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July 26, 2011
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
COACH KIFFIN: We're excited to be here. First Pac-12 media day, so excited. I think back to a year ago at this event, so much has changed. With two new teams coming in, how competitive it's going to be.
I've got to think as you look at it, it's the most competitive the conference has ever been in its history, and I'm more excited to be part of that.
A lot of credit goes to Larry Scott and his staff for not just expanding the conference, but so many ideas outside of the box. The Friday night championship game, there will be no other football being played. It's very exciting. To be part of that is pretty special.
Right now if you look at USC, there are a lot of great things going on. Starting with the John McKay Center, a $70 million facility, 110,000 square feet. It's ahead of schedule and moving along. All of our student-athletes will be housed there, and it's going to be really special.
If you look at USC over the years, the one thing we didn't have is we were behind facility-wise. So this allows us to catch up with other people and hopefully move past the majority of them.
Also welcoming our signing class. This is a very deep class coming in. It will address a lot of our issues. Most of those guys are on our campus now. To have those guys in fall camp will really help us in a lot of areas, especially in the front seven on defense and with the offensive line.
Also to increase our speed, I think there are some skill guys in this class that really can help us play faster and be more explosive on offense especially.
As we look at this off-season, nine more players being drafted. As many as any team in the country, I think that speaks volumes for USC. You get questions about player motivation, and not being able to play in the Bowl game. But the majority of our guys that come to USC come to get a degree at USC and get drafted.
You see the most draft picks in the history of college football, I think speaks volumes and we look to continue that. 22 players will return that have started for us before. So some of those guys have only won one or two games, but we do have a lot of experience, guys that have been in our system. As we go into our second year, we look for guys to be leaders. But there are a lot of areas that guy have played for in the off-season.
As far as the appeals process, we're glad it's over. We're disappointed in the decision, but it is what it is. We worry about what we can control. We're moving forward, and at least we know what it is now so it's not hanging over our heads. We don't have to deal with what may happen.
We had a specific plan in place since the decision first came down before the appeal of how to deal with this. I think we're maximizing it by what we've done and we're going to continue to do to make the most out of it.
I'm very proud of our players. As you look over the last year and a half how they've handled themselves in these trying times. It's a privilege to play at USC and be a student-athlete there. You saw an incident that happened here lately. I think we dealt with that with Marc Tyler in a very swift manner, and we took it very serious.
When you play football at USC you represent a lot of great players, but you represent a very powerful alumni. So after watching what Marc did, none of us felt good about it. It's a decision that Pat Haden and I made together. We're on the same page, and Marc has to get it right. So until Marc gets right, he won't be back with our program.
One game suspension is one thing, but to go on top of it is to not let him train with our guys will set him back. So hopefully he'll get right.
Last thing, to be in our second year for our staff to be around each other, learn about each other going into the second season, but most importantly, our players. We had never played or been on the field with these guys before a year ago, so we hadn't been to battle with them.
We know more about our roster. Going into the second season this fall is going to really help us as we figure out where to put these new guys and put everybody into place.
As you look at our offense, five returning starters that come back. Hopefully we'll continue to improve on last year. We improved in almost every offensive category last year, starting with up front.
Khaled Holmes will move to center. This is an important move for us. We do a lot of stuff on our offensive system. Khaled's a very smart football player so he'll help us up front there because he's going to have two new guards next to him.
Matt Kalil could be one of the elite left tackles in all of college football. He did great things for us last year as he goes into his junior year, and we expect a lot of great things for him.
Rhett Ellison returns to tight end. He's a true Trojan by the way he plays, by the way he practices, by the way he handles himself. Look for him to move around as a tight end and also continue to play on special teams.
Robert Woods after being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last year comes back. Trying to take him to the next level so, he can be one of those elite receivers, USC gets up in the 80, 90 range.
And lastly the quarterback, really, sat here a year ago and said the same thing. Our goal for Matt is to improve his decision making. And as you look at what he did last year in the touchdown interception ratio, improved a lot there. Now we need to go to the next level.
