USC Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
USC Trojans
Posted Aug 8, 2006

USC Trojans Preview 2006 - Trojan Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Don’t Be Fooled – This Saturday, most of you that watch the NFL draft (and yes, there are some out there who do, don’t deny it) will see why the USC Trojan offense was so good last season.  No, not because of that Bush character, but the three guys who’ll be taken from their offensive line – Fred Matua, Deuce Lutui and Winston Justice.  Okay, so #5 was pretty good, also, but the point is that losing players of that caliber from your offensive line would be disastrous in most situations.  However, the 2006 Trojan offensive line will still be one of the best in the nation, lest you forget or overlook them.  At center, the Trojans have one of the best middle men in the entire nation, Ryan Kalil.  Although he’s not a member of the 300 pound club, he’s a clinician in the middle who is quick and powerful at the point of attack.  Along with Kalil, tackle Sam Baker holds down one of the starting tackle spots and was on some All-American squads last season.  He is a well-rounded blocker, solid in pass protection and strong on run downs.  Add to the mix former high school star Jeff Byers at guard, who played as a true freshman on the 2004 team, but missed last year with an injury.  He won’t be as sharp as Matua or as strong as Lutui, but he’s already got some experience.  If he’s healthy, those three are a great place to start.  The whole point is that when you see the 2005 Trojans drafted this weekend, the tendency will be to think that the USC offensive line will suffer a let down.  But, as the title denotes, don’t be fooled, this offensive line will be extremely good in 2006.  Now, if they could just find a running back to prove it, that’d be the icing on the proverbial cake.

2nd and Seven –It wasn’t supposed to be like THIS – So, this is how it works under Pete Carroll at USC.  Former Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer graduates.  Former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart takes over.  Leinart graduates, another stud QB is ready to take over – another Heisman possibly in the offing.  Three months ago, it seemed as though the script would be followed, it was just a matter of whom – John David Booty or Mark Sanchez.  Flash forward to April 27th, 2006 and things aren’t so clear.  Booty injured himself during spring practice giving Sanchez the opportunity to showcase his skills with the number one group.  Then, two days ago, Sanchez was arrested and suspended after a sexual assault charge was pinned on him.  So, what looked to be a slam-dunk months ago is now as unclear as ever.  Hopefully, both QBs can have their ‘situations’ cleared by the fall, such that they can compete for the starting position.  However, the ambiguity won’t help (duh) the Trojans as they attempt to rebound from last year’s Rose Bowl loss.

3rd and Three – Lawrence’s Wake – Although most people remember the USC defense for what they didn’t do last year, they still have at least one All-American candidate, in particular stud defensive end Lawrence Jackson.  The 6’5” 265 pound All-Pac-10 junior defensive end registered 10 sacks last season and 13 tackles for a loss.  Jackson gets a strong upfield rush and can play the run fairly well, the Texas game notwithstanding.  He’ll see additional blockers this year if a threat can’t develop from the other side with Frostee Rucker out of eligibility.  Regardless, Jackson’s continued growth and presence at the defensive end position is key to their defensive performance in 2006.

4th and One – LBs in Peril – If there was one play in the Rose Bowl when USC fans really knew that they had to be in trouble, it had to be Vince Young’s touchdown off of the zone read in the third quarter.  Sure, there were other key plays in the game, even as Young marched the Horns up and down the field, but that touchdown in the third quarter epitomized USC’s seeming ineptitude at one key position.  As Young pulled the ball from the back’s belly, true freshman linebacker Brian Cushing was in what seemed to be perfect position to make the play, only to have to have Young run by him for a 14 yard touchdown.  Granted, as mentioned, Cushing was a true freshman (and who really tackled Young in the open field?) playing a lot of downs, but he was playing because the linebacking corps had been decimated by injury.  Dallas Sartz was a two year starter who was lost all year due to injury.  Keith Rivers and Oscar Lua battled nagging injuries as well.  And, the inconsistency at linebacker could be traced back to the inconsistent nature of them being in the lineup or not.  With Rivers, Sartz and Lua fully healthy and Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Thomas Williams available to give them rest, the Trojans defense would’ve been a completely different animal.  Alas, that wasn’t the case in 2005.  But, 2006 is a new year, so keep an eye on this group this year as all of them return, and hopefully, they’ll stay healthy.

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