USC

 

QUARTERBACK - John David Booty. 2005 stats: 27-42, 327 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs. New starter.

Technically the starting job is still up for grabs; either junior John David Booty (left) or redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez could be the Trojan signalcaller come September. Booty has the edge on experience and for now seems like the favorite to take the job. Of course, the Trojans don't play Notre Dame until November, so it could very well be Sanchez under center by then. Booty was Matt Leinart's backup last year and the favored first-stringer in the spring before a back injury sidelined him for the nearly the entire practice session. A former #1 high school QB recruit, Booty certainly has the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks the Irish face, but his balky back and inexperience make him a wildcard. Will his tranistion to starter be as successfull as Leinart's, or will there be a drop-off production? Depth: Sanchez, another #1 high school QB, has earned nothing but rave reviews from practice sessions. Even if Booty stays healthy, Sanchez could beat him out. With more mobility and a bit more size than Booty, Sanchez certainly is an attractive option and a tremendous talent. Still, there will always be question marks until potential is turned into production. Junior Michael McDonald and incoming freshman Garret Green round out the talented, but inexperienced QB depth chart.

 

RUNNING BACK - Chauncey Washington. 2005 stats: ineligible. New starter.

No team loses more at running back than the Trojans, who must make do without Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Replacing them is likely going to fall to Chauncey Washington, who has finally been cleared to play after being academically ineligible his first two years at Southern Cal. Washington is certainly a talent and was one of the most impressive players during the 2005 spring game, but will need to show to the staff that he's able to shake off the rust of sitting out the past year. Depth: Ryan Powdrell switched over from linebacker and had a solid spring. At 250 pounds he is more of a fullback than running back. Starting at actual fullback is Brandon Hancock. Built like a professional bodybuilder, Hancock is more than simply strong; he's got good hands and is a decent threat running the ball. Desmond Reed, who injured his knee against Notre Dame's long grass, is on the path back to being a threat that averaged 7.2 yards per carry last year. Michael Coleman is the only other running back besides Reed who got some carries last year, but hip surgery kept him out for the spring. Rounding out an extremely deep, though inexperienced, depth chart are the five highly-recruited running backs that signed with the Trojans. Stafon Johnson, Emmanuel Moody, C.J. Gable, Stanley Havili, and Kenny Ashley might not all still be at running back by the November showdown with the Irish, but odds are one of them will be making a significant impact at running back.

 

WIDE RECIEVER

Dwayne Jarrett.
91 receptions, 1274 yards, 16 TDs. Returning starter.
Steve Smith. 60 receptions, 957 yards, 5 TDs. Returning starter.

The best receiving corp that the Irish will face and probably the best receiving corp in the nation. Dwayne Jarrett (left) is the star of this ballyhooed group. One of the best receivers in the nation, the 6-5 Jarrett has size, speed, and with even more experience should have a stellar junior year. Joining him yet again will be the sure-handed Steve Smith who has over 100 career receptions for the Trojans. Depth: Patrick Turner looks to be the next big star receiver for the Trojans. Also 6-5, this should be his breakout year. Chris McFoy has never grabbed too many headlines, but started 16 games over the past three years and adds another veteran presence to the team. Ryan Ting shifted over from free safety but by November might be overtaken by one of talented receivers the Trojans brought in. David Ausberry is already big at 6-5, 215 pounds while 6-3 Vidal Hazelton was one of the most heavily recruited receivers in the nation. Jamere Holland and Travon Patterson add speed threats to a receiving corp heavy on tall receivers.

 

TIGHT END

TE - Fred Davis.
13 receptions, 145 yards, 2 TDs. New starter.

Fred Davis was a top 3 wide receiver prospect coming out of high school but has since bulked up to tight end. Trojan fans have been waiting for him to have his breakout year and now that he's the de facto starter at tight end, this could be it. Still able to run like a receiver, the 6-4 Davis will be a very big threat in the passing game. At only 245 pounds, he probably won't be relied on too much for his blocking skills. He saw plenty of action last year and even started three games so he does have some decent amount of experience. Depth: Dale Thompson hasn't done much more than special teams, but will be a solid blocker for the Trojans in two tight end sets. Jimmy Miller had an impressive 2 touchdowns on 3 receptions last year as a productive red zone target.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT - Sam Baker.
(#6 T) Returning starter.
LG - Jeff Byers. (#20 G) New starter.
C - Ryan Kalil. (#2 C) Returning starter.
RG - Chilo Rachal. (#44 G) New starter.
RT - Kyle Williams. New starter.

Despite losing three talented lineman to the pros, the Trojans will field another great offensive line, and any intial inconsistency between new starters will likely be mostly cleared up by the time the Irish roll into town at the end of the season. If Penn State's Levi Brown is the best left tackle that the Irish will face, USC's Sam Baker is a close number two. A 3rd Team All-American last year, Baker is a three year starter at left tackle and a force in the running and passing game. Lining up next to him is former high school player of the year Jeff Byers, who returns from a hip injury that knocked him out for all of 2005. If he's fully healthy, he should be a load of a player up the middle. Continuing the bad news for Irish fans is center Ryan Kalil, another three year starter who also was named to a few All-America teams in 2005. The right side of the Trojan line does suffer a bit from attrition as Chilo Rachal and Kyle Williams have the early lead as replacement starters on the SC line. Both saw time as backups last year with Williams coming as the extra lineman on goalline situations. Depth: Big Thomas Herring missed the spring, but at 6-6, 335 pounds is a huge backup at the tackle position. Similarly massive Alatini Malu (6-4, 340 pounds) will push for time with Rachal at the right guard spot.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Kyle Moore.
6 tackles, 2 FR. New starter.
Sedrick Ellis. (#13 DT) 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.
Chris Barrett. 5 tackles, 1 PBU. New starter.
Lawrence Jackson. (#1 DE) 46 tackles, 10 sacks, 13 TFL, 6 PBU, 2 FR, 4 FF. Returning starter.

