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USC Football News and Notes 11/11 - Havili and McCoy Return, Barkley refocuses and Kennard to LB?

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So, Stanford is not to be taken lightly...

It would appear that they are really up for this game. They are no longer intimidated by either playing USC or playing them at the Coliseum. Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken his lunch pail mentality and really has his players prepared...This will be a great game!

There is some good news on offense with both Stanley Havili and Anthony McCoy back in the mix.

Both the fullback and tight end positions are key to executing the USC offense. For being a tight end Havili is one of the better receivers on the team. At one point this season he was #2 in receiving, in either catches or receiving yards...I don't remember. You can line him up just about anywhere and throw him the ball.

So, having him back on the field is a big deal...

Havili, hurt in the game against Notre Dame on Oct. 17, did not play against Oregon State and Oregon. The junior was in for a few plays last week against Arizona State but did not carry the ball or catch a pass in a victory he described as "just a terrible game to watch."

"We just need more tempo -- we need more life out there," Havili said Tuesday. "If you ask anyone, it seems like the offense is dead even when big plays are made.

"This week I've told myself to make it an emphasis of bringing guys up and letting guys know that they are doing good."

Havili's return should bolster an offense that has been outgained in each of the last three games and produced only 10 points in the last six quarters.

With Damian Williams probably out for Saturday, having both Havili and McCoy back will will make life a little easier for Matt Barkley. McCoy has been another favorite of Barkley's. He has become a key weapon in the offense and with the apparent inability of Blake Ayles to step up and make a statement that he is the TE for the future McCoy's presence should calm some nerves as the season enters its final stages.

Speaking of Barkley, Many of us saw that last Saturday's game at ASU was far from the Matt Barkley that we have been used to seeing. He lacked some of the poise that we saw earlier in the year. He throws seemed hurried and it was clear that he was a bit rattled in the pocket. That is understandable...He was destined to have a bad game sooner or later and the ASU defense gave him fits for most of the evening. You could probably lay blame in at a number of peoples feet but Barkley has taken the blame for last weeks sub-par performance and has rededicated his focus for this weeks game...

Asked about the USC offense's struggles in the past six quarters, the freshman quarterback pointed the finger squarely at himself.

"There are a lot of things that go into it, but I'll take the responsibility for it and for the offense," Barkley said Tuesday. "It does start with the quarterback."

Consider that yet another lesson learned for the Mater Dei High product in a college career that is still only eight games old: No matter what, take the blame.

Although other factors contributed — including some dropped passes — Barkley's numbers have taken an undeniable nosedive since halftime at Oregon. In the past six quarters, he has completed 31.5 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. Before that, he had a 61.7 percent completion rate and a 9-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Carroll likes the way Barkley has responded in practice as USC prepares to face Stanford on Saturday.

There is no question that Matt Barkley is mature beyond his years...

No, he is not a God. But he has taken command of this team. He knows that regardless of dropped passes, missed routes or assignments it is on him to to get the team firing on all cylinders. I certainly do not expect Barkley to be grabbing players face masks or publicly berate players on the sidelines but he knows that he needs to set the tone and the example to get the rest of the offense to perform.

Barkley's maturity shows us that he knows just what he needs to do and he will not point to excuses for his recent poor performance...

In the last six quarters, he has completed only 12 of 38 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. The USC offense has scored only 10 points during the span.

Carroll said this week that he was "not worried about it a bit."

On Tuesday, Barkley also sounded unconcerned while refusing to blame injuries or a rigorous road schedule for the struggles.

He focused instead on "corrections" the Trojans were making in practice to help the offense get back on track.

"We're confident this week we're going to get a complete game and really finish strong," he said.

He is becoming a true leader.

I never expected it to be all wine and roses. Many of us knew that Barkley would probably have some struggles. We all knew that Pete Carroll was taking a gamble in starting a true freshman with two other QB's on the roster that more experience in the system but Barkley really stood up and took control of his destiny. I am not disappointed at all in his performance. Nobody could have expected Barkley to play like a senior in his first season but after witnessing the complete meltdown of Aaron Corp against UW and the apparent inability of Mitch Mustain to fully grasp the offense Barkley stepped up and controlled his own destiny.

The season is far from over so Barkley has an opportunity to make a bigger statement than he already has...

A lot is being made of the number of young QB's in the Pac-10. There are something like 5 true freshman or red shirt freshman starting or getting ready to start at this point in the season. I am not really sure what the reason is for the new youth movement but it is clear that Pete Carroll is not the only one who sees the benefit and risk of going young.

Harbaugh thinks he has the best one in the bunch...

Last month, Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Luck was "the best quarterback in the country." And that was before he passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in the Cardinal's 51-42 victory over Oregon.

Luck, the son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, has completed 58% of his attempts, with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in nine games. He leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency.

He is also the Cardinal's second-leading rusher, averaging 5.7 yards a carry.

"He's as good right now as anybody we've faced," Carroll said. "And [it's] really because they've gone with it and they've allowed him to really come out and go for it.

"And when you add their running dimension with that kind of passing attack, it really makes it a challenging offense."

Harbaugh said Tuesday that Luck benefited from redshirting last season while senior Tavita Pritchard started at quarterback.

That is fine...

Luck has really shown us some nice things this season. He has had an extra year in the system so I would expect him to have a better grasp at this point in his young career but lets not get too carried away. Except for WSU all of their losses have been on the road. Their big "wins" have been at home. In contrast when you look at SC's road schedule Matt Barkley has gone into much tougher environments and performed pretty good. Sure, Luck has better number and stats but I would like to see just how good he would do with a similar road schedule that Barkley has had to navigate. This is not to take anything away from Luck...he is scary good and SC will have his hands full but where you win is sometimes important to how you win.

Does anyone think that Stanford would have beaten the Ducks if that game was in Autzen?

I don't know...but that is a growing experience I don't care who you play for.

Simply stated...Luck is a solid QB and Harbaugh has done some great things with him but even with some of Stanford's "signature wins" its not like Harbaugh or Stanford is an elite team in the nationally or the Pac-10. The next three games is the toughest part of the schedule for Stanford. I do feel that if they were to win out then you could have that conversation, after SC the both Cal and ND at home.

We'll see how it goes...

- - -

Briefly...

Devon Kennard tries his hand at linebacker.

this is an interesting development...

USC freshman Devon Kennard might start at strongside linebacker against Stanford on Saturday despite his limited experience with the position - only two days.

Kennard, a defensive end who made his first career start last weekend against Arizona State, could replace Michael Morgan, who sprained his right wrist. Kennard was switched to linebacker this week and made an impressive transition.

"He's really astute and picked stuff up quickly on film," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He sees everything and has a knack for the position."

Kennard, who is 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, would give the Trojans a big, physical linebacker in the mold perhaps of former All-American Brian Cushing.

"I feel like I'm capable of doing it," he said. "I don't know if it's permanent or not. I'm picking things up quickly and I understand the concepts of the defense. I'll be ready Saturday. I don't think I'll be nervous."

Intriguing to say the least. It says a lot about USC's depth. I have no idea how this experiment will work out but I am not the one coaching the team. This might be another way to have a big body on the field to counter Stanford RB Toby Gerhart. This reminds of last year when Pete Carroll wanted all the LB's on the field in the "elephant" formation. I can see why he would want to maximize his talent. But, it would seem to me that moving a linebacker to the down lineman position would be easier than the other way around.

This will be interesting to see...

- - -

Finally some links...

Pete Carroll's Stanford Presser

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

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

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

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