, but we recognize that he has been dealt a difficult hand with only six healthy scholarship players at present.  It must get better and I have every expectation that it will next year.

What are your expectations for the 2012 baseball season?

We are going to be improved.  It is all about pitching, so we are thankful to have Andrew Triggs return to lead the rotation, while getting his MBA at the Marshall School.  Behind him, we have some new live arms that Frank Cruz is really hoping will step up.  Baseball season is long, but it should be more enjoyable than a year ago.

Wrapping Tommy

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USC made the list of "25 Funniest Sports Traditions."  At No. 20, Tommy Trojan getting wrapped in duct tape just made the cut.

Here's a cool time lapse video of what protecting our beloved statue from the Bruin pranksters looks like...


Scholar-Athlete: Andrew Triggs

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Senior Andrew Triggs will be on the mound tonight to get the 2012 USC baseball season underway.  The accomplished right-hander is looking to add an MBA to his resume as he prepares for a career in hardball and beyond...

Click here for the complete scholar-athlete profile.

Andrew Triggs.jpgYou were selected by the San Francisco Giants but chose to come back to USC to pursue an MBA. Why books before baseball?

I got rid of all my furniture and drove my car back to Nashville. I was ready to move on. I didn't know where I was going to get drafted. In all seriousness, I thought it would possibly be a little higher, but even when it happened, I said this is going to be the next step. I'm definitely going to sign and move on with it. As things developed over the summer with the opportunity to start a graduate degree, I decided I wanted to pursue it immediately. I came back to play another year here at USC and possibly take care of some unfinished business from a baseball standpoint. We have a great core of guys and I think this is a group that could go on to regionals and possibly do something bigger. Once the MBA came into the picture, I really started to take more seriously the idea of coming back. It was really something I didn't even consider until midway through July.

You hope to continue to play baseball for as long as possible but do you have any plans or goals to put your graduate studies to use?

In a perfect world, it's just sort of a back pocket thing after many, many years in the big leagues.

But when you're 50?

Right now I don't know exactly where it's going to take me from a business standpoint. The broader stuff like consulting or banking seem interesting but at the end of the day the idea of building a company or building an organization and having something that is your own is really appealing to me.

Serving Revenge

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With Steve Johnson in tow, the No. 1 USC men's tennis team has arrived at the ITA National Team Indoors, the tournament which dealt the Trojans their only two losses in 2011.

Peter Smith's squad used last season's wake up call to ring through a year's worth of consecutive wins (26 dual matches and counting).  This weekend's tests against the nation's stiffest competition in Charlottesville, VA, are more of a checkpoint on the road to a potential fourth consecutive national championship.

USC will get started on Friday afternoon with a battle against No. 16 Tennessee.  The winner will take on the UCLA/Duke victor, which could mean a rivalry match in round two for the Trojans and Bruins.

Host Virginia, which finished as the national runners-up last season, is the No. 2 seed.

Johnson (with Gael Monfils) lost a heartbreaker (6-7, 6-7) to Steve Darcis at the SAP Open.
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Front Page News

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Water polo head coach Jovan Vavic is featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today.  Fresh off his 10th national championship at USC, the dogmatic leader has already refocused on the No. 2 Women of Troy, which are off to a 3-1 start.

Vavic-women-LATimes.jpgVavic carries an imposing reputation at the pool.  As he barks out commands to his student-athletes, the Eastern European import looks to weed out the weak from the warriors.

"There's this whole stigma about playing for Jovan," senior Nadia Dan told the Times. "It's supposed to be scary because he's going to break you down."

Of course, underneath it all, Vavic (photo right by LA Times) has an emotional sweet spot and an unmatched passion for USC, a school which he has faithfully served for two decades.  His drive and fire provide the fuel for two of Troy's most consistent programs.

"The system here is like a machine," Dan said. "Play by play is broken down and Jovan is a perfectionist."

mwp4peat.jpg(Photo by Dan Avila /Colorized by Darcy Couch)

24 Hours Away...

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USC baseball opening night is Friday at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field against Jacksonville.

Click here for schedule and tickets! 

Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children, but kids 12 and under are in FREE.  Faculty, staff and students are also in FREE with valid ID.

The helmets are all spiffed up and ready for action...

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Defensive Staff Complete

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The USC football defensive coaching staff openings have been filled by Marvin Sanders, the new secondary coach, and Scottie Hazelton, who will lead the linebacking corps. 

MarvinSanders.jpg"We are delighted to add Marvin and Scottie to the Trojan Family," said head coach Lane Kiffin.  "Both not only have made their marks while coaching their respective positions, but both have been collegiate defensive coordinators and that should help us tremendously."

Sanders (pictured right), 44, was briefly the defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic, but earned his reputation coaching defensive backs at Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers led the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2009 and were third in 2010, which Kiffin emphasized as the biggest area of improvement needed for the Trojans defense.

As for Hazelton (pictured below), 38, he comes to Troy from North Dakota State, where he served as the defensive coordinator for the last two seasons.  The Bison won the 2011 NCAA FCS national championship led by Hazelton's top 20 defense.

Click here for the full story.

Kiffin's final hiring of the offseason (wide receivers coach) is imminent, so the Trojans 2012 staff should be complete for the beginning of spring football.

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London to LA

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The 2012 Olympics visited USC today with a cast of dignitaries led by Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, who is also a four-time medalist.  He won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the 1500m distance run.

Coe was joined by Trojan Olympians Rebecca Soni (three-time medalist, including gold in the 2008 200m breaststroke); Ous Mellouli (2008 gold medalist in the 1500m freestyle); Tasha Danvers (2008 bronze medalist in the 400m hurdles); Richard Charlesworth (2008 Olympian); and legendary broadcaster Al Michaels.  Plus, USC athletic director Pat Haden, track and field head coach Ron Allice and swimming head coach Dave Salo were part of today's media event at McDonald's Swim Stadium.

Coe, who addressed an Annenberg sports writing class and the USC swim team, credited Los Angeles as one of the most important Olympic cities dating back to Babe Didrickson Zaharias' three gold medals in 1932 advancing women's athletics.  And then again in 1984, he emphasized the importance of the introduction of the women's marathon, which was once considered "too strenuous" for female athletes.

Here's a look at the day's event and the participants mentioned courtesy of John McGillen...

First photo caption from left: Mellouli, Soni, Danvers, Coe, Haden, Salo, Allice and Michaels


WBK App Update

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The USC Game Day app which features A-Z info and special features for both the Coliseum and Galen Center has now been updated specifically for women's basketball.

Click here to download for iPhone.

Click here to download for Android.

You DO NOT need to download the app again for the women's basketball update.  Just follow instructions on your device.

The Women of Troy are in action this weekend at Galen Center with a crosstown showdown against UCLA at Noon on Sunday.

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Globetrotting to Town

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The Trojan Family gets a special deal on Harlem Globetrotter tickets this Saturday (Feb. 18) as they entertain the Honda Center with two games at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

By entering the promo code USC online or at the box office, you will save $7 on tickets.  Click here for tickets!

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Legendary Waterman

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2012 USC Hall of Fame inductee Bob Hughes is considered the "finest water polo player in U.S. history" by none other than legendary Cal coach Peter Cutino.

Hughes was an accomplished swimmer as well who competed in both swimming and water polo at the 1956 Olympic Games.  In all, he participated on two Olympic teams, two U.S. Pan American teams and received All-Pac-8 honors three times.

Now, his story is being told in a new biography.  Click here to purchase or learn more.

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McKay Center Street Level

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The John McKay Center is ahead of schedule and should open its doors in late July or early August.