He can have one of those seasons like we've seen before with Carson, Leinart, John David, Mark Sanchez, have one of those elite seasons coming up this season.
Obviously, our other positions, there is a lot of inexperience there with the offensive line. Lot of those new guys will have to be plugged in.
On defense, we have to improve everywhere on defense. As we go back, it hurt us so many times last year. You look if we just play two-minute defense in the games, we can be 11-2. So there are a lot of areas to address, but specifically on defense. Our back-end, two-minute defense and explosive plays, we had so many explosive plays last year.
I think our defensive line has potential to be a very strong group. We moved Devon Kennard from middle linebacker to defensive end. If you look at this conference how it's spread out, it's not like it was when they were here before.
So it's more important to not have big linebackers but to have fast defensive ends. We put him back to defensive end which is where he's played before in his whole high school career. So with him there, Nick Perry and Wes Horton, we think that's three premier defensive ends there.
Inside, Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris return. As well as young guys that we still don't know anything different on his health. Hopefully he'll be there to give us a great rotation inside.
Look back to last year, and we had no rotation on defensive line. Way too many guys were playing 60, 70 snaps instead of rotating and playing 40 snaps a game.
Linebackers will Chris Galippo will be the Mike. Outside of that, we don't know much. Shane Horton is the only guy with much experience coming back, and we have two red-shirt freshmen in Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard that had a very good spring, and we look for out of them, and three incoming true freshmen and linebackers.
The DBs, McDonald, really hoping for an All American season out of him. Had a great spring for us. Very tough player just like his dad. This kid's a special kid. We look for him to have a great season.
Nickell Robey, here's a guy that started all 13 games as a true freshman. Coming from Florida all the way to USC, I believe Kim knows these stats. He's the first starter at corner since World War II when Pat Haden and Mick Haley were playing for us. That was my first bad joke of the day.
The other safety spots up for grabs as well as the corners, and with Nickell we look for him to have a great season as well as using him on returns.
Special teams look to be improved there. I think this is where we improved the most the year before we got here to last year was our special teams. John Baxter came in from Fresno State where he had been for 13 years and blocked nine kicks last year. Really did a good job. We'll have to break in two new kickers, a new kicker and new punter. So that will be a big challenge for us there.
In closing to get back to the field. So much stuff in this off-season going on with USC and around us that I really think is behind us. So we can get back to the field. Hopefully have no distractions and just get back on the field and coach and our players play, which is why we came here.
I think that it's a very competitive schedule, all BCS teams. One of the reason these guys come to SC is to play the best. Obviously the conference is going to be so strong, continuing the Notre Dame rivalry. It's going to be a very competitive year for us.
Then to have the NFL back. It's something that's real special to all of us. Obviously it would be missed, so it's great to have that back.
With that I've eaten up all the time, so there are no hard questions you can ask me right now. So we have one minute left. And Matt's going to announce that he's coming back for his senior year (laughing).
MATT BARKLEY: Every time he says that.
Q. Matt, can you talk about having the top receivers now with Woods and farmer?
MATT BARKLEY: Yeah, I have quite the arsenal at my disposal this year with receivers. Robert will be back. And like coach said, we'll be open for more to him this year. And George Farmer is a special receiver too, taller and bigger and I would say faster than Robert Woods. So we'll see how he progresses in this fall camp.
Another receiver from the same high school, they all came from Serra, from Gardena right down the street from USC, is Marqise Lee. So those guys will help us out.
Not to mention all the guys that we have with Brice Butler who is returning for us. He was thinking of leaving but he's coming back. I have a good relationship with him and good timing and stuff too.
Marqise is going to be a great receiver for us. Brandon Carswell who has been kind of the under the radar for the last couple of years but has been a consistent receiver for me. I trust him a lot. He runs great routes. He'll be a senior, kind of the older group of guys, a veteran.
