2007 USC Preview
2007 USC Defense Preview
2007 USC Depth
2006 CFN USC
need to know:
Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?
While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and
at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have
become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to
change. Of course, it helps to have at the controls
strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites
to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six
years. He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of
skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience
at this level. In this case, talent will overcome inexperience
in a rout. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick
Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up
images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout
year. Although the line is going to miss the presence of center
Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect
Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.
Passing: John David Booty
269-436, 3,347 yds, 29 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Chauncey Washington
157 carries, 744 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Fred Davis
38 catches, 352 yds, 3 TD
Star of the
Senior QB John David Booty
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior C
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Patrick Turner
Best pro prospect: Senior LT Sam Baker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Baker 2) Booty 3) TE
Strength of the offense: The passing game, the offensive
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at the skill
Unlike a year ago, senior John David Booty begins this
season as the undisputed leader of the Trojan offense. In his
debut as Matt Leinart’s successor, the All-America candidate
threw for 3,347 yards and 29 touchdowns, while getting picked
just nine times in an All-Pac-10 season. However, he didn’t win
the Heisman or a national championship in 2006, and a couple of
tipped passes at the end of losses to Oregon State and UCLA
won’t soon be forgotten. Yes, the bar for USC quarterbacks
these days is in a different solar system. Booty actually has a
stronger arm than Leinart, has good feet in the pocket, and
brings a war chest of knowledge, leadership and poise that comes
with being a fifth-year player. Now all he has to do is elevate
the play of a young receiving corps and return home to Louisiana
next Jan. 7 for a shot at a national championship.
Projected Top Reserves: Much the way Booty had to
wait his turn to succeed Leinart, sophomore Mark Sanchez
must soldier on as the backup until the wraps come off in 2008.
The nation’s top prep quarterback in 2004 is 6-3 and 225 pounds
with the powerful right arm to make all the throws in this
offense. A student of the game, his mechanics are impeccable
and his football IQ increases each year with the program. With
blowouts likely to be more frequent in 2007, look for the staff
to get Sanchez a few more reps than a year ago.
Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain won’t be eligible until
next year, and no one after the top two have any experience, so
it’s imperative that the past back problems of Booty and Sanchez
don’t flare up.
Watch Out For… Booty’s numbers to be relatively
modest compared to other notable quarterbacks. It’s not as if
he can’t throw 35-40 touchdown passes, but with a brigade of
gifted backs and a defense that’ll fuel weekly routs, he won’t
have to pass all that much in the second half of games. Think
Troy Smith, who threw 22 touchdown passes through the first ten
games of last season.
Strength: Two quarterbacks that’ll play on
Sundays. While Booty’s going to vie for every major award given
to a quarterback, Sanchez would start for all but a few programs
in the nation. These two are the real deal.
Weakness: Consistency. Remember how Booty carved
up Michigan in Pasadena for 391 yards and four touchdowns on
27-of-45 passing? The Trojans need to see more of that in 2007,
especially on trips to Nebraska, Notre Dame and Cal. For that to
happen, Booty has to make quicker decisions under defensive
Outlook: Dust off the Heisman hype machine because
John David Booty will be in the thick of the race as long as USC
is winning games and on top of the national rankings. In fact,
with Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain on campus, don’t even bother
putting it back in storage at the end of the season.
Projected Starters: Is there such a thing as
having too much potential at one position? USC will soon find
out when the arrival of three freshmen bring the total of former
prep All-American backs on the roster to a ridiculous ten.
There is no clear-cut starter right now, which is both a
blessing and a potential curse. The most likely scenario,
however, has senior Chauncey Washington and sophomore
C.J. Gable forming a thunder-and-lightning tandem that won’t
exactly be Reggie Bush and LenDale White, but will be
Washington rebounded from two years of academic ineligibility to
lead the Trojans with 744 yards and nine touchdowns on the
ground. A 6-0, 220-pound north-south runner, he was in and out
of the lineup last fall with nagging injuries to his knee and
hamstring. While Washington’s bruising running style is
appealing to the staff, he needs to be 100% in order to stay one
step ahead on the competition.
In a crowded group of rookie running backs, Gable stood out in
2006, starting five games and running for 434 yards and four
scores. While not a track star, he hits the hole quickly, runs
with great vision and changes direction in a snap, all of which
should earn him more carries in 2007.
When the rash of injuries at fullback reached then true freshman
Stanley Havili last September, he opted to sit out the
season, and use it as a redshirt year. At 6-1 and 220 pounds,
he shows outstanding potential as a lead blocker and has soft
hands, giving the USC offense an option it lacked last year.
The lone scholarship fullback on the roster, Havili has a chance
to be a beast in short yardage.