Here is the latest look at the new athletics building from the street level...

McKay-Center-2_16.JPG(Photo by John McGillen)

Putting Up a Fight

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Even observing warmups, Kevin O'Neill admitted that his team was totally undermanned. 

Moore-UCLA-LATimes.jpgThe Trojans had seven scholarship players in street clothes watching six scholarship players in the lay-up lines.  And of the six, only James Blasczyk had the size to match-up with UCLA's powerful front line.

Despite the mismatch, the Trojans won the second half 38-33 and gave UCLA a decent test in a 64-54 loss at the Sports Arena last night. 

"We're outmatched, but I thought our guys dug in in the second half," O'Neill said.  "We fought back [and] were a couple shots from making it a game."

With only one conference victory, the Trojans are focused on other goals like developing the returning talent.  Byron Wesley (16 points and 7 rebounds) and Garrett Jackson (15 points, 4 steals and 3 blocks) put in strong shifts.

"They have gotten a lot better since the start of the season," said Maurice Jones about his inexperienced teammates.  "That's the goal.  We just want everybody to get a lot better and start preparing for the offseason."

USC will get three of the next four days off before preparing for the final four regular season games starting next Monday.

(Photo of Alexis Moore via Los Angeles Times)

Baseball Preview: Frank Cruz Q&A

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The USC baseball season gets underway with a three-game set against Jacksonville this weekend.  Opening night is Friday at 6 p.m.

Cruz-Railing.jpegWhat is the biggest difference from year one to year two of the Frank Cruz era?

It's the experience of our team.  They have an idea of what to expect.  We are focused more on refining technique and fundamentals than learning.

In a year of great Trojans choosing to return to school like Matt Barkley and Steve Johnson, how important was Andrew Triggs' decision to get his MBA instead of turning pro?

Football has a little more depth and tennis has a ton of depth, but we didn't have any depth in our starting rotation, so it was an even bigger impact for our program than even those other sports.  It helped us buy a year to allow some more pitching to come in and smooth out the transition.  

What's easier to build quickly, a rotation or a lineup?

I think a lineup.  A lot of the top pitchers often sign after they get drafted.  They get the most money, so it is hard to keep them committed.  We have to focus on developing the young pitchers that we do get.

How are you going to replace Ricky Oropesa?

Roundtree-Run-UCLA-PC.jpgWe are not going to try to.  Ricky was such a force in the batter's box.  Alex Sherrod,  who was our other big offensive run producer last year, is back, so we expect a lot from him.  SS James Roberts has gotten a lot bigger.  C Kevin Roundtree (photo by Pierson Clair) had a solid season for us last year.  We'll have more guys instead of being dependent on Oropesa and Joe DePinto like we were last year.  The consistency and execution will be better up-and-down the lineup.

What does new pitching coach Dan Hubbs bring to the dugout?

He has been in the college game for a long time, so his experience helps.  Plus, he went here, so he has a great understanding of USC.  His knowledge of the overall game has really gotten my attention.  He will be a great asset to not only the pitchers but the position players too.

What are reasonable expectations for this team?

Reasonable or Regional??  I call them Regional expectations.  We want to get to Regionals.  That's our goal.  The main goal is always to get to Omaha, but you have got to get to the dance first.  Those expectations are not farfetched.

McGee Sisters Tribute

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The halftime show of Sunday's women's basketball crosstown rivalry game at Galen Center will be a sister act.  Women of Troy All-Americans Pam and Paula McGee will see their names and numbers rise to the rafters as a final salute to their accomplished college careers.

McGee-Sisters.jpgThe McGee sisters spurred back-to-back national championships in 1983 and 1984 alongside Cheryl Miller, whose jersey is one of three already retired along with Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. 

Click here for tickets to Sunday's game vs. UCLA which tips at Noon!

Pam McGee earned a reputation as a tenacious rebounder, second on USC's all-time list, before going on to win a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.  She also has the distinction of being the second overall pick in the 1997 WNBA Draft and then the first WNBA alum to have a son in the NBA, JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards.  

Paula McGee was a dynamic scorer, who made an instant impact by setting the USC freshman scoring record by averaging 20 points per game.  She currently ranks fourth all-time on the career scoring list at Troy.

Click here for more on the McGee sisters.

Gilmore Gone

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Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore officially signed with the Oakland Raiders today for the same position.  He was with USC for just one year after coming over from Nebraska, but he was successful in helping Robert Woods and Marqise Lee grow into the nation's top receiving tandem.

The Trojans now have three assistant coaching vacancies to fill this offseason, but two of them are nearly completed.  We'll have the official announcement likely later this week.

DSC_0169.JPG(Photo by John McGillen)

Barking Mad

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While Matt Barkley's celebrity has not reached the fervor of #Linsanity or "Tebow mania", the USC quarterback's popularity has reached new heights since his record breaking 2011 season and subsequent announcement.

Just yesterday, Barkley tweeted a Valentine's Day message to his girlfriend accompanied by a photo (the QB is on Instagram now, so expect more pics for his nearly 50,000 followers).  The tweet created enough social waves that Colin Cowherd mentioned it on his nationally syndicated ESPN Radio show and even more remarkably, the message became a front page news story on Yahoo.com (pictured below).

To which, the soon-to-be senior simply responded, "Whoa." 

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The Baseball Way

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"The Trojan Way" is a set of guiding principles that originated from the football program, but has since been adopted by many of USC"s athletic teams including baseball. 

Here is the Trojan Way recited hardball style as USC grinds out the final days of camp before Friday's opening night at Dedeaux Field...


USC Quidditch

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Quidditch was a fictional sport imagined by J.K. Rowling for the world of Harry Potter.  Not anymore...

Now, it's a popular full-contact broom-straddling coed club team at USC and hundreds of other universities.

"The misconception is that we're a bunch of Harry Potter nerds," said junior Nicté Sobrino, a team captain. "But we're here to tackle people, to get rough. We're here to play a sport."

Click here for the full story.


Full Speed

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Who started the 2011 season opener at tailback? 

After Marc Tyler's reemergence and Curtis McNeal's breakout, Trojan fans may have forgotten that D.J. Morgan got the call first against Minnesota.  The redshirt freshman struggled with fumble issues and never looked quite right on his surgically repaired knee.

DJ-SH.jpgHowever, the OC Register's Michael Lev has seen a fully healed Morgan sprinting past defenders at voluntary workouts.

"It's as strong as it's going to be," he told Lev.

The coaches surely hope so as Morgan must play a role on this team with so few running backs on the depth chart.  McNeal returns as the starter, but Morgan (photo by Jon SooHoo) is the clear backup since Amir Carlisle transferred to Notre Dame.

The Taft High School standout arrived at USC with a track resume as a national hurdle champion to go along with his football skills.  This semester, he has regained his swagger on the oval, which should translate to the gridiron.

"I'm watching him run. He asks us all the time, how he looks. I say, 'You look good,'" Nickell Robey said about Morgan to Lev.  "I feel like once he came out here that running just gave him more confidence: 'OK, I can do it. I've got it.'"

San Diego Pride

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USC women's volleyball All-American Natalie Hagglund was named one of the 2011 Amateur Stars of the Year by the San Diego Sports Hall of Champions. 

The sophomore libero, who has led the Women of Troy to back-to-back Final Four appearances, will be honored at a dinner on Wednesday saluting her accomplishments coming out of La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad.

She will share the stage with distinguished athletic talents like action sports star Shaun White, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans, Cameron Maybin of the San Diego Padres, Eric Weddle of the San Diego Chargers and Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox.  The dinner also will feature the 2012 inductees into the Breitbard Hall of Fame, including former USC running back C.R. Roberts.

