On stage ... USC

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Notes from USC's news conference with coach Lane Kiffin, quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald.

  • Kiffin: "I think our conference is extremely competitive top to bottom ... there are no easy games ... and when you add four dynamic coaches, it really takes us to the next level."

  • Kiffin calls the new football center "best in the country ... it's going to be a very special place for us."

  • Kiffin on preseason No. 1: "That has nothing to do with how well we will play ... but I think that's exciting ... to be in conversation about preseason No. 1 two years after sanctions is exciting."

  • Kiffin: "Our No. 1 concern is our running back position."

  • Kiffin notes 16 USC players went to Haiti this summer to help the rebuilding projects.

  • Kiffin couldn't comment on the reported interest in Penn State running back Silas Redd.

  • Barkley cites "unfinished business" as reason for coming back.

  • Kiffin said freshman Nelson Agholor will start off at running back.

  • Barkley on keeping preseason hype in perspective "One game at a time. It may seem cliche ... the opportunity to play in any game is not going to win us any games, score us any points."

  • Barkley on being out front with quarterbacks: "It won't be just me at all ... I think it's cool to see. There will be more competition."

  • It's notable that USC safety T.J. McDonald and his brother Tevin McDonald are both at media day. They are the sons of former NFL All-Pro safety Tim McDonald.

  • Kiffin: "There is no way you can compare what happened at USC compared to Penn State."

  • Kiffin on wide receiver Robert Woods' ankle problem: "Hopefully he'll be at 100 percent in fall camp." Noted that Woods played through the injury last year while earning All-American honors.

  • Barkley on decision to stay at USC instead of go to NFL: "I definitely went back and forth." Said he thought he'd go to the NFL after beating UCLA to end season.

  • Kiffin refused to talk about how he'd handle the NCAA mandated 75 scholarship count if the Trojans added a Penn State transfer.

  • Kiffin: "I didn't recruit Matt to stay ... Matt was completely ready for the NFL I assume he would have been a top-five pick ... it was about him wanting to do something special."

  • Barkley: "I think the sanctions brought us together as a team in ways I didn't anticipate."