One month and one day after the start of spring practice, USC exited the 15 sessions Saturday somewhat battered and without any real handle on what to expect in 2011.
At least, that’s the assessment of their head coach.
Following yesterday’s spring game that “wasn’t a real game”, Lane Kiffin acknowledged that the number of injuries suffered by the Trojans — especially on the offensive side of the ball — makes it difficult to determine exactly where his squad stands as they enter the summer voluntary workouts portion of the college football calendar.
“It is hard to assess with so many people out for all of spring and so many people coming in that are going to have to play for us,” Kiffin said. “It’s really hard to address where we’re at and figure it out. …
“Hopefully, we’re really good on defense and really good on special teams. We’ve got a lot of work to do on offense.”
Quarterback Matt Barkley tossed two interceptions and barely completed 50 percent of his 42 passes, but there were mitigating factors behind that performance. Star wide receiver Robert Woods was held out of the game after injuring his ankle during a “basketball incident” Friday (“All the coaches had the same response – don’t play basketball anymore“) and then fellow receiver Brandon Carswell went down with what’s believed to be a concussion. And that’s on top of the uber-talented Kyle Prater still recovering from foot surgery.
“You’ve got to deal with what we have,” Barkley said. “I can’t wait to have all those guys back.”
It wasn’t all bad news on the day for the Trojans, however. By all accounts, the defense showed well throughout the spring, even when the injuries on the other side of the ball are factored in. And sophomore running back Dillon Baxter, hobbled for most of the spring by an ankle issue, broke off two of his longest runs of the past month as well as running for a touchdown.
Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.
The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.
Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.
Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.
“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”
Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.
How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.
“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”
In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.
Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.
One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.
While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.
On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.
Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.
Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.
The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.
Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.
While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.
Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.
No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.