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Pac-12 Studios

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Pac-12 Enterprises broke ground Monday on the Pac-12 studios, which will serve as the San Francisco headquarters for the new Pac-12 Networks, the Pac-12 Digital Network and Pac-12 Properties, the sponsorship, licensing and events management arm for the conference.  The project is expected to be completed this summer with the networks launching week one of football season.

Click here for the full story.

Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott represented the Trojans at yesterday's ceremony and tour. 

Lott_PAC-12.JPG(Photo via Pac-12.org)

Moonlighting

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Steve Johnson has no trouble keeping busy these days.  The senior tennis star is living a double life as USC's No. 1 and a rookie pro trying to boost his ranking.

After taking the fall off to play professionally full-time, Johnson is back at Troy to lead the Trojans down the path of a fourth consecutive national championship.  Meanwhile, he has entered into some ATP tournaments this spring (as an amateur), including the SAP Open in San Jose this week.

Johnson, who owns a 44-match collegiate singles winning streak, is still looking for his first ever main draw ATP singles victory.  In the first round, he will take on Belgium's Steve Darcis.

Last night, he had the good fortune to feature in an exhibition doubles match alongside No. 1 seed Gael Monfils against tennis legend John McEnroe and another young American Jack Sock.

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Gauntlet Update: Bruins Swimming Upstream

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USC has won a record four straight crosstown Gauntlet series over rivals UCLA and the Trojans are on the drive for five.  Currently, USC leads 30 to 22.5 at about the halfway point. 

The No. 7 women's swimming and diving team picked up its fifth consecutive victory over UCLA this past weekend led by junior Haley Anderson (pictured by Long Photography), who grabbed wins in the 500y and 1650y free.

Next up: Men's basketball squares off with the Bruins on Wednesday night at the Sports Arena, the Trojans former home and temporary court of the Bruins as Pauley Pavilion undergoes renovation.  And on Sunday at Noon, the Women of Troy will go for the sweep of UCLA at Galen Center.

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Crook Comes Up Clutch

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

In Saturday's dramatic 76-75 overtime victory at California, the Women of Troy basketball team relied on an unlikely source for offense over the final two minutes of play, freshman Ariya Crook. 

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Crook, who came into the game averaging just 4.5 points per game, scored a career-high 21 points against the Golden Bears and all 11 of USC's points in overtime, including the game-winning basket with five seconds remaining in the extra frame.


Entering the game against California, Crook (pictured right by Pierson Clair) scored a combined 18 points in her last four games.

A former McDonalds All-American, Crook was ranked as the No. 2 point guard in the country by ESPNU for the Class of 2011 coming out of Long Beach Poly HS (same school as USC men's basketball guard Alexis Moore).

The Women of Troy return home to the Galen Center on Sunday to face crosstown rival UCLA at 12 p.m.

The Here and Now

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

Sophomore shortstop James Roberts (pictured below by collegebaseballdaily.com) is well aware of what it means to play for the USC baseball program.  

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He knows of the storied past (12 National Championships, 91 First Team All-Americans, 21 College World Series appearances and 100 Major League players) and also of the team's recent run of futility (no Regional appearances since 2005).

But entering Friday night's 2012 season opener against Jacksonville at Dedeaux Field, the young Trojan leader has his mind on one thing.

"Today will always be the most important day for us," Roberts said. "We know we have a lot to live up to playing here at USC, but our focus should never change. Looking back at yesterday or worrying about tomorrow won't help us this season."

While the Trojans have several veterans (Andrew Triggs, Kevin Roundtree, Alex Sherrod and Brandon Garcia) on their roster, all eyes are on Roberts to help lead a once dominant program back to national prominence. During his first year at Troy, Roberts started all 56 games at shortstop (.949 fielding percentage) and hit .274 with one home run and 15 RBIs. 

"He's not a captain, but he's definitely a leader for us," said manager Frank Cruz. "There's no question his experience last year will be huge for his development this year. But already, James [Roberts] is very proficient in all aspects of the game. Whether it's fielding, throwing, getting a timely hit or dropping down a bunt, he does it all. On top of that, he really understands the game and we're hoping that rubs off on his teammates." 

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This season, Cruz is trying to reinvigorate the Trojans' clubhouse with a winning mentality. And this might be where Roberts' role is most felt during his second season. 

Dating back to his high school career, the six-foot, 170-pound infielder has always been accustomed to winning at the highest level. In 2010, Roberts (pictured far right by Easton Baseball) was named the West Catholic League Player of the Year, after leading Archbishop Mitty to a national championship.

"In order to create a winning culture, you have to have guys who have won or who want to win," said Roberts. "I am not concerned with individual goals. I just want to win. My role as a leader on this team has nothing to do with what position I play. It's about my experience both last year and in high school. It's my job to help the younger guys, who have a lot of raw talent, tune things up going into the season."

While Roberts has already received comparisons to former USC shortstops Grant Green and Gabe Alvarez (currently coaching on Cruz's staff), the sophomore has made it a point not to let outside talk get in the way of his team's ultimate goals. He cautions all who choose to label him and his teammates to leave the talking up to the Trojans on the field in 2012.

"I am not concerned with what's said about us," said Roberts. "It's not about us getting back to a place other people outside of this program want us to be at. There is a lot of history here and wearing these colors are not like wearing any other colors across the country, but it's about right now with this team. I think we are definitely headed in the right direction."

Sampson Service

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Last week, we posted the unfortunate passing of longtime friend of USC athletics Lee Sampson,  the head press supervisor in the press box and at the press table for football and basketball for parts of five decades.

Here is information about his funeral and memorial that his wife Valerie wanted us to communicate:

Lee's memorial service will be Saturday, February 18, at 1:00 PM.

Eternal Valley Memorial Park
23287 N. Sierra Hwy.
Newhall, CA 91321
661-255-5147

In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to the University of Southern California Scholarship Fund.

Hard Court Heat

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

For the first time since 2003, the No. 16 USC women's tennis team advanced to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship semifinals this weekend in Charlottesville, VA.
 
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While the Women of Troy would drop Sunday's semifinal 4-0 against crosstown rival UCLA, the team was a model of resiliency all weekend.

Despite losing the doubles point on Friday, USC defeated No. 8 UNC with a 4-2 comeback victory, thanks to a heroic three-set singles win by junior Danielle Lao (pictured right by the Daily Trojan).

On Saturday, the Trojans once again dropped the doubles point against No. 17 Tennessee. However, strong play on the singles side by freshman Sabrina Santamaria and sophomore Kaitlyn Christian paced USC to a convincing 4-1 win. The match marked the team's seventh straight win to start 2012 and the program's best start since 1999.

The Women of Troy return home for a week of practice before taking the court at Marks Stadium on Feb. 23, when they face UC Santa Barbara.

3-Points: Stanford 59, USC 47

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

Poor shooting doomed USC against the Cardinal on Sunday, as the Trojans dropped their third consecutive conference game by double digits, 59-47. 
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  • Offense was not at a premium for the Trojans on Sunday evening. Kevin O'Neill's squad shot just 31.3 percent and only two players made a field goal through the first 20 minutes of play. Despite their shooting woes, USC only trailed by two at the half but couldn't buy a bucket coming out of the locker room after halftime. The Trojans didn't make their first field goal of the second frame until the 5:33 mark. During that time, the Cardinal built a 10-point lead and never looked back. "We forced 18 turnovers and held them to around 40 percent, which should be enough to win but only if you score," O'Neill said. "I liked our effort, how hard our guys played and the fact that we made a run, but we just didn't have a second run in us in the second half. We just don't have enough depth and that's not going to change."

