2007 USC Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 24, 2007

Preview 2007 USC Trojan Offense

USC Trojans

Preview 2007
- Offense

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

What you 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.

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Senior QB John David Booty
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior C Matt Spanos
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 Fred Davis
Strength of the offense: The passing game, the offensive line
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at the skill positions, center


Projected Starter: 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 pressure.
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.
Rating: 9.5

Running Backs

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 productive. 

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 August. 

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 Reggie Bush.      

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.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters: 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 receiving corps. 

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 year.                 

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 in 2008.
Rating: 8

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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 technique. 

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 pivot.
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.
Rating: 9


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2007 USC Preview - Defense
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2007 USC Preview - Depth Chart
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