USC Football News and Notes 12/14 - Emerald Bowl Prep, Team Banquet and C.J. Gable News

So, the team is back at it this week as they go into bowl prep.

A couple of interesting story lines are taking shape as the season comes to a close.

I noted yesterday that Safety Josh Pinkard is out for the Emerald Bowl because of a knee injury. That makes things very interesting as Pete Carroll will now be giving us a small glimpse into the future as to what players may have a role in 2010.

With Pinkard out, sophomore T.J. Bryant, who has been the nickel back, probably will start. But redshirt junior Shareece Wright and redshirt freshman Brian Baucham also are in the mix.

Wright, a projected starter, is expected to be available for the game after sitting out the regular season because he was academically ineligible.

Baucham, who was ahead of Bryant coming out of training camp, returned to practice Sunday after missing several weeks because of a foot injury related to a September motorcycle accident.

I am not really sure as to just how effective Wright will be after not playing for almost four months. His loss really became apparent in the second half of the season when SC's defense started to struggle. I was not pleased that Wright did not take his classwork seriously...his not being on the team really changed the dynamic of the defense.

The question I have for everyone is academically eligible does Wright deserve to play or should he wait for spring ball? Wright definitely should not start but should he see some playing time? Playing in a bowl game to me is privilege not a given. I know he is talented but is missing the regular season enough of a punishment? It is a fine line but what is the message that needs to be sent?

T.J. Bryant already has some playing time under his belt but we really have not seen anything of Baucham after his motorcycle accident...will he be game ready?

- - -

Last night USC held their Team Banquet and handed out a number of awards...

Sixth-year senior Jeff Byers was named offensive lineman of the year, while Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey shared defensive linemen of the year honors. Senior quarterback/wideout Garrett Green was recognized as special teams player of the year. And, for the third consecutive year, Green also won the Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award for having the highest GPA on the team.

The night wasn't lacking thrills. Cedric the Entertainer performed standup comedy and linebacker Marquis Simmons led a rendition of "Lean on Me" -- along with the tear-jerking presentation of Johnson's award by Jake Olson.

Here's a look at the full list of winners from the 2009 USC football awards ceremony on Sunday night:

  • Most Valuable Player: Wideout/punt returner Damian Williams
  • Most Inspirational Player: Tailback Stafon Johnson
  • Linemen of the year: Center/guard Jeff Byers (offense); defensive tackles Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey (defense)
  • Special teams player of the year: Quarterback/wideout Garrett Green
  • Service team players of the year: Center Michael Reardon (offense); linebacker Marquis Simmons (defense)
  • Player of the game versus Notre Dame: Tight end Anthony McCoy
  • Player of the game versus UCLA: Tailback Allen Bradford
  • Jack Oakie "Rise and Shine" Award (year's biggest hit): Safety Taylor Mays
  • Howard Jones/Football Alumni Club Academic Award: Quarterback/wideout Garrett Green
  • Bob Chandler Award (underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character): Defensive tackle Christian Tupou
  • John McKay Award (underclassman with the most competitive spirit): Linebacker Devon Kennard
  • Courage Award: Cornerback Josh Pinkard
  • Co-Lifters Award: Offensive lineman Jeff Byers, safety Will Harris, safety Taylor Mays
  • Recognition of the 22 graduating seniors

The awards for Stafon Johnson, Garrett Green and Damian Williams are no surprise.

Speaking of Garrett Green...

Garrett Green has been cleared to hold on placements despite a torn ACL in his right knee.

How cool is that! He definitely deserves it. He has probably been the most under the radar player on this team over the past few seasons. It sucks that he won't have a bigger role on kick returns like he has had but at least he will get a chance to have a hand in his final game as a Trojan.

- - -

So, what about C.J. Gable?

No player has been as much as an enigma as Gable has during his time at USC.

He had the hot hand before going out with an abdominal injury and he had a pretty good season in 2008 until he saw the bench after putting the ball on the turf against ucla and Penn St. At times his attitude has been questioned in the press but that is hard to really know. He made some statements in the past that probably put him in the doghouse but this season he has been completely off the radar.

Last season there were some rumblings that he might go pro but he stuck it out...

But with the season almost over the questions are now being asked...will he stay or will he go?

Gable is one of several draft-eligible Trojans underclassmen who must decide by Jan. 15 whether to go pro or return to school. Unlike many of the others, Gable has played only a bit role this season after being a major contributor a year ago.

Gable started all but one game last season and tied for the team lead with 10 touchdowns. This season the redshirt junior has no starts and just 21 carries as Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford have shared most of the workload.

"It’s been frustrating," Gable said Sunday after USC’s second practice in preparation for the Dec. 26 Emerald Bowl. "Anybody would be frustrated. … Why would you play if you don’t care whether you get in or not?

"I care because I want to play. But I can’t do anything about it but keep on doing what I’m doing, which is work hard and let everybody see what I can do."

Gable made quite an impression Sunday, when, according to USC coach Pete Carroll, "he was the best guy on the field." But being a good practice player — and a good soldier after complaining about playing time last season - hasn’t translated into a greater role during games.

We have heard how great players have performed in practice only to see them disappear when game time comes around so I am not taking Gables strong performance as nothing more than just a snapshot in time.

Personally, I think he goes pro. SC will still have a glut of running backs, four off the top of my head, and that is before LOI Day where SC is in the mix for a couple of more top RB's

Here is a little more for the DN...

After rushing for 617 yards on 107 carries with eight touchdowns last year, Gable has been buried behind Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford in the running back rotation during his redshirt junior season, causing him to contemplate whether he'll return to play for the Trojans in 2010 or explore his value in the NFL draft in April.

"(In the past) I've always been basing my decisions off anger, but now I'm thinking clearly," said Gable, who has seen action in 11 of 12 games, but has rushed for only 98 yards on 12 carries with no scores.

"The most important thing is graduating. I've learned that football isn't everything. There is life after football. It's been difficult, but I just get in a rhythm in practice and I forget that I'm not playing anymore. I don't talk about it unless somebody brings it up."

Gable needs three more classes to graduate, but intends to sit down and talk with coach Pete Carroll following the Dec. 26 Emerald Bowl against Boston College in San Francisco about his future prospects.

"Allen is coming back too, but it also depends on who they might bring in," Gable said. "The only thing I know I'll benefit from by coming back is that I'll graduate. But (this year) they were better than me. The best man won the position."

Gable's mature approach hasn't been lost on Carroll, especially following the Trojans' second practice in as many days since a 21-17 loss to Arizona on Dec. 5.

You know Carroll is going to try and get him stay...but he may be in the same as Mark Sanchez. He can take those three classes and be done next semester so his commitment in my eyes is fulfilled...he has no obligation to stay once he has his degree...

It should be interesting.

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