  • Freshman Byron Wesley has shown significant strides at the offensive end of late. On Sunday, he recorded double-digit points (13) for the fourth straight game and led the team in scoring along with Greg Allen.  "I think Byron [Wesley] is going to be a big-time player," said O'Neill. "I love the way he is playing as a freshman. The guy fights hard."

  • Guard Maurice Jones (pictured above by AP Photo/Chris Carlson), the team's leading scorer, however, struggled from the field (2-for-14) all evening long. The sophomore missed his first eight shots of the contest and finished with 10 points and four assists. In his last four games, Jones is shooting just over 32 percent (16-for-49). "Maurice [Jones]' shots when he's at the point are not nearly as good as when he plays off the ball," said O'Neill. "He had a lot of wide open looks that just didn't go down. Let's face it, the guy has to be fatigued playing the amount of minutes he has all year long."
And 1...

  • The Cardinal's win over USC was their first conference victory in Los Angeles since 2005, when they beat the Trojans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Oddly enough, for the first time since 2005, the Trojans will return to their old digs Wednesday night as the visiting team when they take on cross-town rival UCLA.

The Quote

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The Trojan Family erupted when Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald decided to put the NFL on hold to take care of some "unfinished business" at USC, but the aftershocks could be even more powerful as the young Trojans take their cues from the team leaders.

Woods-Locker-Post-UCLA-SH.jpg"Matt and T.J. set the standard," Robert Woods told USC beat reporters.  "Me and Dion [Bailey] and a lot of guys were talking: That should be the new trend, getting your degree."

The substance of that quote is not only music to the ears of Pat Haden and Lane Kiffin, but any Trojan fan that looks forward to these talented youngsters finishing what they have started.  And, it is reminiscent of the Pete Carroll dynasty, when some top players declared early, but many more like Matt Leinart, Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, Sedrick Ellis, Brian Cushing, Sam Baker and Lawrence Jackson stuck around.

Woods (photo by Jon SooHoo) will likely have a decision to make after this season, but it's no foregone conclusion that the record-setting wide receiver will take his talents elsewhere.

"Not a correct assumption," he said about leaving early.  "Of course I'm still focused on this year. I'm just thinking about today, getting better each day. If it's there, of course you've got to look into it."

Sampson Passes

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USC athletics lost a dear friend last night when Lee Sampson, the head press supervisor in the press box and at the press table for football and basketball, passed away due to health issues that he had been battling for a year.

Lee and his wife Valerie became fixtures over their nearly 40 years of selfless service to the university and the media.  While they often went unrecognized for their work, they were hardly unappreciated for their invaluable work.

Over the years, they have become part of the Trojan Family that convenes on fall Saturdays or winter hoops nights to make sure the show runs smoothly and the knowledge is dispersed efficiently.  Lee will be missed by all, but Valerie promises to return to her loyal post as soon as she can. 

Lee left behind two adult children, Leonard and Lisa, as well.  We will post funeral service information at a later date.

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Camp Kiffin

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The 2012 USC Football/Nike Coach of the Year Southern California Coaches Clinic is set for February 24 and 25 featuring Lane Kiffin, his all-star coaching staff and special guest speakers.

Click here to register!


Out of Left Field

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Mitch Mustain's career needs its own Twitter account for daily updates.  The former USC quarterback has already been linked to the Marines, the Arena Football League and a documentary since leaving Troy a year ago.

Now, the Arkansas native is headed to the Windy City to try out his golden right arm from the pitcher's mound.  Mustain signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox, so he will report to spring training on March 8.

According to a report, Mustain, who has not pitched since high school, fired his fastball up to 90 mph to impress scouts at his tryout.

Click here for the full story.

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Prep > Hype

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"It's not about the hype.  It's about the prep." 

Lane Kiffin echoed those two lines more and more as the 2011 season gained in momentum.  He shared them again with ESPN.com's Ted Miller in regards to the offseason plaudits the Trojans are already receiving in anticipation of a big 2012.

Kiffin-Stanford-SH.jpg"We don't talk about that at all within our team," Kiffin told Miller. "Like we said again and again last year, the game is about the preparation, it's not about the hype."

However, Kiffin acknowledged that the potential of a top preseason ranking is a positive reminder of the program's ability to "move away the clouds" of NCAA sanctions, to quote another one of the head coach's favorite phrases.

"We're appreciative of the national respect coming our way with the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 conversations," he said. "That does kind of give you a kind of state of your program right now. To know what was handed down a little over a year and a half ago [NCAA sanctions], what most people considered a death penalty and the end of 'SC for years and years, and then to be sitting where we are now, we're appreciative of that. Obviously, that excites our fan base, who have had so much taken away from them. And it excites future recruits."

Click here for the full story.

(Photo by Jon SooHoo)

3-Points: Cal 75, USC 49

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The Trojans battled hard for a half before wearing down against the Bears.

Click here for the recap and stats.

  • Maurice Jones loves playing against Cal.  USC's leading scorer dropped 17 points (8/13 shooting) on the Bears for the second time this year.  He had the Trojans competing with a veteran Cal team before foul trouble and a cut on his left hand forced him to the bench for a stretch.  "When Mo is not in there, we don't function very well," head coach Kevin O'Neill said. 
  • Wesley-TCU-PC.jpgByron Wesley (photo by Pierson Clair) is emerging as a bright spot from this injury plagued season.  The freshman scored 11 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, while playing multiple positions within the offense and defense.  However, if he is going to take his game to the next level in the offseason, he must improve his jump shot.  "We are going to have to change his shot," O'Neill put the onus on Wesley to get in the practice gym.  "He's going to be a very, very, very good player."
  • Cal likely has the best case for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth from the Pac-12 conference, which did not distinguish itself in non-league play.  The Bears feature talented guards Allen Crabbe (19 points) and Jorge Gutierrez plus veteran big man Harper Kamp (18 points).  "They are at the top of the league for a reason," O'Neill said.  The head coach believes the Pac-12 will get three teams (Cal, Washington and Arizona) in the Big Dance.

USC hosts Stanford on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. pacific.

Lax Update

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USC women's lacrosse will make its long awaited debut a year from this week.  The inaugural season will open with an early February weekend set against national power Northwestern and UMass.

Munday-USWNT.jpgUntil then, head coach Lindsey Munday and her staff continue build the foundation of the program with the players already at Troy and lay the recruiting track for the future growth of the team.  Women's lacrosse has only 10 players on the current roster with 15 to 17 new arrivals expected this fall.

Of the 12 scholarships allotted to the program, Munday plans to spread the wealth to build out the depth chart.  "You can shut down one or two players, but you cannot shut down an army," she said.

The toughest task is keeping the current student-athletes engaged.  The roster consists of 10 players that train like champions, but are forced to wait for their moment in the sun. 

"This year is going to be the hardest with so much practice time and so few rewards in terms of games," said Munday, who has set up scrimmages with the USC club team and local college Occidental. 

Munday will depend on this unit to provide leadership, so she is focused on "keeping them into the values of what we want. These girls are getting to do the firsts of the program, so it is sort of trial and error some times."

In addition, Munday and assistant coach Devon Willis are continuing their playing careers with the U.S. National Team.  They made the 24-woman roster for this summer's pre-World Cup tour of Canada in the hopes of making the final cut to 18 for the 2013 World Cup just outside of Toronto. 

Follow updates of USC women's lacrosse on Twitter...