The list keeps going on and on about guys who can help us out. And Kyle Prater who was injured last fall, even injured during the spring, but a big 6'5" receiver. An X-type of guy like Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett who we haven't had the last couple of years. He'll be able to help us out a lot.
So we have all this skill and all these players, but I think we'll finally turn that into production. And these off-season workouts have been great to get timing, but we have a special group on our hands.
Q. How do you plan to personally differentiate yourself in the "conference of quarterbacks" especially when you have Andrew Luck in the same league?
MATT BARKLEY: I think being consistent this whole year and not trailing out like I did the last two years, but finishing this year strong. I know what I'm capable of, but being consistent the whole year, keeping a strong completion percentage and raising that ratio of my touchdown to interceptions, and keeping that through the whole year.
Ultimately it's all about wins and losses. We had a couple of losses that year riding the line. I think by reversing those and winning more games this year, we'll be set.
Q. There was a lot made last year about motivating your team to play under the sanctions and no Bowl game and stuff like that. How do you find your experience this time around in the last year of your major sanctions?
COACH KIFFIN: I think weekly it doesn't matter that much. There is a lot of build-up before the season about no Bowl games and talk about it. But once you get going, you're in practices and you're walking down that Coliseum and getting ready to play, I really don't think they think much about that. Matt can talk more about that.
As I mentioned before, our guys come to USC to get a degree from a private university and to go to the NFL. That's still there for them, so none of that has changed.
MATT BARKLEY: Yeah, we're not thinking about the negative aspects of the season. We have so much going for us this year, so much talent and the special teams with the character and leadership that we have on this team. We're taking it one game at a time.
Not worrying about that time right now. When it comes, we'll deal with it. But as of now Minnesota is on the game plan. That's our schedule. One game at a time, one week at a time, and that's what we're doing.
Q. Matt brought up a point about having all of this talent on wide receiver. At any point in the season do you think you'll move any of them to defensive back?
COACH KIFFIN: I don't know that. We know our guys are going to start out. But we always look at that. Marqise Lee is a guy like that who was a great safety in high school as well. So we'll look at that and figure it out. But we want to bring them in for the position they're going to play first and then figure it out.
Lot of times that is a spring experiment. We'll leave some for the fall. Then in the spring after their first year, we'll move them around and see what else they can do.
Q. Last year I asked you to give me one myth you'd like to debunk, and you told me you'd get back to me. And so it's a year later, and I'm wondering if you can answer the question now or would you maybe perhaps like Matt to answer that?
COACH KIFFIN: I'll let Matt answer that. I think I said the same thing last year. One myth.
MATT BARKLEY: Well, he's in the same place for two years in a row now, which is good (laughing).
COACH KIFFIN: Nice.
MATT BARKLEY: I'm happy. That's good. The same coach for two years in a row now, we're progressing.
Q. With regards to Matt, this is for you, Lane, we've heard the word Heisman being thrown around a lot, especially with Matt going into his junior year. Where you do you believe he sits in the conference of quarterbacks?
COACH KIFFIN: When you look at Heismans, so many things have to go right. It's not just about that person's play. The team has to be very successful, not just to be winning. Especially for a quarterback he needs all the stuff around him going right.
I think Matt is on schedule to be in that conversation, but those variables he can't control will be up to us. Playing good defense, making sure we're putting the guys in the right position around him to make those critical third down and touchdown plays for him so his stats are up in that caliber.
Q. You guys have two weekday games this year, one on a Thursday and one on a Friday. I'm wondering how that affects you guys through the season to have two times where your regular schedule is going to be completely disrupted?
COACH KIFFIN: Yeah, it is a little different for us this year because of our schedule going to the morning format, morning practices, which is something we've been trying to do the last couple of years.
But it takes someone to stay somewhere a second year to get the class schedule. So we're going into that, and that does make it more difficult because we're missing certain times.
But it really isn't that big of a deal. A lot of times it actually helps you. Because as coaches we do too much, and we practice too much, too long, and too hard, especially us where we're at. So this actually makes us pull back from our players to keep them fresh.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports