August 22, 2013
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Marqise Lee can't believe Southern California wrapped up training camp Wednesday without choosing a starting quarterback.
''This is crazy,'' the Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver said.
Yet when asked to make the call between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek himself, even Lee acknowledges the difficulty of the decision facing coach Lane Kiffin.
''It's 50-50,'' Lee said, grinning. ''I know y'all don't want to hear 50-50, but that's all I've got.''
Kiffin still hasn't decided between Kessler and Wittek after the 24th-ranked Trojans' final scrimmage at the Coliseum. Not much has separated the two passers hoping to succeed Matt Barkley over the past three weeks, and Kiffin hasn't ruled out using both quarterbacks in games.
''We would like to have had it done a long time ago, but it's not,'' Kiffin said. ''Off of just watching today, prior to going to the film, I don't know that today cleared it up much more. Both guys did some good things.''
Yet neither quarterback did enough to secure the starting spot, leaving Lee unsure who will be throwing passes to him when the Trojans open their season at Hawaii next Thursday. Lee chuckled with disbelief at the idea USC doesn't have a clear-cut starter.
''I'm still waiting,'' Lee said. ''I don't know when Coach Kiffin is going to actually decide. Hope it's by Friday, because that's when we start our (preparation), but at the end of the day, I guess I'm going to be rolling with both until he decides.''
While Wittek started the Trojans' final two games last season, losing to Notre Dame and to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, Kessler has seemed to be a bit sharper than Wittek in spring ball and summer workouts. They're got roughly the same number of snaps in camp, particularly after freshman Max Browne was eliminated from first-team competition earlier in camp.
''I'm sitting here just like you guys - lost,'' Lee said. ''I'm going to continue to get work with both. If it's not (decided) Friday, I'm going to continue to work with both until Kiffin decides. Even if he does decide, I'm going to work with both.''
Kessler started both halves of the no-tackling scrimmage with the first team offense. He threw two interceptions on deflected balls, but also made the game's best throw on a picture-perfect, 55-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor, the new starter in Robert Woods' spot opposite Lee.
''I have no idea,'' Kessler said of the decision. ''I would like to say me, obviously, or I'd even like to say him, but that's up to Coach Kiffin. ... I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and this is what I've been working toward. Being the starter is part of the goal, but it's not the main goal. My main goal is for this team to win as many games as possible.''
Kessler has countered Wittek's powerful arm and experience with superior mobility and decision-making, but Wittek's big-play capability and improving accuracy always has the coaches' attention.
''It's only human nature to want to be as high on the depth chart as possible,'' Wittek said. ''No matter what happens, I'm going to continue to work, continue to compete. We've both taken the approach to every practice to look at it as our team.''
Kiffin's reluctance to make a strong commitment to either quarterback suggests the competition's winner could get a quick hook if he struggles, a possibility Kiffin hasn't denied.
Kiffin doesn't appear to be gaming future opponents by delaying his choice. He embraces USC's tradition of big-name quarterbacks after coaching Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty during his previous tenure at the school as Pete Carroll's assistant.
''Ideally, we do want to have one quarterback for the starter for the opening game,'' Kiffin said. ''We're not really a two-system-quarterback program, but at the same time we've got to make sure we find the right guy. So I would not rule out anything, but that's the same thing I've said for three weeks.''
The scrimmage underlined the Trojans' need for more work, but Kiffin cautioned against drawing any conclusions from a 121-play workout featuring the first team against the scout team. Agholor had nine catches for 250 yards and three TDs.
Lee was pulled from the scrimmage early after falling hard on his right shoulder, which kept him out of four days of practice earlier this month. The star junior said he was fine, and would have stayed in a real game.
Before heading off to watch film with both quarterbacks, Lee acknowledged he hopes Kiffin decided on a starter before Friday's practice - but won't be surprised if he's waiting a bit longer.
''I've just got to get used to their styles,'' Lee said. ''They don't have that much different styles, but as far as catching the ball, I've just got to make sure I'm on the same page.''