4G in the Key

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Our friends at AT&T are giving away two 4G HTC Jetstream tablets at each of the remaining men's basketball home games to students, who only need to show up to be entered.  Plus, they are giving away two more tablets to fans that text USCTAB to 51234.

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Team First Guy

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WR Brandon Carswell did not snag an invite to the NFL Combine, but as the OC Register's Michael Lev notes, that is hardly a career death sentence. 

While Carswell did not open many scouts' eyes with his 40-catch career, he impressed his own coaches with his selfless attitude and all-around play.  After deciding against transferring before his junior year, he received significant playing time in his final two seasons as a possession receiver and outstanding blocker.

"I still have that mentality that I'll go in and do the dirty work," Carswell said. "Hopefully I can show off my pass-catching skills too."

He was also an important leader on a team that became dependent on freshmen receivers to contribute immediately the last two seasons.  Now, Carswell will work to pull off his best Robert Woods and Marqise Lee impression at USC Pro Day on March 7.

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CFPA National Performer of the Year

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USC QB Matt Barkley was named the College Football Performance Awards National Player of the Year for his record-breaking 2011 season during which he surpassed the Pac-12 single season touchdown pass mark.

Here's the full release.

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The 4-Peaters

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USC athletics celebrated men's water polo's unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship with a ceremony today on campus.

Dennerley-Skype.jpgHead coach Jovan Vavic, who has now won 10 national titles (seven men's and three women's), got emotional as he talked about his love for the university, which he has been a part of for over two decades.  He also sounded determined that although the program is losing All-Americans Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka, the squad is deep enough to fight for the trophy again next year.

Dennerley, the National Player of the Year, is in Australia training with his club team in anticipation of making a push for a starting spot between the pipes on the Olympic team this summer in London.  However, his teammates made sure to Skype him into the party (pictured), so he could enjoy the festivities.


Northern Trust Open

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If you attend either of this week's home men's basketball games on Thursday (vs. Cal at 7:30 p.m.) or Sunday (vs. Stanford 4:30 p.m.), save your ticket stub for FREE admission to the final round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on February 19.

Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples headline a loaded field at LA's PGA Tour stop.
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Bittersweet

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Terrell Thomas took part in the New York Giants ticker-tape parade down Manhattan's "Canyon of Heroes" yesterday, but the former Trojan defensive back had a far less fulfilling feeling in his gut than his healthy teammates. 

Thomas-USC-Giants.jpgThomas tore the ACL in his right knee in a preseason game and missed the entire 2011-12 campaign.  Now, he is a free agent focused on his rehab and hopefully a return to the Super Bowl champs for another run.

"I hope so," Thomas told the New York Daily News. "And if  not, I'm pretty sure another team would think so. All I need is one team to like me. That's all I care about. The conversations are (going) well, but this is a business. It doesn't matter until you put that ink on that paper."

The cornerback, who was coming off a breakout 2010 season, is already back to running and will amp up his rehab in the coming weeks.

"It could be a lot worse for me," he told the Daily News. "My progress is going as well as possible with my knee and I'm a world champion, so life can't get no better right now."

Click here for the full story.

Swim with Mike 2012

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The 32nd annual Swim with Mike event at USC to benefit physically challenged athletes will be held the morning of April 14 at McDonald's Swim Stadium before the Spring Game. 

Swim with Mike will feature all the usual attractions like the Song Girl and student-athlete relays, a BBQ and the Trojan Marching Band.  Plus this year, we will invite guests on hard hat tours of the McKay Center and host a "Moving Sale" on Howard Jones Field, so you can load up on exclusive USC merchandise.

We will post more details as they come.  Click here for more info.

Here's a look at last year's event...


Career Fair

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USC athletics held a career fair last night for student-athletes to speak with a dozen potential employers and the career center about internship and job opportunities in anticipation of the university career fair on Thursday.

The career fair is the latest example of the department working to open the eyes of Trojan student-athletes to the wealth of options that comes with a USC degree besides professional athletics.

Three former USC student-athletes were there representing employers: Sean Dennis (men's volleyball), Staci Venski (women's volleyball) and Matt Talmadge (men's swimming).

LB Will Andrew dressed up for a chat with Mass Mutual.
Andrew-Career-Fair.JPG(Photo by Toni VanEck)

Water Polo Celebration

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USC athletics will celebrate men's water polo's unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship on Wednesday at 2 p.m. inside the Galen dining center behind Heritage Hall.

All are invited!

Dessert will be served and the Trojan Marching Band will perform as we gather to salute Jovan Vavic and his program.  Please join the party!

4Peat-DA.jpg(Photo by Dan Avila)

Olympic Symposium

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Our friends at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism are hosting a three-day event (February 14-16) to explore the impact on society of the Olympic Games as part of the Institute of Sports, Media & Society's sports and social change speaker series.

Jacques-Rogge_IOC.jpgHeadlining the event, IOC President Jacques Rogge (pictured) will participate in a Q&A with Annenberg's Alan Abrahamson on the state of the games at USC Town & Gown (7 p.m. on February 15). 

Also, our own senior women's athletics administrator Donna Heinel will moderate a panel of athletes, including Lashinda Demus (400 meter hurdles world champion), Allyson Felix (2008 Olympic Gold medalist in track and field), Jessica Hardy (50 and 100 meter breaststroke world-record holder) and Trojan alum Ous Mellouli (2008 Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming).  Felix graduated from USC, but did not compete at Troy.

The Annenberg event is loaded with great panels and discussions, so check out their website for more information.

The Hot Flashes

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USC women's basketball has gone Hollywood!  Associate head coach Laura Beeman spent time recently tutoring actresses Daryl Hannah, Melanie Griffith, Wanda Sykes, Camryn Manheim and Jessica Rothenberg in the art of hoops as they prepare to shoot The Hot Flashes, an upcoming feature film.

The movie begins production later this week, so Beeman finished up her basketball boot camp today by putting the women through ball handling and shooting drills.  The actresses loved working with Coach Beeman and lobbied to have her join them on set, but she is all booked up as the Women of Troy make a March Madness push.

From left: Beeman, Hannah, Griffith and Rothenberg.
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Hannah graduated from USC with a degree in philosophy and psychology.
Hannah-Beemen-McG.jpg(Photos by John McGillen)

Pac-12 Basketball Tournaments

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The USC men's and women's basketball teams will take part in the annual Pac-12 March Madness at Staples Center and Galen Center for which tickets are now available.

Click here for ticket information or to purchase!


Both conference tournaments run form March 7-10.  Galen Center will host the first two rounds of the women's tourney before giving way to Staples for the semifinals and championship.

The winner of each tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

USC won the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament led by Daniel Hackett.
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Combine Crew

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Seven USC draft prospects were invited to the 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis (February 22-28).  The Combine is a scouting staging ground for draft eligible football players to impress league personnel during workouts, drills and interviews.

NFL_Combine.pngWe will be working with the NFL to provide coverage on our social platforms of our guys as they go through the process.

Here's this year's list:

Rhett Ellison, FB/TE
Chris Galippo, LB
DaJohn Harris, DT
Matt Kalil, LT
Nick Perry, DE
Christian Tupou, DT
Marc Tyler, RB

Choose Your Own Lecture

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Written by Farren Benjamin, USC blog contributor

In an effort to provide the student-athletes with a well-rounded college experience where student-athletes can engage and learn about activities away from the comfort of their own sport, USC athletic director Pat Haden has launched a series of lectures for each sports team that exposes the athletes to all corners of campus.
 