Projected Top Reserves: Along with Gable,
sophomore Emmanuel Moody saw extensive playing time as a
first-year freshman in 2006. Last season’s second-leading
ground gainer was another part-time starter, running for 459
yards and two scores on only 79 carries. Like Gable, he’s not a
4.4 guy, but can still pick up big chunks of yards with a smooth
stride, sharp vision and great moves in the open field. Unfortunately,
he'll be taking his talents to Florida, after choosing to
transfer late this summer.
Sophomores Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford were
also mega recruits from the class of 2006 that burned their
redshirts as freshmen. Johnson has game-breaking speed and
elusiveness wrapped in a 6-1, 210-pound body. While he is the
prototypical feature back, missing spring ball to recover from
shoulder surgery means he’ll have to play some catch up in
At 6-0 and 230 pounds, Bradford is more of a physical back that
can pound between the tackles and occasionally bounce outside
for extra yards. A highly instinctive and emotional player,
he’s going to find his way on to the field, even if it means
switching to fullback or safety.
Not to be forgotten is senior Hershel Dennis, a Trojan
inspiration who’s battled serious injuries for one more shot at
playing time. In an eye-opening spring, Dennis darted in and
out of traffic, showing few ill effects from the torn ACLs that
ended his last two seasons.
And then there’s the incoming class of freshmen, which includes
Joe McKnight, Marc Tyler and Broderick Green,
three of the top dozen or so backs in the country last year.
Fair or not, McKnight is already drawing comparisons to a young
Since the Trojans are so thin at fullback, there’s a good chance
true freshman Jordan Campbell will back up Havili with a
strong fall camp. A real gamer at 5-11 and 225, he’s tough and
physical, and plays with a mean streak from whistle to whistle.
Watch Out For… someone to transfer before the
start of the season. Talented sophomore Michael Coleman was the
first to go, but he won’t be the last. There are just too many
former blue-chippers for someone not to seek greener pastures in
a less-competitive place.
Strength: Tailback depth. The embarrassment of
riches at running back continues for a program that’s been
otherworldly in each of the last two recruiting seasons. Not
only will USC be immune to injury problems, but the eclectic mix
of talent means there’s a unique tool available for every job
that pops up during a game.
Weakness: No established No. 1 back. While the
depth of talent in the backfield is unquestioned, the Trojans
still haven’t determined a pecking order or figured out who’ll
get the majority of the carries in 2007. At some point, that
USC locker room could have a few malcontents longing for the
days when they were the headline act.
Outlook: Who will be featured in a Trojan ground
game that’ll be more potent than it was last season? In a
committee-based system, count on no 1,000-yard rusher this
season, and a couple of backs to be used in unique roles in
order to get them more playing time.
In the aftermath of the departure of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve
Smith, USC is poised to reload with more next-level talent, but
that doesn’t mean there won’t be early growing pains. The time
has arrived for junior split end Patrick Turner to
fulfill all of the expectations that made him the nation’s
premier prep receiver of 2005. Cut from the same mold as former
Trojan Mike Williams, he’s a chiseled 6-5 and 220-pounder with
soft hands and two years of experience that his competitors
lack. After catching 29 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns
in 2006, he’s on the cusp of a monster year as John David
Booty’s go-to guy.
Lining up at flanker this fall will be sophomore Vidal
Hazelton, another big and physical receiver at 6-3 and 200
pounds. More of a possession receiver than Turner, he’s
polished beyond his years, has terrific ball skills, and is an
underrated blocker on running plays.
Unlike the uncertainty at wide receiver, USC knows what to
expect from 6-4, 260-pound senior tight end Fred Davis.
Coming off a career-high 38 catches for 352 yards and three
touchdowns, he’s prepared for an All-Pac-10 season that propels
him into the NFL. A former wideout, Davis has the speed and
athleticism to stretch defenses, but needs to make more big
plays in 2007 while improving his blocking skills.
Projected Top Reserves: With their play over the
spring, sophomore Travon Patterson and redshirt freshman
David Ausberry left no doubts that they’ll be a big part
of the rotation this season. Patterson is just 5-9 and 180
pounds, but he made big plays whenever he touched the ball in
April, showing a knack for getting behind the defense and
ripping off chunks of yards after the catch. He has a chance to
channel Steve Smith, and be the long ball hitter of the
While still unpolished, the 6-5 and 215-pound Ausberry will be
able to make plays on physical mismatches alone. Last fall’s
standout on the scout team has average speed, but will use his
upper body strength and leaping ability to create mismatches,
particularly near the end zone.
Redshirt freshman Jamere Holland has the kind of world
class speed that’s going to be scary when combined with the big
arms of the Trojan quarterbacks. Also a member of the track
team, he’s a 6-1, 180-pound blur provided he doesn’t get jammed
at the line of scrimmage.
