2010 USC Preview
USC WR Ronald Johnson
Last year at this time, USC was reloading as a big part of the national title picture. Now, Pete Carroll is gone, Lane Kiffin is at the helm, and the superpower is trying to survive. Even with all the problems, the team is still good enough to make plenty of noise. Check out the 2010 CFN USC Preview.
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- By Richard Cirminiello
All of a sudden, that Emerald Bowl invite doesn't look so bad, does it?
Head coach: Lane Kiffin
1st year: 0-0
2nd year overall: 7-6
Off. 30, Def. 22, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best USC Players
1. DT Jurrell Casey, Jr.
2. RB Allen Bradford, Sr.
3. QB Matt Barkley, Soph.
4. CB Shareece Wright, Sr.
5. LB Chris Galippo, Jr.
6. DE Nick Perry, Soph.
7. WR Ronald Johnson, Sr.
8. C Kristofer O'Dowd, Sr.
9. LB Malcolm Smith, Sr.
10. FB Stanley Havili, Sr.
Sept. 2 at Hawaii
Sept. 11 Virginia
Sept. 18 at Minnesota
Sept. 25 at Wash State
Oct. 2 Washington
Oct. 9 at Stanford
Oct. 16 California
Oct. 23 OPEN DATE
Oct. 30 Oregon
Nov. 6 Arizona State
Nov. 13 at Arizona
Nov. 20 at Oregon St
Nov. 27 Notre Dame
Dec. 4 at UCLA
For those who felt last year's 9-4 mark and fifth place tie in the Pac-10 was rock bottom, think again. Losing Pete Carroll was the first tremor, getting thrown under the bus by the NCAA created the earthquake, and being officially out of the national title picture for the next few years is the ugly aftermath. Without Carroll at the controls, and coming off their worst season since 2001, the Trojans are now saddled with a two-year bowl ban, four years of probation, and the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year period. Welcome back, Lane Kiffin.
The program's offseason has become so turbulent that Kiffin's return, via Oakland and Knoxville, has sort of drifted to the back page. And maybe that's not such a bad thing. If there's a silver lining in the current state of affairs at Troy, it's that a lot of the pressure has been lifted off the new staff. Oh, there'll still be expectations, but not nearly as many as originally anticipated. Back in January, succeeding Carroll appeared to be an impossible feat. Today? Not so much.
With no hope for championships or the postseason over the next two years, USC will be in a quasi-rebuilding phase while getting the kids acclimated to the new staff and new systems. There'll be plenty of teaching going on, but most importantly, the coaches will try to maintain their edge in amassing blue-chip talent. Considering the scholarship reductions, there's no margin for error.
NFL scouts will still be paying close attention. Matt Barkley remains one of the brightest young quarterbacks in America, and both sides of the ball gush with mega-talent, like incoming freshmen Dillon Baxter and Kyle Prater. USC, however, is a shadow of its former self. The team will play 13 games, generate some buzz and big plays, but this season will be nothing like the last decade of Pac-10 dominance. These are strange times in Los Angeles. Strange times, indeed.
What to watch for on offense: Matt Barkley's next chapter. For the blue-chip quarterback, last year was all about getting accustomed to the speed of the game and the pressure of being a rookie starter. This season, however, is about taking that next step toward being the total package behind center. Predictably erratic just a year out of high school, he'll begin 2010 in better shape and better equipped to beat opposing defenses. At this stage of his career, he's one of the most physically gifted passers to enter college football in some time. With that awkward debut now in the rear view mirror, he's determined to put his career into overdrive.
What to watch for on defense: The move of Devon Kennard from end to linebacker. Coming out of high school, Kennard was the defense's version of Barkley, a precocious rookie starting early in his career. The new coaches want him on the field, but unlike when he arrived as a lineman, he's been moved to middle linebacker in order to toughen up that group. While he's going to play, will he start? If so, it could mean that Chris Galippo gets shifted to strongside and Michael Morgan goes to the bench. It'll be worth following Kennard's career path because his destination will have a ripple effect throughout the defense.
The team will be far better if… it improves on third down conversions. The defense isn't going to be as air-tight as it used to be, so it's up to the offense to become more efficient. Last year's Trojans ranked 89th nationally on third downs, which meant a lot of stalled drives and Jacob Harfman punts. It's time for the offense to grow up around Barkley, RB Allen Bradford, and WR Ronald Johnson, and start churning out more 11-play possessions that wind up in the end zone.
The Schedule: If USC was really USC with Pete Carroll at the helm and
everything rocking and rolling for one of college
football's premier juggernauts, you'd have tickets
booked for Glendale for January 10. There are names
on the non-conference schedule, but a vintage Trojan
team picks its teeth with at Hawaii, Virginia, at
Minnesota, and Notre Dame winning the four game by a
combined score of around 200 to 35. If USC is really
USC again under Lane Kiffin, then a 5-0 start is a
given before a revenge battle at Stanford. Cal and
Oregon have to come to L.A. as part of a nice run of
three straight home games in four weeks, but that's
followed up by three road games in the final four
including a beartrap at Oregon State. The trip to
Pasadena to face UCLA is hardly a road game, but
it's still going to be away from the Coliseum.
Best offensive player: Senior RB Allen Bradford. While his resume may not back this up, his final season certainly will. After showing flashes a year ago, running for 668 yards and eight touchdowns on 115 carries, he's ready to become a breakout star in an offense that'll use him liberally. A punishing 5-11, 235-pounder, he has unexpected speed, a rare combination that'll have NFL scouts and Pac-10 defensive coordinators buzzing as the season progresses.
Best defensive player: Junior DT Jurrell Casey. Not a household name, even in some Pac-10 circles, he will be by the end of the year. At 6-1 and 295 pounds, he plays as if he's channeling a young Warren Sapp, using bursts of speed and good pad level to beat his man into the backfield. A difficult assignment for one blocker, he's going to require extra attention throughout the fall. In just his first year as a starter, he delivered a stepping-stone year, leading all linemen with 59 tackles to go along with nine tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.
Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Shareece Wright. In a defensive backfield that's replacing all four starters, the Trojans desperately need Wright to play up to his sizable potential. An injury and academic casualty over the last two seasons, he's been unable to showcase the next-level cover skills that coaches have raved about in practice. If he's anything less than an all-star in his final season of eligibility, the USC pass defense will be painfully vulnerable throughout the year.
The season will be a success if ... USC gets the last laugh by finishing the year atop the Pac-10 standings. The Trojans won't be "crowned" champion or represent the league in the Rose Bowl, but how sweet would the mythical title be for the kids who stuck around, especially the seniors? Don't think for a second that the program isn't motivated to be the best on the field and grab some bragging rights in the face of difficult circumstances.
Key game: Dec. 4 at UCLA. It'll be the earliest USC has finished a season since 2000, so go ahead and label it a de facto bowl game. Oh, it's the second meeting between Lane Kiffin and Rick Neuheisel (the two faced off last year when Tennessee faced UCLA), which ought to be interesting on many levels. With all the banter that the Bruins could be narrowing the gap, this is the Trojans' chance to maintain the chain of command in Los Angeles.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Fourth quarter scoring: USC 77 – Opponents 88
- Sacks: USC 35 – Opponents 18
- Rushing yards per game: USC 166.8 - Opponents 128.2
- 2010 USC Preview |
2010 USC Defense |
USC Depth Chart
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