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Trojans Make A Splash On 2012 Maxwell Preseason Watch List

Aaron Fischman |
July 10, 2012 | 2:20 a.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

Last December, Barkley announced he would return to USC in pursuit of a championship. (Neon Tommy/Creative Commons)
Last December, Barkley announced he would return to USC in pursuit of a championship. (Neon Tommy/Creative Commons)
The University of Southern California led all schools with four players listed on the Maxwell Award’s preseason watch list, which was released Monday morning. The award annually honors the nation’s best college football player. 

The four listed Trojans included senior quarterback Matt Barkley, junior wide receiver Robert Woods, sophomore wideout Marqise Lee and senior running back Curtis McNeal. Arkansas, Clemson and Oklahoma were the only other three schools to boast at least three players on the list.

Before Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck won last season’s Maxwell Award, a Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) player had not received the honor since USC running back Marcus Allen won in 1981. 

In the weeks leading up to the season, we’ll talk a great deal more about Barkley, Woods, Lee and McNeal, but for now, let’s take a look at the other Pac-12 players who made the preseason watch list. In all, 14 of the 65 players listed (21.5 percent) hailed from the Pac-12. 

Senior RB Cameron Marshall (Arizona State Sun Devils)

230 carries for 1050 yards (4.6 YPC), 18 TDs; 24 catches for 188 yards, 0 TDs. 

Marshall is in a similar situation to what Stepfan Taylor is facing in Palo Alto. His starting quarterback has gone pro. It will be interesting to see how Osweiler’s departure impacts Marshall’s performance. Who knows? It may also have no effect. 

Marshall killed USC in the desert on September 24, rushing for 141 yards and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown run in the game’s opening minutes. He also scored two late TDs to help ice the game for the Sun Devils.

Junior WR Keenan Allen (California Golden Bears)

98 catches for 1,343 yards (13.7 AVG), 6 TDs. 

Allen was so prolific last season. I mean the statistics say it all. His 98 receptions ranked second among Pac-12 receivers (Woods caught 111 passess). Allen is profoundly talented, and it sure doesn’t hurt when your half-brother is your quarterback.  

Allen caught 13 passes for 160 yards against SC, but couldn’t find the end zone. It was an impressive individual effort in a game in which the Golden Bears were forced to play catch-up throughout. 

Senior RB Isi Sofele (California Golden Bears)

252 carries for 1322 yards (5.2 YPC), 10 TDs.

The running back’s 5-foot-8 (on a good day) stature helps him allude defenders, something he did all season long. His phenomenal consistency is supported by the numbers. Sofele ran for 84 or more yards in 10 of 12 regular season games. And the two times he fell short of 84 rushing yards, his team lost. 

USC’s defense had the most success against Sofele, holding him to 44 yards. The Trojans were more easily able to contain Sofele, because Cal fell behind 20-0 by halftime. Facing the large deficit, the Golden Bears elected to nearly-exclusively pass the ball and largely neglected Sofele in the process. 

Senior RB Kenjon Barner (Oregon Ducks)

152 carries for 939 yards (6.2 YPC), 11 TDs; 17 catches for 184 yards, 3 TDs.

All this, and he wasn’t even the leading rusher on his team. That’s because LaMichael James compiled 1,805 rushing yards. Now that James is in the NFL, Barner will get the opportunity to be the main man in the backfield for Chip Kelly's offense. 

Against USC, Barner turned in a phenomenal performance, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 carries. USC won 38-35, barely holding off the Ducks’ furious comeback attempt.  

Sophomore WR De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon Ducks)

55 carries for 595 yards (10.8 YPC), 7 TDs; 46 catches for 605 yards (13.2 AVG), 9 TDs. 

The Crenshaw HS alum originally planned to attend USC. (MattyV53/Creative Commons)
The Crenshaw HS alum originally planned to attend USC. (MattyV53/Creative Commons)
Thomas does pretty much everything for the Ducks similar to what Reggie Bush did for the Trojans. He returned kicks and punts, caught passes and even carried the ball for the best rushing team in the nation. And much like Bush, Thomas is blindingly quick.  Interestingly enough, on the watch list, he’s listed at WR as opposed to RB (his usual listing). I guess that makes sense…he did lead the Ducks in receiving last season.