Pink-Unis-Marinacci-Vaio-Kondrath.jpegEach team will have the opportunity to explore a different aspect of campus life of their collective choosing through this collaboration between athletics and the Provost's office.  These lectures can range anywhere from learning about a specific department on campus to learning about a certain club or student-service department.
 
Yesterday, the women's basketball team voiced their interest in learning more about the Theatre and Dramatic Arts department and got an opportunity to sit down with associate professor of dramatic writing at the USC School of Theatre, Oliver Mayer.
 
"It was very interesting to get such a different perspective on something other than what we focus on each day," said junior forward Michelle Jenkins.  "You don't realize how many different things go on everyday on campus and I was shocked to find out that we have a theatre right here on our own campus!"

Barry to Bolts

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Joe Barry, who coached the linebackers at USC the past two years, will assume the same position for the San Diego Chargers next season, the NFL franchise officially announced today.

Before joining Lane Kiffin's staff, Barry worked as a defensive assistant in the NFL for a decade.  He played at Troy as an inside linebacker in 1992 and 1993. 

Kiffin now needs to fill two open coaching positions - defensive backs and linebackers - this offseason.

Joe-Barry-Locker-SH.jpg(Photo by Jon SooHoo)

Scott Extended

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Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has had his contract extended through 2016 by the conference's board of directors, which is made up of all 12 university presidents.

Scott-Pac12.jpgScott has made sweeping changes during his short tenure in charge, including expanding to 12 participating schools, a groundbreaking media rights deal and creating a Pac-12 network.  He is now pushing to open the door to Asia as a possible destination to export an annual conference game.

Click here for the full story.

"My fellow board members and I are delighted to have reached a long-term agreement with the commissioner to continue his excellent work on behalf of the Pac-12," said Ed Ray, President of Oregon State University and Chairman of the Pac-12 Board. "We are on the brink of a period of extraordinary accomplishment and excellence throughout the Pac-12 and Larry's continued leadership and vision for the Conference are critical elements in realizing that potential."

Spinning Success

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No. 16 USC women's tennis has been nearly perfect in its early season contests dropping just a single point in five matches.  They will face a much sterner test this weekend as they depart for the ITA National Indoor Team Championships in Virginia. 

First up on February 10, the Women of Troy will take on North Carolina as they hope to progress through the four day tournament featuring a field loaded with the nation's best collegiate competition.

In the meantime, they are keeping busy by showing off their multi-sport talents.  Here is Danielle Lao doing her best Harlem Globetrotter impression...


Sign that Poster

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Taj Gibson was known more for magnificent blocks at USC than high-flying dunks, but he has put together a pretty impressive aerial resume in his short NBA career with his jam on Dwyane Wade, the putback against the Heat and now a facial for Milwaukee's Jon Leuer.

The current Trojans men's basketball team will be in action twice this week at Galen Center with a Thursday rematch against Cal (7:30 p.m.) and a Sunday showdown with Stanford (4:30 p.m.).


Aloha Jeffrey Kang

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USC sophomore men's golfer Jeffrey Kang claimed his first collegiate tournament title in a one-hole playoff to boost the No. 11 Trojans to a second place finish at the 22nd annual Amer Ari at Waikoloa (Hi.) Beach Resort last week.

Click here for the full story.

Kang shot all three rounds in the 60s (67-69-69), but needed a 55th hole to secure the individual crown over Texas's Jordan Spieth. 

jeffrey-kang-SCGA.jpg(Photo via SCGA)

Unprecedented

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The No. 1 USC men's tennis team continues to blaze a new path for a program that already boasts a proud tradition.  Peter Smith's squad pulled off the first ever 7-0 sweep of the Stanford Cardinal in Trojans' history and they did it in Palo Alto this past weekend.

USC backed it up with a 5-2 win over No. 13 Cal, which made it 25 consecutive dual match victories.

Steve Johnson and the boys have a quiet week with just a road match at Pepperdine on Friday before the big trip to Charlottesville, VA, next week for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

Tennis-Sweep-Stanford.jpg(Photo via the USC tennis blog)

UNFILTERED: The Leftovers

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We shot over 24 hours of game day footage this season, which was cut down to about 36 minutes of UNFILTERED videos. 

Since we figured you are probably starved for a little more Trojan football, here are "The Leftovers"...


Maui Classic

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Thumbnail image for Maui-Classic-Logo.jpgUSC men's basketball will take part in the prestigious Maui Classic in November 2012 against an elite national field which includes North Carolina, Texas, Butler, Illinois and Marquette.

Click here for tournament details.

The Trojans will get a chance to show off all the fresh talent arriving this fall like SG J.T. Terrell (No. 1 junior college player in the country), Wake Forest transfer Ari Stewart and the return of PG Jio Fontan.

Click here for travel packages.

Enjoy Thanksgiving in Maui and feast on hoops and sunshine!

Most Fascinating

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Matt Barkley will sit down with NBC's Fred Roggin on Super Bowl Sunday at 9 p.m. for the premiere of Southern California's Most Fascinating.

The USC QB will discuss his diverse interests, including breaking out his guitar for an impromptu performance.  Plus, he'll answer questions about turning down the NFL money and the pressures at Troy that come with his prominent role.


Pink Swag

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USC women's basketball came through with a stylish win last night over Washington State, while raising awareness for breast cancer research.

The Women of Troy will be rocking pink-on-pink-on-pink uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness month throughout February.

Pink-Unis-Team-Oumi.jpeg
Pink-Shoes-Oumi.jpeg(Photos by Daryl Oumi)

Super Bowl Menu

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What are you cooking for Super Bowl Sunday?  No Trojans in the big game means more time to focus on wings, brats and burgers.

Terrell Thomas and Steve Smith will both be watching intently this weekend.  Thomas has been on the Giants' injured reserve all season after tearing up his knee in a preseason game.  Smith helped New York beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl four years ago.

However, they will both be manning the grill this weekend.  Click here for a Bon Appetit story on what's on the menu at their Super Bowl parties.

Smith is grilling salmon to go along with spicy chili and carne asada.  Thomas, whose mom was a caterer in Louisiana, will start with shrimp bruschetta, spicy guacamole and then barbecued chicken as the centerpiece.

Thomas (2009) representing USC in front of his Giants locker.
Thomas-USC-Giants.jpg(Photo by Marc Steiner/New York Times)

Settling Into the Sand

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

During her four years as a setter for USC's indoor volleyball team, senior Kendall Bateman achieved just about as much as anyone could ever want to at the collegiate level.

Her Trojan resume reads two-time All-American, two trips to the Final Four, a 2011 All-AVCA First-Team honor and the school record for assists (4,510). But, rather than relish in the aftermath of her illustrious career during her final semester at Troy, Bateman (pictured below by ESPN.com) has decided to take her talents to the beach, as a member of USC's inaugural sand volleyball team. 
Bateman1.jpg

"It's kind of surreal to me," said Bateman, who grew up playing sand volleyball every summer in Manhattan Beach. "I am proud that USC is the only school in the Pac-12 to have a team, because I think it lets girls know that there are so many opportunities to play some form of collegiate athletics at this university."

As Mick Haley's top setter over the past three years, Bateman grew accustomed to her role as floor general and facilitator for the likes of Alex Jupiter and Lauren Williams. With her transition to the sand game, however, the senior has been forced to quickly adjust to the two-on-two format. 

And, while Bateman is the only senior on the team, she will not be relied on to assume the majority of the leadership responsibilities, as former USC outside hitter and current graduate student Geena Urango will be the 2012 team captain. 

"It's a completely different world for me," said Bateman. "It's not six-on-six, so you really have to be proficient in every aspect of the game. Our coach Anna Collier has been really patient with me, but I think this is really forcing me to become a better player. It's also nice being able to go out there and learn without having to worry about leading, because Geena [Urango] is a great captain for us." 

