By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: After dominating the Pac-10 for nearly a decade, the Trojans took a major hit last season, falling not only from the top of the national polls, but from the top of the conference as well.
However, the season began in normal fashion for USC, as the Trojans clobbered
San Jose State, and followed that with a very tough, 18-15 decision over Ohio
State in Columbus. The win over the Buckeyes might have wore out a young
squad, as USC went on the road the following week and lost to Washington,
16-13. USC rebounded with four consecutive wins, three of which came against
conference opponents, while the other victory came against Notre Dame in South
Unfortunately USC's chances of claiming another league title took a major hit
in its next matchup, as the Trojans were clobbered by Oregon, 47-20. The loss
to the Ducks sent the Trojans in a rare tailspin, who finished the regular
season with a 2-2 mark. The wins came over Arizona State and UCLA, but the
losses were more concerning, as USC was pounded by Stanford, 55-21, and
shockingly fell at home to Arizona, 21-17. Although USC posted eight wins, it
was clearly a down year for a team that is usually vying for a national title,
but despite the mediocre campaign the Trojans were invited to the Emerald Bowl
to take on Boston College. In what ended up being the last game for Pete
Carroll at USC the Trojans walked away with a 24-13 decision over the Eagles,
closing out a rough year with a win. The end of the season saw the departure
of Pete Carroll, who opted to go back to the NFL following one of the most
successful stints in college football history.
OFFENSE: Every year the Trojans are expected to be a powerful offensive unit,
but last season USC was rather pedestrian with the football. That is where
new head coach Lane Kiffin will hopefully make some adjustments. Kiffin, who
was once an assistant at USC before heading to the NFL and then Tennessee,
comes back home to fix an offense that was stale last year. There is not much
in the cupboard from 2009, but one major piece that does return is quarterback
Matt Barkley. As a freshman, the signal caller had his ups and downs like any
young quarterback would have in his first season, but this year Barkley should
be better. However, he knows to take nothing for granted under a new head
coach and came into camp ready to prove he is the guy to lead this team.
"One of the greatest things Kiffin could have done is open up the competition
between Mitch (Mustain) and I," said Barkley. "I've noticed a change in Mitch
this off-season. It made me a better quarterback and kept me on my toes.
Taking nothing for granted made me improve this season."
Barkley will likely be the opening starter and at his disposal will be an
array of talented receivers beginning with Ronald Johnson. Johnson, who missed
half of last season with a shoulder injury, will likely be Barkley's top
target, but also look for true freshman Kyle Prater to make a splash in his
first season. USC lost some talent in the backfield after last year, but there
is always a dangerous back waiting for his turn to shine. At the moment Allen
Bradford looks to be the team's main ball carrier, and is different from the
usual tailback at USC, as the senior runs as if he was mad at the ground.
There is some speed in the mix too, and that comes from Dillon Baxter, who
will get plenty of chances to showcase his talents. Whoever carries the ball
will do so behind a very tough offensive line that returns three starters,
including one of the best centers in the nation in Kristofer O'Dowd. Making
this line even stronger is the addition of the National Prep Player of the
Year, Seantrel Henderson. The 335-pound lineman should instantly step in and
make this line much better.
DEFENSE: The struggles of the offense for USC got plenty of attention last
season, but just as bad was the defense, which shockingly took a beating
throughout the year. Sure, USC allowed just 19.9 ppg, but behind that number
the Trojans surrendered totals of 47 and 55 points in losses to Oregon and
Stanford, respectively. What should help this unit tremendously is the fact
that coach Kiffin brought along his father Monty, who is regarded as a
defensive genius in NFL circles. Along with the guidance of the elder Kiffin,
the Trojans do return plenty of talent in the front seven, beginning with
defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Christian Tupou.
"We have a lot of returning players at the inside spots and that should create
some healthy competition there," said Kiffin. "We're a bit young with the end
personnel, so their development will be critical to our defensive success."
While there is youth on the ends, there is also some talent there, especially
sophomore Wes Horton, who could come into his own this year. The deepest part
of this unit is at linebacker where Malcolm Smith, Michael Morgan and Chris
Galippo return. However, Galippo saw his starting role disappear during the
season, and could once again split time with sophomore Devon Kennard. The best
of the bunch is clearly Smith, who is a tenacious player that racked up 72
tackles a year ago.
The secondary is rather young, but there is plenty of talent to go around and
the return of senior Shareece Wright will bring leadership to an inexperienced
group. Sophomore safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling will have to make
substantial strides from their freshmen campaigns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Last year Jacob Harfman was the punter and kick off specialist
for USC, and now the senior might also handle the placekicking duties for the
Trojans. The return game for the Trojans should be extremely dangerous.
Johnson will likely be returning kicks and he is always capable of changing a
game with one big play. C.J. Gable might be handling the punts again, but do
not count out freshman wideout Robert Woods, who has electrifying speed.
OUTLOOK: One thing is for sure about the Trojans this season, and that is they
will not be participating in any bowl games after being slapped with a two-
year ban by the NCAA for numerous infractions. One would think with the
sanctions, the coaching change and all the turmoil faced by the school in the
off-season, it would be a tough go for USC in 2010. However, there is still
plenty of talent on this roster and USC will contend for a Pac-10 title. Su
Sure, the Trojans have lost some luster over the past 12 months, but if
Kiffin and his father can get things straighten out rather quickly USC could
be back on the map in a blink of an eye. The first half of the schedule is a
bit tough for USC, which will be on the road for four of its first six games,
taking trips to Hawaii, Washington State, Minnesota and Stanford. However, the
Trojans do get California, Oregon and Notre Dame at home, so if this squad can
get going early, USC could make a push for the league title, despite the