USC Football News and Notes 11/12

Just a few things this afternoon...

Third down conversion is still an issue...

SC rarely breaks from routine in its practice format.

But continuing problems converting third downs have forced the 11th-ranked Trojans to double their emphasis this week as they prepare for Saturday's game against No. 25 Stanford at the Coliseum.

"It calls for at least that amount of attention at this point," Coach Pete Carroll said after Wednesday's workout.

The Trojans' 32% conversion rate though nine games ranks 106th among 120 major college teams.

In last week's 14-9 victory at Arizona State, USC was two for 13 on third down and the offense produced only one touchdown.

"That starts with me," said Jeremy Bates, the Trojans' first-year quarterbacks coach and play-caller.

Tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili did not play in most of the last three games.

Bates, however, refused to blame injuries for the struggles of an offense that has sputtered on third down and was outgained by Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State.

While penalties and dropped passes have been problematic, quarterback Matt Barkley's play is not an issue, according to Bates.

Well, this needs to change if SC is going to be successful as the season moves into its final stages. I think we will be OK against Stanford. They are not as strong on the road...I don't care what they did in 2007 and I don't care if they aren't intimidated by SC or by playing at the Coliseum this is about the here and now. SC needs to make its mark by keeping the Stanford offense off the field.

Arizona and ucla on the other hand will be a bit more dicey.

SC needs to move the ball and consistently and this will work itself out. If they get bogged down with odd play calling or guys not making catches etc. then this could be a problem.

Sooner or later they have to break out of this funk...

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There is still some buzz going on in regards to Devon Kennard possible playing strong side linebacker this weekend against Stanford. It may be a popular choice right now but I think it is premature to get excited about this...

USC freshman Devon Kennard is one heady football player.

Sure, there’s some crossover between his usual weak-side defensive end spot and his new position of strong-side linebacker. And it’s possible he’ll struggle if thrust into that situation against Stanford.

But to actually look like you know what you’re doing after just three days of practice? That’s awfully impressive.

"He just picked it up," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He has played on the edge a lot for us, so a lot of things were similar, but he showed that he has been paying attention in the meetings.

"He’s a hammer out there, 250-something pounds at Sam ‘backer. He’s looked very good, so we are very fortunate."

Besides, I’d rather have a green Kennard out there than a one-armed Michael Morgan trying to tackle Toby Gerhart. If Morgan were to play a lot, USC would have two defenders with casts on trying to wrap up Gerhart, Armond Armstead being the other. That doesn’t seem like a wise course of action.

Throwing Kennard out there in a critical game might seem unwise, but the coaches wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think he could handle it

I think we need to be careful here. There really isn't any evidence that Kennard will effective at this position at least not yet. One or two solid practices is not a good enough indicator. This isn't like Cush two seasons ago. I think it is one thing to move a big LB'er to the line to try and use their speed to go after the QB. The LB'er has experience in dropping back into coverage. Kennard has never been asked to do that and if they move him to the strong side LB position he has to be wary of the TE where he could be vulnerable.

Kennard may have some intuitiveness for the position and I understand that if the coaches didn't think he could do it they wouldn't move him there but this is a big gamble.

If the want to experiment I  think they would be better off using Taylor Mays at LB but I know that is a non-starter.

We'll see...

- - -

We haven't talked enough about him but if he isn't already, Jurrell Casey is going to be one dominant player...

The first-year starter, who splits his time between defensive tackle and nose guard, ranks fourth on the Trojans in tackles with 44 in nine games. He is the only defensive lineman among the top seven.

He is also the only Trojan with multiple fumbles forced (two) and recovered (two).

And then there's this bit of trivia: Casey is the only player to have intercepted quarterback Aaron Corp this past spring.

"Jurrell's had a great season," said USC coach Pete Carroll, whose team plays host to Stanford on Saturday.

"He's been active, he's been productive, he's been consistent, he's been a big-play guy, he's been around the football a bunch. He's just a really good football player, and he gives our opponents problems."

Casey has been an absolute terror on opposing offensive lines. ASU was holding him on just about every play and he still was making life miserable for their offense. The article goes onto discuss the comparison between Casey and Mike Patterson. I think there are ton of similarities. I also think that if the secondary was more productive and if the slant option was taken away from opposing offense Casey would be an even bigger monster.

If those open slants aren't there over the middle and if our secondary wasn't playing so far off the ball the opposing QB would have to take more time to look for the open receiver...that extra few seconds is all Casey needs to have a shot at the QB to break up the play. The other great thing is his versatility he can line up just about anywhere.

He is definitely fun to watch!

- - -

USC - Stanford Previews...

Preview: Stanford at No. 9 USC " The Trojan Empire

Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Preview - ESPN

Week 11 Game Matchup: Stanford Cardinal VS. USC Trojans | All Pac 10

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And some links...

Various Provocations: Toby Gerhart! Also, Andrew Luck is the Special One.
Hey there is a Stanford Blogger out there! We will do a Q & A with these guys later this week...

Pac-10 Week 10 Notes and Observations: USC Trojans | All Pac 10

Hail Harbaugh! - Inside USC with Scott Wolf
Jim Harbaugh's presser quotes...

USC defensive back Baucham savoring a new lease on life - LA Daily News
I'll say!

Freshman quarterbacks are growing up fast -- latimes.com
A little more on the youth movement in the Pac-10

Pete Carroll's Stanford Presser

Scouts to size up Stanford's Gerhart, USC defensive backs - CBSSports.com

USC football: Bates has Barkley’s back - USC : The Orange County Register

Numbers show Pac-10 is the strongest - The Orange County Register

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