After starting three games a year ago, senior Dale Thompson
will be Davis’ primary backup at tight end this season. The
Trojans’ best blocker at the position, he only has four career
catches, yet tore off a blazing 4.68 in the 40 earlier this
Watch Out For… incoming freshman Ronald Johnson.
A phenomenal all-around athlete, Johnson is going to letter in
2007 whether he stays on offense or shifts over to the
secondary. One of the nation’s highest-rated recruits at any
position, he runs like a gazelle and has superb skills when the
ball is in the air.
Strength: Imposing size. Put Ausberry in the
lineup with Turner and Hazelton, and there’s not a secondary
outside of Troy’s that can match up with their formidable size
and physical play. In general, their combination of length and
athleticism is going to simply wear out most Pac-10 defensive
backfields this season.
Weakness: Experience. There’s just no way to
escape the inevitable learning curve that’s about to besiege the
young Trojan pass-catchers. Only one upperclassman, Turner,
will be in the rotation, so there could be a number of dropped
passes and wrong routes during the first half of the year.
Outlook: Just how long will it take for the
receivers to grow up? The fact that they’ll be playing with an
even-keeled, fifth-year senior quarterback should help
immensely. While John David Booty will eventually like working
with this young group, Mark Sanchez will be genuflecting to them
Two starters need to be replaced from last season, none more
important than All-American center Ryan Kalil, the long-time
rock in the middle. Getting first crack at the pivot will be
senior Matt Spanos, who’ll be looking to make the leap
from journeyman tackle to full-time center. An academic
casualty in 2006, he’s a versatile 6-5, 305-pounder, but with no
career starts, could be the key to the line’s success in 2007.
The anchor of the front wall will be senior left tackle Sam
Baker, a two-time All-American and arguably the most
complete lineman in the country this season. Entering his
fourth year as the starter, he’s the total package, a top pass
protector and improving run blocker, who’ll begin the 2007
season in the best shape of his career.
Moving from left guard to right tackle is senior Drew
Radovich, an oft-injured lineman that made it through all 13
games last season. A terrific athlete with good footwork, he
has one more season to approach the expectations that made him
one of the most coveted lineman of 2003.
The Trojans’ top guard for the upcoming season is junior
Chilo Rachal, a 12-game starter on the right side that
received All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition in 2006.
Light on his feet at 6-5 and 300 pounds, he’s on target to be
the star of the offensive line in 2008 if he tightens up his
Given up for dead after missing most of the last two seasons
with back and hip injuries, junior Jeff Byers has
resurfaced with an eye on the opening at left guard created by
Radovich’s relocation. A tenacious blocker that started four
games as a true freshman in 2004, he’s in a position to author
one of the feel-good stories of 2007 within the program.
Projected Top Reserves: If Byers happens to shift
inside to play center, it’ll create an opening for senior guard
Alatini Malu, a seasoned veteran that started one game
last year and has the confidence of the staff. One of the
program’s biggest linemen at 6-4 and 330 pounds, he’s a mauler
that moves surprisingly well when pulling on running plays.
Rachal’s understudy at right guard is massive sophomore
Thomas Herring, who’s shifting from tackle this season. A
tremendous athlete at 6-6 and 330 pounds, he’s at a crossroads,
needing to shake off a slow start to his career and begin
playing like one of the top prospects of 2004.
Sophomore Nick Howell is coming off a very good spring,
and is putting pressure on Spanos for the opening at center.
While he still needs to bulk up and work on his snaps, he has
the quickness and athletic ability to be an all-league performer
as early as next season.
Converted tight end Charles Brown continues to grow into
USC’s top tackle on the second unit. Still in need of more heft
on his 6-6 frame, the evolving sophomore has the quick feet and
long arms to be a tremendous pass protector in the second half
of his career.
Watch Out For… John David to touch more than one
booty this fall. The situation at center remains unresolved, so
there’s a strong likelihood that Spanos, Howell and even Byers
could get a crack at succeeding the irreplaceable Kalil at the
Strength: Athletic ability. Across the line and
into the second unit, the Trojan linemen are long, lean and
nimble, which goes a long way to explaining why they were No. 14
nationally in sacks allowed in 2006.
Weakness: Center. At the most integral spot on
the line, the Trojans will enter the 2007 season with a fair
amount of uncertainty and inexperience. If one of the three
contenders doesn’t step up and play with consistency, the rest
of the line is going to feel it.
Outlook: Sure, there’ll be mild growing pains with
two new starters, but if Drew Radovich and Jeff Byers can remain healthy
and play up to their potential, any drop-off from last year will
be subtle. Having all-stars in Sam Baker and Chilo Rachal
to work around will make life better for the newcomers. It helps that the Trojans won’t see a top-flight
defensive line until the second half of the year.