After some of the solid Trojan lines of the past few years, this one might take some time to regroup and reload, but it should be a solid line by the time the Irish roll into town. There is talk that the Trojans might play a 3-4 defense this year at times to take advantage of their stellar linebacking corp, but I'm going to stick with the 4-3 in this preview in order cover more of the Trojan depth at DL. The star of the line is Lawrence Jackson (left), generally considered one of, if not the best defensive ends in the country. He's big at 6-5, 265 pounds and as fast as most linebackers. He will be hard to handle this year. Sedrick Ellis is the returning veteran in the middle and while he's not as well-known as past star Trojan defensive tackles, he's a very capable player who should be even better now that he's a returning starter. Next to Ellis is Chris Barrett, an inexperienced player who rose to the top during spring practice, beating out more highly touted recruits in the process. Initially he might be the target of opposing run games until he can prove himself in a game. The other defensive end spot is still up in the air but 6-7, 265 pound sophomore Kyle Moore impresses everyone with his speed coming off the edge. If the Trojans stick with the 3-4, Moore's spot will be the one that is taken off the field in favor of a linebacker. Depth: Fighting Moore for that starting spot is the talented but oft injured Jeff Schweiger. Schweiger might also see some time playing linebacker in the 3-4 as he's extremely fast. Adding bulk to the defensive tackle rotation will be the job of 300 pounder Fili Moala and 295 pound Walker Lee Ashley, one of the top DL recruits from a few years ago. Alex Morrow is a solid defensive end and will be Jackson's backup. Also look for Travis Tofi and Averell Spicer, yet another top recruit, to contribute to the defensive tackle rotation.

 

LINEBACKERS

SLB -
Dallas Sartz. (#4 - SS) 8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 TFL. Returning starter.
MLB - Oscar Lua. (#10 - ILB) 66 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR. 1 FF. Returning starter.
WLB - Keith Rivers. (#3 - OLB) 52 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FR. Returning starter.

If Penn State is the best linebacking corp in the nation, Southern Cal is #2. The collection of size, speed, and talent here is really impressive and the fruit of three years of almost unbelievable recruiting. There is so much talent, the Trojans might be tempted to try out a 3-4 defense, but for this preview we'll stick with the 4-3. And even then, the names of the starters aren't set in stone. Dallas Sartz returns from a shoulder injury that knocked him out for all but two games of the 2005 season and regains the starting strongside spot he has held since midway through the 2003 season. At 6-5, 240 pounds, Sartz is tough, fast, and smart. If he can stay healthy, he should have a fantastic year. In the middle, Oscar Lua returns for his second year starting after leading the Trojans in tackles last year. He has a highly regarded player on his heels for the starting job, but so far Lua has played well enough in practice to hold him off. Keith Rivers (right) had a breakout game last year against Notre Dame and the extremely fast junior will likely show up on a few national award lists by the end of the season. Depth: You can see the depth of the Trojan team when you notice the Phil Steele rankings for the Trojan backups. Fighting Lua for the starting job in the middle is Rey Maualuga (#26 - ILB) , a ferocious player that I honestly think will be the starter when ND rolls into town. Brian Cushing (#9 - OLB) has battled through some injury problems and will push Dallas Sartz at the strongside 'backer position. If USC goes to a 3-4, look for Cushing to get the call off the bench. Thomas Williams (#49 - OLB) actually started 6 games at the strongside position last year, but now finds himself 3rd on the depth chart at both the strongside and middle 'backer positions. Luther Brown was a very highly regarded recruit who was sidelined last year with back issues. Once healthy, he may make a move up the very crowded Trojan depth chart. Allen Bradford is a highly touted freshman, but he was moved from linebacker to running back in fall camp.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB - Cary Harris. 9 tackles, 1 PBU. New starter.
CB - Terrell Thomas. 5 tackles, 1 PBU. New starter.
FS - Josh Pinkard. (#12 - CB) 54 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF. Returning starter.
SS - Kevin Ellison. 6 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF. New starter.

The Trojans feature a revamped secondary this season, but there is a lot of young talent, albeit untested, lininup in the USC defensive backfield. Josh Pinkard (right) is the lone returning starter, but after starting 6 games at corner last year, he'll have to get used to starting at his original position of safety again. Kevin Ellison was contributing on special teams and as a backup safety before injury sidelined him for the season. He's back and although only an inexperienced sophomore, will look to stay healthy and keep the starting strong safety spot. Terrell Thomas also was sidelined early in last season and was put on the bench for the remainder of the season. He appears to be fully healed from knee surgery and ready to play. He'll probably be rusty for a bit, but should be back to form by the time ND plays the Trojans. Cary Harris was a backup corner last year as a freshman and now the sophomore has earned the starting job for now. Depth: Fighting Harris for that starting spot is another sophomore, Kevin Thomas (#37 - CB). Like Harris, Thomas was a backup corner last year and now is looking at possibly starting. Two freshman are the backups at safety and have a world of potential. The biggest is Antwine Perez, who is already pushing returning starter Josh Pinkard for the starting spot. An all-everything recruit and ferocious hitter, Perez is already a Trojan fan favorite. Meanwhile, Taylor Mays is looking at taking over the free safety spot. Mays has linebacker size at 6-4, 225 pounds and may not be a safety for long, but for now he's impressing everyone with his mix of size and speed.