2007 USC Preview

Posted Jul 24, 2007

USC is as loaded as ever, and even more so, with the deepest, most talented defense yet in the Pete Carroll era. Will all the next level skill on both sides of the ball translate to a national title?

USC Trojans

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 USC Offense Preview | 2007 USC Defense Preview
2007 USC Depth Chart | 2006 CFN USC Preview 

If the other nine Pac-10 teams were hoping to finally dethrone USC, last year was the time to do it.  In the post-Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush era, the Trojans were as vulnerable as they’d been in a few seasons, losing to Oregon State and UCLA.  Yet, in their unique version of a rebuilding year, they still won 11 games and a fifth straight Pac-10 championship.  With last year now in the rear view mirror and as many 18 starters back, it’s no wonder USC is primed for another run at a national championship.

Head coach: Pete Carroll 
7th year: 65-12
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 27, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 30
Ten Best USC Players
1. OT Sam Baker, Sr. 
2. QB John David Booty, Sr.
3. DT Sedrick Ellis, Sr.
4. LB Keith Rivers, Sr.
5. FS Taylor Mays, Soph.
6. LB Rey Maualuga, Jr.
7. LB Brian Cushing, Jr. 
8. DE Lawrence Jackson, Sr.
9. CB Terrell Thomas, Sr.
10. SS Kevin Ellison, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1


Sept. 15

at Nebraska

Sept. 22

Washington State

Sept. 29

at Washington

Oct. 6


Oct. 13


Oct. 20

at Notre Dame

Oct. 27

at Oregon

Nov. 3

Oregon State

Nov. 10

at California

Nov. 23

at Arizona State

Dec. 1


2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at Arkansas W 50-14
9/16 Nebraska W 28-10
9/23 at Arizona W 20-3
9/30 at Wash St W 28-22
10/7 Washington W 26-20
10/14 Arizona State W 28-21
10/28 at Oregon State L 33-31
11/4 at Stanford W 42-0
11/11 Oregon W 35-10
11/18 California W 23-9
11/25 Notre Dame W 44-24
12/2 at UCLA  L 13-9
1/1 Rose Bowl
Michigan W 35-18

The personnel and coaching staff may change, but the beat goes on at Troy because of two constants, Pete Carroll and recruiting classes packed with more blue chips than a casino.  Trojan fans held their collective breath for another off-season as Carroll fielded interest from half the NFL teams with openings, but opted to stay where he’s rebuilt the program into a perennial top 10 factory.

USC is loaded with talent and experience on both sides of the ball, so it’s not hyperbole to suggest the second team could win the Pac-10 this fall.  The departures of receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith just means there’ll be a new wave of young stars on the horizon, but it’s on defense that the Trojans will be freakishly good.  Good luck finding a weakness on a unit that’s a who’s who of future draft choices and welcomes back ten starters, 11 counting safety Josh Pinkard, who missed 2006 with an ACL tear.   

For USC, the 2007 campaign kicked off with a 32-18 Rose Bowl domination of Michigan that was eerily similar to the 2004 game, which wound up being the launching point of a perfect season.  There are a couple of question marks on offense and a nasty road gauntlet to navigate, however, the Trojans once again have the horses to go wire-to-wire for a national title.     

What to watch on offense … Without Bush and LenDale White, the Trojan running game regressed in 2006, but that won’t become a trend.  Now that he has healthy fullbacks, new coordinator Steve Sarkisian wants to use more two-back sets, creating space for a slew of gifted runners, including sophomores C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody and Stafon Johnson and mega-recruit Joe McKnight.  John David Booty was sensational in the Rose Bowl, but was inconsistent in his debut as the starter, and must find a rhythm with a new set of go-to receivers.  You don’t get better by losing Jarrett and Smith, but behind them is an embarrassment of size and speed, led by Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton.

What to watch on defense …When All-Pac-10 juniors Lawrence Jackson, Sedrick Ellis and Keith Rivers decided to return for their senior years, the framework of a very special defense was in place.  Rey Maualuga is a budding beast in the middle and Rose Bowl MVP Brian Cushing, an end that could replace Dallas Sartz at strongside linebacker, had his coming-out-party in Pasadena.  The once green secondary is a year older and tighter, which will allow the unit to blitz with more confidence and regularity.    

The team will be far better if … it gets back to being one of the nation’s most opportunistic defenses.  Under Carroll, no one in America has been better than USC at creating turnovers, but the unit slumped last year, picking off just 11 passes and recovering only 11 fumbles.  If the Trojans return to their ball-hawking ways, beating them in 2007 gets immeasurably tougher.   

The Schedule: There are just enough landmines to either ruin a national title run, or secure USC as the unquestioned number one team in America. Assuming there should be a little bit of a revenge factor against Oregon State, barring a bizarre alignment of the planets there won’t be any problems with the five home dates before the showdown with a UCLA team that’s got realistic dreams of a Pac 10 title. However, the six road games, an inordinate amount for a program of this caliber, are all interesting. Oregon and Arizona State will be more than good enough to pull off upsets, while if everything breaks the right way, Washington could be tough at home. Going to Notre Dame is always harsh, the date at California might be for the national title, not just the Pac 10 championship, and the early road trip to Nebraska is one of the toughest that any top team has to make.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Sam Baker. John David Booty might be the Heisman candidate and the star of the show, but Baker is the unsung key to the offense. The 6-5, 305-pound, two-time All-American is back for his fourth season on the left side where he’s been a rock of a run blocker and one of the team’s most consistent pass protectors.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Sedrick Ellis. If it’s possible to play at USC and be underrated on a national scale, it happened last year to Ellis. He was the rock the rest of the line operated around while growing into a consistent playmaker against the run and behind the line of scrimmage. Despite missing three games, he finished with 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He’ll be an even more dangerous playmaker this year with all the experience around him.

Key player to a successful season: Junior WR Patrick Turner. The 6-5 junior might not be Mike Williams or Dwayne Jarrett, and he doesn’t have the jaw-dropping talent of Vidal Hazelton, but he’s the team’s experienced receiver and a huge target for Booty to rely on. While he’s done well when give the chance to shine, he has to prove he can be the main man game in and game out.

The season will be a success if ... the Trojans win the national title. This is the best team in America with the most talented, experienced defense Pete Carroll has had yet to go along with a slew of NFL-caliber, but untested, offensive stars-to-be. While the schedule would be murderous for most, a team as good as this one should be able to navigate its way through to New Orleans as long as the focus is there week in and week out.

Key game: Nov. 10 at California. USC has three key games (and none of them involve Notre Dame): at Nebraska, UCLA, and at Cal. The date in Lincoln will show just how national title-worthy the team is, the battle with the Bruins will likely finalize the Pac 10 championship, and the showdown in Berkeley, if all goes according to plan, should be between unbeaten heavyweights. It’ll also be the third road trip in four weeks for the Trojans, with a date at Arizona State two weeks after.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: USC 125 – Opponents 66
- Punt returns: Opponents 8.6 yards per try – USC 6.2 yards per try
- Passing touchdowns: USC 30 – Opponents 13

Related Stories
2007 USC Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 23, 2007
2007 USC Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 23, 2007
2007 USC Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 23, 2007

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