Wednesday, August 20, 2008

season preview: USC

First preview of a non-ACC team. USC, obviously, is first on the schedule, making them first up. Somewhat abbreviated from the rest of them, and missing some bells and whistles, this is only intended to familiarize you a little bit with these other teams we'll be facing.


8/30: @Virginia
9/13: Ohio State
9/25: @Oregon State (Th.)
10/4: Oregon
10/11: Arizona State
10/18: @Washington State
10/25: @Arizona
11/1: Washington
11/8: California
11/15: @Stanford
11/29: Notre Dame
12/6: @UCLA

Projected starters:

QB: Mark Sanchez (rJr.)
FB: Stanley Havili (rSo.)
RB: Joe McKnight (So.)
WR: Patrick Turner (Sr.)
WR: Vidal Hazelton (Jr.)
TE: Anthony McCoy (Jr.)
LT: Charles Brown (rJr.)
LG: Jeff Byers (5Sr.)
C: Kristofer O’Dowd (So.)
RG: Zack Heberer (rSo.)
RT: Alex Parsons (Jr.)

DE: Kyle Moore (Sr.)
NT: Averell Spicer (rJr.)
DT: Fili Moala (5Sr.)
DE: Clay Matthews (5Sr.)
SLB: Brian Cushing (Sr.)
MLB: Rey Maualuga (Sr.)
WLB: Luthur Brown (rJr.)
CB: Cary Harris (Sr.)
FS: Taylor Mays (Jr.)
SS: Kevin Ellison (Sr.)
CB: Shareece Wright (Jr.)

K: David Buehler (Sr.)
P: Greg Woidneck (5Sr.)

Coach: Pete Carroll (8th season)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Yeah, in case you’re wondering, Mark Sanchez is back in action and will probably play against us in the opener. Like all USC quarterbacks, nice glowy things are said about him, half of which are rooted in the insanely high recruiting rankings he got and half of which are because he’s on USC and therefore has got to probably be pretty good, probably. Sanchez got three starts last year filling in for John David Booty, and the results were mixed. He did quite well against Notre Dame, throwing four touchdown passes. On the other hand, everyone did pretty well against Notre Dame. Sanchez’s two other games were forgettable, both including two picks and the last being a loss to Oregon.

Joe McKnight, even more of a mega-recruit than Sanchez, will be doing most of the rock-toting this year. He, too, has been slowed by injury during practice, but it’s only a hyperextended elbow – having done that to my own fool self once, I’m pretty confident he’ll be back in action in days rather than weeks. So the coming-out party that is expected of him this year is not likely to be delayed.

Sanchez will need someone to step up if he’s going to have anyone to throw to; the Trojan wide receivers are, by Trojan standards, pretty lackluster. TE Fred Davis led the team in all major receiving categories last year – he’s gone, leaving Anthony McCoy to pick up the slack. McCoy caught all of two balls last year, so the slack is really gonna have to be picked up by Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton. They’re talented guys and last year was really their first as the regular receiving corps, and Turner in particular is a big dude at 6’5”, so last year’s question mark may be a strength.

The new question mark may be the line, then. Four new starters are being broken in, including a true sophomore at center (Kristofer O’Dowd.) No matter how talented they are (and this is USC, so they are plenty talented), there will be some growing pains as they sort out communication issues and all those other things that make coaches worry at night when they must play something less experienced than 5 fifth-year seniors.


This is where the Trojans shake their moneymakers. Running on USC last year earned you just over 2.5 yards per carry, and who doesn’t love second and seven? The line is the shakiest – if you can call it that – part of the defense, and the only position where Pete Carroll expresses any concern is nose tackle. Kyle Moore and Fili Moala are returning starters, and DE Clay Matthews can also drop back and play any linebacker spot, which is important because Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga (the thong guy) are supremely talented and supremely accompished but spend more time at the trainers’ table than would be ideal.

Speaking of linebackers Cushing and Maualuga, they’re nasty. You think we got some good ones? USC’s got some good ones. Maualuga’s been a starter for two years, first team all-Pac-10 for both of them. His stats aren’t especially gaudy, but the stats of the defense that he now leads don’t lie. Cushing missed three games in 2007 and still managed to be given an honorable mention for all-conference.

The secondary is even scarier. S Kevin Ellison was a first-team all-Pac-10 player. His counterpart Taylor Mays was a mere honorable mention, which seems silly because he also made various and sundry all-American teams, including the AP third team. USC probably does not care which is better as long as they continue to make it miserable as hell to throw against them.


Both K David Buehler and P Greg Woidneck are returning as starters, and are solid. USC gushes a little bit overmuch with praise for Buehler – there are a few better kickers in the ACC alone – but regardless, he makes most of his kicks, more than a lot of kickers around the country can say.


It’s USC. As usual, it’s generally front-page stuff whenever they lose. Not gonna be any different this season. The early part of their schedule is murder, with that opening game at some East Coast venue somewhere, followed by a visit from Ohio State. Three out of their first five games are against currently ranked teams – but all three games are at home, and with two weeks before OSU and about 10 days in between each of the Oregon teams, USC has maximum preparation time right when they need it. If they lost two games it’d be more surprising than if they went undefeated and played for a national title.

No comments: