There was some interesting news from the coaching staff yesterday...
Jeff Byers will start at center over Kristofer O'Dowd. This might be a shock to some but the running game doesn't seem to be where many of us think it should be.
The season has not gone as planned for the 6-foot-5, 300-pound O'Dowd, who had off-season shoulder surgery that caused him to miss spring practice and then suffered a dislocated kneecap for the second time in three seasons.
O'Dowd sat out the opener against San Jose State but returned to play against Ohio State.
"I tried to fight back and got back as quickly as I could, but it still wasn't necessarily 100%," he said. "I was hoping that by going out there and working on it, I would build it up to where it would get back to normal, but it just hasn't been the case."
Byers, who came to USC as a center in 2004, took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense during practice this week. He will start for the second time this season at center.
I am not surprised that he was not 100%. A dislocated patella is a tricky injury to recover from, especially if you re-injure it. O'Dowd is looking at some off-season knee surgery to fix the damaged structures.
The great thing in this article is that O'Dowd plans on returning for his senior season.
Opposing defenses have been able to get penetration on our running game this season. We have seen it in a number of different games. With Marc Tyler out of the season and C.J. Gable inexplicably still in the doghouse it all falls on Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford. It is possible that we could see Curtis McNeal in the game but with Stanley Havili pretty much questionable that opens up the door for D.J. Shoemate at the FB spot. Regardless of who is on the field the O line needs to blow some holes open to get these guys some room to operate.
From what I have seen it would appear that McKnight actually does pretty well when runs between the tackles. When he jukes and moves trying to get to the outside is when he seems to not be less effective...this is particularly true (obviously) when the defense can beat him to the outside.
The offense is really close to busting out...If the running game gets rolling we could see some some really interesting games in the second half of the season.
USC closed the first half of '09 with its strongest offensive performance since the season opener (which was against 1-5 San Jose State, so please feel free to affix an asterisk). The Trojans scored 34 points at Notre Dame – after scoring 30 at Cal, 27 against Washington State and 13 at Washington.
Barkley missed the Washington game – the lone loss on 5-1 USC's ledger – because of a shoulder injury. In his four games since the opener, he has mirrored the offense's ascent.
Barkley passed for 195 yards Sept. 12 at Ohio State. He nearly doubled that total – 380 – at Notre Dame.
Barkley completed 48.4 percent of his passes against the Buckeyes. He hit on 65.5 percent – again, the best since San Jose State – against the Fighting Irish.
Yet in a sign of how driven he is to succeed – and how he is raising the standard for every freshman quarterback to follow him – Barkley was far from satisfied with his performance.
"I've got more potential in me," Barkley said. "After watching tape on Saturday's game, it was a lot more scrappy than I thought it was, not as pristine. There's always stuff to improve on. ... There are some little things we need to work on in order to get better."
I don't think there is any question that Barkley has some growing to do.
He has come a long way for a true freshman...just going on the road and getting the win at Ohio St. and Notre Dame with minimal mistakes shows his maturity.
And Barkley learns fast as well...
USC twice ran play-action passes on third-and-1. The first time, tight end Anthony McCoy was open – but Barkley didn't set his feet and underthrew the pass. McCoy gained 23 yards, but it could have been a lot more.
The next time, McCoy again was open – and Barkley delivered a strike. McCoy rumbled downfield for 60 yards. It took all of a quarter for Barkley to learn his lesson and make the proper adjustment.
"The kid is doing great," senior guard Jeff Byers said. "He impresses me every day. He's a really special guy back there. He's playing his butt off."
That Barkley has won over his veteran teammates isn't insignificant. USC returned nine starters on offense, and the unit had great expectations despite one of the losses being All-Pac-10 quarterback Mark Sanchez, whom the New York Jets took with the fifth pick in the NFL draft.
When Carroll elevated Barkley over redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp – who won the job in spring but lost it in fall after breaking his leg – there were hints of skepticism inside the locker room and heaps of it outside. The Trojans entered 2009 with seven consecutive conference crowns, BCS bowl berths and 11-plus-victory seasons, and now they were entrusting a freshman to help make it eight?
I don't think anyone is questioning PC's move now are they? Barkley has done good enough to shut the mouths of clowns like the insufferable Matt Hayes who constantly tried to say that Barkley's inexperience would hurt SC. So far that hasn't been the case and while I am not ready to say that he is not susceptible to a rookie mistake Barkley has done a remarkable job at leading the offense.
SC needs to put some points up on the board early to force The Beavers to have to play catch up and the running game is key to putting points up on the board. More on why later...
USC also gets RoJo back in the starting line up on Saturday.
Receiver Ronald Johnson struggled to regain game speed against Notre Dame and acknowledged continued soreness early this week.
The junior, however, will start against Oregon State, Carroll said.
Johnson, who suffered a broken collarbone before the season, had one reception against Notre Dame.
Johnson replaces David Ausberry in the starting lineup. Ausberry, who has 10 receptions, has been slowed this week by a calf strain.
I think that is a big deal.
RoJo clearly was not himself against ND, nor did I expect him to be. I think he needed a little more time to get back into the groove in regards to his timing and route running. You just don't come back after being out six weeks and hope to perform at the same level that you were out prior to your injury, especially in a big game like Notre Dame at South Bend. We all know RoJo is our speedster and if he is on that will keep the OSU defense honest. If RoJo gets behind their DB's it could spell trouble for Oregon St. especially with Barkley getting better and better each week.
On the defensive side of the ball this weeks game is a big test for the USC defense.
Last year the D line was embarrassed by Jacquizz Rodgers. Averill SPicer and Christian Tupou both had bad games last year, they had no answer for him in the first half, though SC made some adjustments in the second half to contain 'Quizz better. They moved Casey to the NT spot and moved Ellison up into the box. I could go on...
This is a very stout D line that SC has coming into this game. With Casey at NT and Armond Armstead (probably right nest to Casey) back in the groove from his injury I think that 'Quizz will have a tougher time than he did last year. It will be more difficult than last year to get the type of yardage that he had last year. I also want to see how Everson Griffen plays in this game. Last season he was continually motion-blocked by James Rodgers and taken out of the play. Hopefully Jethro Franklin has brought Griffen along to be able to handle that wrinkle in the OSU offense.
I think 'Quizz will get some yards and he won't put the ball on the turf, but I think this is a better front seven for this game than what we had last year by just putting in Casey and Armstead over Tupou and Spicer (no offense gents). The speed of this years D line is just insane. We already have seen their speed but I think the LB's are less susceptible to over running the play like we say Rey do last season in Corvallis. The OSU O line lost three players to the NFL last season, not that it matters, so while they still have some talent it is not quite as experienced as last season if SC gets some points on the board early it could force OSU to use 'Quizz less if they have to play catch up by airing it out.
Lets talk a little bit about some players on Oregon St.
There is an interesting article up at the Oregonian discussing Oregon St. players who feel they were snubbed by not being recruited by USC.
I found these comments by Beavers OL Gregg Peat...(emphasis added)
"Not even a second glance," Peat said. "Pete Carroll was there and I'm sure (he watched me) and was like, 'Ah, um, no.' They recruit the best of the best and none of us are usually their caliber of player.
"Or so they think."
Peat's recruiting anecdote is common among Oregon State players who played high school ball in the Southern California area. A handful of them, like senior corner Tim Clark, who is from Compton, and safety Lance Mitchell, who is from Pasadena, grew up in USC's backyard -- but they didn't get a sniff from the Trojans.
"I think not being recruited by your hometown team is a little bit of a slap in the face," Mitchell said.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah, Blah.
Peat has turned into a fine player, no question. Some players need a few years at the college level to really blossom and Peat looks to be one of those. Look, I get it that these guys will try to use what they feel is "snub" as some motivation for this game but SC can't recruit them all. Pete Carroll and his staff can't look into the crystal ball and see how every player out there will turn out.
More interesting is this...
Peat originally committed to Nevada before accepting an offer from the Beavers without ever taking a visit. Nevada? Really? That is a real power house of football...I guess SC really missed out when the kid committed up there, I am sure they scrambled to steal him from Nevada.
So, yeah PC may "have seen him" when he was recruiting Mark Sanchez but does anyone think that Peat would be on the field now with all the other talent SC has on the O line? There are only 85 schollies so I am not sure who SC should have NOT recruited on the OL in place of Peat. Point being is simple...everyone gets up to play USC. If these guys want use a supposed "snub" about not being recruited then so be it. I wish them luck...
I think this will be a great game and if all the mini drama's help to make it a better game than that is fine with me.