Against USC, Thomas didn’t do much on the ground, but he made three receptions for 49 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Late in the third quarter, the then-freshman shifted the game’s momentum when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. He was truly a blur.

Senior RB Stepfan Taylor (Stanford Cardinal)

242 carries for 1,330 yards (5.5 YPC), 10 TDs; 25 catches for 182 yards, 2 TDs. 

Who doesn’t remember the Andrew Luck show, but Stanford was actually a very balanced offense with Taylor contributing considerably on the ground. Luck’s departure will probably result in Stanford relying much more on their running game. Then again, without Luck, opposing teams will likely stack more defenders inside the box. 

Against USC, Taylor played well, contributing 99 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinal’s 56-48 OT win October 29 at the Coliseum. Both touchdowns were crucial, too. The first tied the game at 34 with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. The other put Stanford up by a touchdown in the third overtime. On the ensuing possession, Stanford recovered McNeal’s fumble and subsequently began its victory celebration. 

Senior RB Johnathan Franklin (UCLA Bruins)

166 carries for 976 yards (5.9 YPC), 5 TDs.

Franklin was the lightning to Derrick Coleman’s thunder. The two fairly-evenly split 318 carries, but Coleman was given most of the goal-line opportunities. With Coleman in the NFL, could this be the year Franklin rushes for 10 or more touchdowns? It’s very possible. 

Franklin was only given eight carries in the Trojans’ 50-0 drubbing of the Bruins, but he made the most of them, logging 55 yards. That’s 6.8 yards per carry.

Senior RB John White IV (Utah Utes)

316 carries for 1,519 yards (4.8 YPC), 15 TDs.  

In White's first D1 season, he clearly earned coach Kyle Whittingham's trust. (the_robio/Creative Commons)
In White's first D1 season, he clearly earned coach Kyle Whittingham's trust. (the_robio/Creative Commons)
Considering the Utes’ rocky quarterback situation, White IV was relied upon plenty last season. In fact, the community college transfer ranked fourth in the nation in carries. White IV ended the season with a bang by rushing for a game-winning overtime touchdown in the Sun Bowl. With one D1 season under his belt, expect White IV to increase his yards per carry. If only the Utes could figure out their quarterback situation, they could afford to lighten their RB’s workload. 

In Utah’s Pac-12 opener (its first game in the conference EVER), White IV compiled 56 yards and a touchdown, but needed 20 carries to do so. USC would later clinch the win on a blocked FG (via Matt Kalil’s paws) with time expiring. 

Junior QB Keith Price (Washington Huskies)

242 of 362 (66.9%) for 3,063 passing yards and 33 TDs, 11 INTs. 

It was a tale of two halves of the season for Price. Then a sophomore, Price began the season by throwing 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions through his first six games. The last six regular season games were another story, as the first-year starter threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions over that stretch. He did, however, go toe-to-toe with Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl. In a game that featured no defense whatsoever, Price threw for 438 yards and four touchdowns. Washington lost, but Price got his proverbial freak on.  

After struggling against Oregon a week earlier, Price passed for 125 yards and no touchdowns in the Huskies’ 40-17 loss to the Trojans at the Coliseum.  

Junior WR Marquess Wilson (Washington State Cougars)

82 catches for 1,388 yards (16.9 AVG), 12 TDs. 

Consistency may actually be the 6-foot-4 wide receiver’s middle name. He caught five or more passes in all but one regular season game and even in that game, he hauled in four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Wilson has recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons despite playing alongside multiple signal-callers. That’s why the Cougars’ current quarterback uncertainty shouldn’t affect Wilson too much.

The Cougars didn’t play USC last season and won’t again this year, but Wilson should be of interest to Trojans fans, nonetheless.  



Aaron can be reached via email or Twitter.



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