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It doesn't hurt either that Bateman and her 13 teammates get to work on their craft daily 20 minutes away from the USC campus at the Annenberg House in Santa Monica. 

"Playing on the beach is refreshing to say the least," said Bateman. "After four years of playing indoors day after day, having a chance to practice outside under the Southern California sun is really nice. It really brings me back."

While Bateman (pictured right by Patch.com) believes the inaugural team's main responsibility is to serve as a liaison for the sport both on campus and off it, ultimately she is still searching for the one thing that has eluded her at USC.

"I just want to win a national championship," said Bateman. "I tried for four years on the indoor side, and now I get a chance in the sand. It's really a great opportunity for all of us girls on the indoor team to make an impact out here. Even though the season hasn't begun yet, we're already having a blast."

The sand team will kick off their first season on March 16 in Santa Monica with a tournament against Pepperdine, Florida State and Long Beach State.

Scholarship Math

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Lane Kiffin alluded to some scholarship math in his Signing Day press conference, so we thought we would break it down for anyone struggling to follow along.

The NCAA penalties:

  • USC is capped at 75 total scholarship players for the next three years, which is down from the normal 85.
  • The Trojans can only sign 15 scholarship athletes per recruiting class for each of the next three years.

2012:

  • USC signed 5 players as spring early entrants, but that total counts towards the 2011 fall recruiting class, which had the normal maximum of 25 scholarship players.
  • Lane Kiffin added 12 student-athletes Wednesday as part of the 2012 fall recruiting class, which means the Trojans are still three scholarships away from the cap.

2013:

  • Those three scholarships will likely be handed out to early entrants for the 2013 spring semester.
  • Kiffin will have 15 more scholarships available at this time next year for the 2013 fall class, but if he does not use them all, they will be rolled over again to the 2014 early entrants.

2014

  • The final year of the sanctions.  The fall class will again be limited to 15 and the coaches will likely sign all 15 players since they will have 25 scholarships made available in 2015.

When the 2012 fall camp opens, Kiffin will have added 17 new players for this year's team (5 early entrants + 12 fall recruits).  Next year, he can add as many as 18.

As for the total number of players, USC is over the 75 cap as of today by a small margin, but Kiffin is not worried.  With normal roster erosion from transfers, academic ineligibility and other factors, he says that they will not have a problem meeting the mark.

The Worthy Adversary

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No. 4 USC men's volleyball hosts No. 3 UCLA at Galen Center Friday night at 7 p.m. in the "Crosstown Rivalry," but the Trojans will show due respect to legendary Bruin head coach Al Scates as he nears the end of 50 remarkable seasons in charge.

Al-Scates.jpgScates (photo by Tiffany Cheng), who won 19 national champions in Westwood, will retire at the end of this campaign.  He has won more than 80% of his matches and boasts the best record among all Division I volleyball coaches.

The late, great Jim Murray wrote, "Al Scates?! Precisely. The one and only. The man who is to volleyball what (John) Wooden was to basketball, (Red) Sanders was to football, Napoleon to artillery..."  

The Trojans will have a special pregame presentation (get in your seats early!) for Scates before they eschew the pleasantries and try to hand him one more loss.  It is a rivalry after all.

Season Ticket Tee

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USC football season tickets are on sale now at ReturnofTroy.com.  Season ticket holders, both new and old, have an opportunity to add on this exclusive season ticket holder t-shirt.

The 2012 schedule is on the back.

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Photo Gallery: Artletics 2012

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Written and Photos by Farren Benjamin, USC blog contributor

The Louis Galen Artletics Exhibition kicked off yesterday in the Galen Center with a reception where 15 student-athletes were able to showcase their talents off the competition field.

This year's exhibition features artistic pieces that range from photographs, paintings, sculptures, and ceramic pieces designed by the student-athletes who are currently taking classes at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts.

For the second consecutive year, senior track and field distance runner Greg Woodburn has showcased his work in the Artletics exhibition.  His passion for painting and U.S. history has yielded connections in his life that stem back to his love for running.  One of Woodburn's paintings on display this year is a broken foot with wings, which he said was not only a metaphor for the story of Icarus but also his passion for running early on which caused him multiple injuries.

"Art and athletics are both very process oriented.  Both include months of preparation and training and hard work," said Woodburn.  "Similar to a race, both things are a craft and take time.  This painting is a metaphor for the experiences I have gone through with running."

While some athletes related their art back to a memorable moment in their lives, others used art to create something useful to use during their pastimes.  Senior men's volleyball outside hitter Maddison McKibbin used his skills in ceramics to design two pieces - one that holds sunflower seeds and another that holds the empty shells.


KO Perspective

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Kevin O'Neill and the men's basketball program are enduring a trying 6-16 season with a trip to the Washington schools on tap for this weekend.  Losing is never easy to handle, but given the circumstances, athletic director Pat Haden has made it clear that the head coach will get another shot next season at turning the program around after a disastrous run of sanctions, defections and injuries.

Here are two interesting perspectives on the season...

The Daily Trojan's Andie Hagemann does not blame O'Neill.

Seattle Times' writer Bud Withers details the amazing set of circumstances around O'Neill's recent coaching career.

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Making a Splash

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USC women's basketball picked up a win Tuesday in front of a star-studded crowd, which included Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah (pictured below with Jacki Gemelos and Ashley Corral). 

The Women of Troy are back in action tonight against Washington State (7 p.m.) and Sunday versus Washington (1 p.m. on FSN).  The Trojans desperately need a pair of victories to improve their NCAA tournament resume.

Hannah-Jacki-Ashley.jpg

2012 Signing Day Recap

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USC football signed 12 student-athletes today with 5 more entering the program a semester early, so 17 new players will don the cardinal and gold this fall.

Click here to enter the Signing Day Central page!


Agholor-Presser.jpg"I'm very excited to welcome this class to USC," said head coach Lane Kiffin.  "Our coaching staff, headed by recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, did a great job of signing such quality student-athletes under the circumstances with which we are faced.  We are working with a limited number of scholarships due to the sanctions, so it was extremely critical for us to concentrate on the quality of players that we signed rather than the quantity."

Click here to watch Lane Kiffin's press conference.


Tying a bow on the day's events...

  • The USC coaching staff used the quality over quantity strategy to combat the scholarship limits.  With 12 players comprising this fall class (17 total counting the spring entrants), the Trojans will be able to sign as many as 18 players next year, which helps balance out the scholarship reductions.  "We didn't reach," Kiffin explained.  "We had a specific plan which was targeting quality players.  As you missed [out on some of them], [it] gives us some room for next year."
  • The primary focus of the class was improving the depth and long term prospects of the offensive line.  "The size is what sticks out," Kiffin said about Jordan Simmons (335 lbs.), Zach Banner (335 lbs.) and Max Tuerk (6'6").  "We made sure we got guys for down the road, not so much for next year."
  • Williams-Presser-OSentinel.JPGKiffin, who recruited Florida as an assistant under Pete Carroll, dipped into the Sunshine State for two more talented players today in WR Nelson Agholor (top photo by Tampa Tribune) and DE Leonard Williams (photo right by Orlando Sentinel).  Monte Kiffin and Orgeron were credited with closing two standout players in SEC country.
  • The rich got richer at LB, DB and TE.  The Trojans return the entire starting back seven defensively and four young tight ends, yet elite prospects at all three positions were happy to jump into the competition.  "One common attribute of these signees is their ability to compete," Kiffin said.  "None of them were worried about depth charts or playing time. They were excited to be Trojans."
  • Who will backup Curtis McNeal at running back?  The line is short with only D.J. Morgan banking any playing time and George Farmer moving back to wide receiver.  "We really don't have a great answer for that," Kiffin cited Jahleel Pinner as a possible power back and Agholor as a versatile offensive piece.  The head coach would like to sign two running backs next year.
  • No Signing Day is perfect, but Kiffin did not want to dwell on the ones that got away.  "Our starting pitcher pitched six great innings today, but our bullpen got rocked," said Kiffin, who used the metaphor to describe a day that started out well, but closed disappointingly.
  • Some current roster notes: Patrick Hall is no longer with the program due to academics as well as transfers Brice Butler, Kyle Prater, T.J. Bryant and Amir Carlisle.  Kiffin is not worried about getting under the 75 total scholarship cap.

Class of 2012: Leonard Williams

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

leonard-williams.jpgName: Leonard Williams

Position: DL

Size: 6'5", 270 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Daytona Beach, FL (Mainland)

Rivals.com Ranking: #5-rated strongside DE (4-Star)

The Story: As an assistant under Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin was assigned Florida as one of his recruiting areas and he continues to make the state a fertile recruiting ground for USC.  The Under Armour All-American will feel right at home with fellow Sunshine State products Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling already starring on the defensive side of the ball for Troy.

(Photo courtesy of the Under Armour All-American Game)

Click here for Leonard Williams' highlight film!

The Official Signature

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Kiffin Update

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Lane Kiffin took a moment out of his hectic day to suit up and chat with Shelley Smith on ESPN.  The head coach will have a LIVE press conference on USCTrojans.com at 4 p.m. pacific.

Here's what the head coach had to say about an already successful day...


Class of 2012: Nelson Agholor

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Agholor-Nelson-BleacherReport.jpgName: Nelson Agholor

Position: WR

Size: 6'1", 180 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Tampa, FL (Berkeley Prep)

Rivals.com Ranking: #3-rated WR (5-Star)

The Story: Agholor fits the Marqise Lee profile.  He could be the next star receiver or use his athleticism as a defensive back.  The Under Armour All-American played four different positions as a senior in high school accounting for 2,000 yards (mostly as a running back) and 3 interceptions.

(Photo via BleacherReport.com)

Click here to see the electric Agholor in action!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Devian Shelton

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Shelton-Devian-247Sports.jpgName: Devian Shelton

Position: DB

Size: 6'2", 185 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Inglewood, CA (Inglewood)

Rivals.com Ranking: #16-rated CB (4-Star)

The Story: USC was considered a late arrival in Shelton's recruiting process, but the Trojans' staff has admired the local product for some time.  He played safety as a senior in high school, but projects at both positions at the next level.

(Photo via 247sports.com)

Check out Shelton's highlight reel!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Gerald Bowman

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Gerald-Bowman-KCarden.jpgName: Gerald Bowman

Position: S

Size: 6'1", 215 lbs.

Hometown (JC): Philadelphia, PA (Pierce CC)

Rivals.com Ranking: #1 JuCo prospect (4-Star)

Resume: Bowman, who will have two years of eligibility remaining at USC, was the 2011 Southern California Football Association American Division Pacific Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA.  He was originally signed as an early entrant, but will officially enroll as a member of the fall class.

(Photo by Kevin Carden)

Click here for video of the hard-hitting Gerald Bowman!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Jordan Simmons

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Simmons-Jordan-PrepStar.jpgName: Jordan Simmons

Position: OL

Size: 6'5", 335 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Inglewood, CA (Crespi)

Rivals.com Ranking: #1-rated OG (5-Star)

The Story: Simmons is a massive addition, both literally and figuratively, for an offensive line unit that has been significantly bolstered by this recruiting class.  The U.S. Army All-American is ranked the top offensive guard in the nation by Rivals.com, but he has the athleticism to play multiple positions on the line.

Click here to see Simmons dominating the line of scrimmage!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Zach Banner

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Banner-USCHat-SeattleTimes.jpgName: Zach Banner

Position: OL

Size: 6'9", 335 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Puyallup, WA (Lakes)

Rivals.com Ranking: #2-rated OT (5-Star)

The Story: Banner is a physical marvel with the size and stature to compete for an offensive line spot from day one plus throw his muscle around on the basketball court, which he announced that he will try to do at USC.  The U.S. Army All-American has a champion pedigree as well as the son of former NFL All-Pro Lincoln Kennedy.

(Photo by Mark Harrison/Seattle Times

Click here to see Banner overpowering opponents!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Max Tuerk

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Tuerk-Max-BleacherReport.jpgName: Max Tuerk

Position: OL

Size: 6'6", 295 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Trabuco Canyon, CA (Santa Margarita)

Rivals.com Ranking: #7-rated OT (4-Star)

The Story: The Orange County product played against elite high school competition at Santa Margarita, the famed alma mater of USC Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.  Tuerk might have a chance to protect for another Heisman Trophy winner as he competes for an offensive tackle spot.

(Photo via BleacherReport.com)

Click here to watch Max Tuerk's highlights!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Jabari Ruffin

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Ruffin-Jabari.jpgName: Jabari Ruffin

Position: LB

Size: 6'4", 230 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Downey, CA (Downey)

Rivals.com Ranking: #1-rated OLB (4-Star)

The Story: The U.S. Army All-American is one of the highlight players from this class.  Linebacker U is back at USC with three freshmen standouts this past season and now a top class of fresh recruits led by the uber-athletic Ruffin, who played wide receiver and running back as well in high school.

(Photo via BleacherReport.com)

Click here to watch Ruffin's highlights at several different positions!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Kevon Seymour

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Seymour-Kevon.jpgName: Kevon Seymour

Position: DB

Size: 6'0", 170 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Pasadena, CA (Muir HS)

Rivals.com Ranking: #6-rated CB (4-star)

The Story: The cornerback position was dangerously thin last season after injuries compromised Torin Harris and Anthony Brown for the year.  The U.S. Army All-American, who had 5 interceptions as a senior, will have veterans from which to learn with the entire USC starting secondary returning.

Click here to watch Seymour's highlight film!

The Official Signature

Seymour-Sig.jpg

Class of 2012: Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Cope-Fitzpatrick-Jalen-USPresswire.jpgName: Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick

Position: TE

Size: 6'5", 260 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Rocklin, CA (Whitney)

Rivals.com Ranking: #4-rated TE (4-Star)

The Story: The Under Armour All-American continues the run of dynamic tight ends in Lane Kiffin's three recruiting classes.  With returning sophomores Randall Telfer, Xavier Grimble and Christian Thomas to go along with redshirt freshman Junior Pomee, the tight end competition will be fierce on the practice field.

(Photo by Kim Klement/US Presswire)

Click here to see Cope-Fitzpatrick in action!

The Official Signature

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Class of 2012: Jahleel Pinner

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As the letters-of-intent come through the Heritage Hall fax machine, we reveal the OFFICIAL 2012 USC football recruiting class.

Pinner-Jahleel-OCReg.jpgName: Jahleel Pinner

Position: RB

Size: 5'11", 225 lbs.

Hometown (HS): Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (Mission Viejo)

Rivals.com Ranking: #1-rated FB (3-star)

The Story: Pinner fills the void of a powerful short yardage runner coming from a successful Orange County program.  He provides immediate relief to the thin running back depth chart with the versatility to play fullback as well.

(Photo by Rose Palmisano, OC Register)

Click here to watch Pinner's highlight reel!

The Official Signature

Pinner-Sig.jpg