One day before leaving for Hawaii, the USC football team voted sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley and seniors Shareece Wright (cornerback), Stanley Havili (fullback), Michael Morgan (linebacker) and Malcolm Smith (linebacker) as team captains.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said he initially planned to have four captains, but a tie between Morgan and Smith left the team with five. Barkley, the only non-senior among the captains, was an easy choice, according to several players.
“I feel like he did a good job of being a leader out here,” Wright said. “He’s the head of our team as the quarterback.”
Kiffin added that Barkley’s intensity earned him the nod over worthy senior candidates such as wide receiver Ronald Johnson, center Kris O’Dowd and tailback Allen Bradford.
“For him to be named over those guys as a sophomore says something about his work ethic,” Kiffin said. “The [other players] have seen how he’s changed his body and his approach to the game. He wants to be the best and he’s working for it.”
Several of the players selected have been involved in off-the-field incidents at USC. Wright was declared academically ineligible for the 2009 season and was charged with resisting arrest in 2008.
“The time came for me and it’s a blessing,” he said. “It shows that my teammates know what type of player I am and what type of person I am.”
Wright added that he thought he could be a good representative of the team.
Havili, widely regarded as a team leader and solid locker room presence, punched teammate junior cornerback T.J. Bryant during training camp. Bryant required surgery on his cheekbone after the incident. Kiffin said Havili’s selection demonstrated what the team thought of him.
“I think it says exactly what we felt about what happened,” he said. “It was a surprise. It was a very poor decision by him and one that was out of character.”
Johnson said the five players selected were the right choices.
“The guys that were chosen were the vocal guys and the guys who stand out,” Johnson said. “I think [they] deserved it.”
Kiffin reiterated his commitment to special teams Monday after practice, pointing out how much time the team had spent working on drills and technique.
“We’re not just giving it lip service and saying we’re going to play really well on special teams,” Kiffin said. “We’re going to dedicate our time and resources to it.”
Johnson, who is slated to return punts for the first time since high school, said the team is excited to put all that extra practice to use.
“Everybody’s bought in [to special teams] and we can’t wait to show what we can do on the field,” he said.
Kiffin announced that freshman wide receiver Kyle Prater, who made waves during camp with his hands and physicality, might redshirt this season because of nagging injuries.
“His competitive side wants to fight through that and go out there but he’s just not 100 percent,” Kiffin said. “We feel like he’s going to be so good when he is that we don’t want to throw him out when he’s not.”
Redshirt sophomore center Abe Markowitz will need surgery after breaking a bone in his foot. Kiffin said he would miss six or seven weeks.