August 15, 2013
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference are following the NCAA’s lead and will no longer allow EA Sports to use league logos in its college football video games.
The NCAA announced last month it will no longer allow Electronic Arts Inc. to use its logo starting next year. The move comes as the NCAA fights a high-profile lawsuit that says the governing body owes millions of dollars to former players for allowing their likenesses to be used for free.
ESPN first reported the SEC would end its licensing agreement with EA, and a spokesman confirmed that to the AP Wednesday.
Spokesmen for the Big Ten and Pac-12 say their conferences also will not renew agreements with EA.
The conference contracts do not cover individual schools, which can sign their own licensing deals. That would allow EA to have games depicting top-level football programs, such as Alabama from the SEC, Ohio State from the Big Ten and Oregon from the Pac-12. The games would not be able to make any mention of their conferences.
Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said in an email to the AP that “there is no change in status for the Big 12 Conference at this time.”
Spokespeople for Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt gave similar statements, saying their leagues will be evaluating the situation.
The commissioners of the other FBS conferences — Atlantic Coast Conference and Mid-American Conference — were not immediately available and it was unclear whether their leagues would follow the growing trend.
Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff among 16 former college athletes in the long-running legal battle that could fundamentally alter how the NCAA operates.
Basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson previously joined the lawsuit that also names EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Five current college football players were added to the lawsuit last month, including Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson and Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer.
Also, EA is being sued by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller over the use of his likeness in video games.
(AP) – The Montreal Alouettes signed quarterback Troy Smith to a two-year deal Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Smith won the Heisman Trophy with Ohio State in 2006, leading the Buckeyes to a spot in the BCS national championship game. Smith spent three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, and was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. He played for Omaha in the UFL in 2011.
“We’ve been in discussions for well over three months and have been patiently waiting for Troy to finish his commitments at Ohio State,” Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said. “We’ll have to fast track Troy in order to get him over the learning curve of the CFL and caught up to speed over the next several weeks.
“He’s here to learn and grasp the game for future competition.”
(AP) — Manny Ramirez is a free agent again after the Texas Rangers released him from his minor league contract.
The Rangers released Ramirez on Tuesday, just more than five weeks after he started playing for Triple-A Round Rock.
“Based on our evaluation, there was not a spot for Manny on the club at this time,” Rangers general Jon Daniels said. “We released him so he could pursue other opportunities if he so chooses.”
The 41-year-old Ramirez hit .259 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 30 games for Triple-A Round Rock. All of his homers came in the first eight games.
Ramirez never played for the AL West leaders, even after All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz was suspended last week by Major League Baseball for the final 50 games of the season. They have since acquired right fielder Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox.
A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez is a .312 career hitter and is 14th on the career home runs list with 555. He started out this season playing in Taiwan, where he hit .352 with eight homers and 43 RBIs.
Ramirez was suspended for 50 games in 2009 while with the Los Angeles Dodgers after testing positive for a banned drug. He retired in April 2011 instead of serving a 100-game ban for a second positive test while with Tampa Bay, but later agreed to a reduced 50-game suspension and played in the minors for Oakland in 2012. He won two World Series with Boston.
Ramirez hit 17 homers in the final 53 games of 2008 after being traded from Boston to Los Angeles, but he has just 28 since then because of injuries and the suspensions. He was 1 for 17 without a homer with Tampa when the second drug suspension hit two years ago.
(AP) -- Forward Elias Harris has agreed to a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers announced the deal Wednesday.
Harris spent the past four years at Gonzaga, averaging 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds last season while earning all-conference honors for the second time.
After going undrafted, Harris was a versatile contributor for the Lakers during summer league play in Las Vegas last month. He averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while starting five games.
The 6-foot-8 Harris is from Speyer, a city in southwest Germany. He played for the German national team in the 2010 world championships and the 2009 European championships.
Lakers center Chris Kaman also has played for the German national team.
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