Preparation sets Barkley, Woods apart

Working one-on-one in the summer helped set stage for record-breaking performance by Barkley, Woods.

LOS ANGELES – Robert Woods rarely participated in summer throwing sessions organized by USC players, presumably to rest his sprained right ankle.

It turns out the sophomore wide receiver was working out one-on-one with junior quarterback Matt Barkley, helping set the stage for their record-setting performances Saturday against Minnesota.

Barkley had 34 completions, 17 of which went to Woods, setting new single-game marks in the 19-17 win.

The two worked out all over Southern California, close to the USC campus and then down in the South Bay near Barkley's home, allowing the third-year starter to get a better understanding of how the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year comes out of his breaks and adjusts routes.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin credited their intensive preparation for their on-field execution.

"Those guys are really fun to coach," he said. "It's really enjoyable to be around them. You can say things one time on a Friday to them about a third-down play and the next day, on Saturday, and do exactly what you said versus the coverage. It's neat to have that."

Barkley said Woods "prepares like a quarterback," as demonstrated on their first of three first-half touchdowns, relying on a sight adjustment for slant-pivot route.

"We hit a couple of those quick slants early in the game, so I had a feeling how (the corner) was going to play," Barkley said. "I just signaled out to him (Woods) and he ran it well."

While Woods would love to repeat his 17-catch effort - "three games worth of catches and three games worth of hits," he quipped - most of his gains came on short quick passes that Utah should be better prepared to defend.

Kiffin wants the running game to take a more substantial role against the Utes, bolstered by the return of redshirt senior running back Marc Tyler from suspension.

The Trojans managed just 67 net yards on the ground, though dramatically skewed by a 32-yard loss on a bad snap. Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan carried the ball 18 times for a team-high 70 yards.

"I think we were (averaging) 4.6 yards a carry. Obviously we can get better, and Marc could help us if he's right," Kiffin said.

"To establish our passing game, you have to establish the run because that's where all your play-action starts from and he knows that. You just have to keep going at it," Barkley said.

Even with Texas A&M getting its invitation to join the SEC on Wednesday, Kiffin seemed nonplussed by the prospect of teams joining the newly expanded Pacific-12.

"We just got used to this one," he said. "Whatever happens, we'll figure it out. We don't spend very much time on it at all because it's out of our control."

The Trojans host the Utes on Saturday in the first-ever Pac-12 conference game and everyone is aware of its historic nature.

"It's huge," right tackle Kevin Graf said. "It's a big thing. We're all really excited and I think that's why all the coaches are really bringing an intensity this week because it is the first Pac-12 meeting."

To mark the occasion, a special game ball signed by all 12 coaches will be presented before kickoff.

Limited Recruiting Implications
While USC went head-to-head with Utah for a handful of recruits last season, Kiffin said he did not notice a pronounced impact yet from the Utes' move to a BCS conference.

"We don't recruit a lot of the same guys for whatever reason. We did run into them a couple of times on a couple of guys," Kiffin said.

The Trojans signed Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde cornerback Ryan Henderson, while South Jordan (Utah) Bingham running back Harvey Langi elected to stay home.

"I'm sure it's helping them," Kiffin said. "Obviously they get to play in California more and get more money from the TV deal."

While Henderson said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff downplayed the change in conference affiliation, it certainly did resonate.

"It definitely changed my perceptions because it means a lot playing in the Pac-10 either way," Henderson said.

Quick Hits
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