Feature: Trojans Prep To Remain Dominant Force In The Pac-10

May 24, 2007

By Jack Follman
Daily Evergreen

May 24, 2007

Pullman, WA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Returning quarterback John David Booty came into 2006 with big shoes to fill. Following two Heisman winners was not an easy task. And though Booty was never quite a Heisman candidate, he was great all season. Expect Booty to make a run for the trophy this year.

The USC Trojans will return with a huge stable of running backs. Chauncey Washington led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2006 and was the most consistent of all the running backs. Sophomores, Emmanuel Moody and C.J. Gable are more explosive than Washington and will likely deliver big plays. This trio of running backs should devastate and wear out Pac-10 defenses all year.

The receiving core needs new play makers to emerge as the incredible tandem of Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett is now gone. The likely candidates to fill these spots are junior Patrick Turner and sophomore Travon Patterson. Turner is a big, tall receiver much in the mold of Mike Williams and Jarrett while Patterson is a small and quick speedster like Smith.

The inexperienced receiving core will be greatly aided by Fred Davis, the returning starter at tight end. Davis enters 2007 as the best tight end in the Pac-10.

If the Trojan's young receivers are helped by a healthy ground game, Booty will surely get them the ball for big plays.

The offensive line will be as strong as ever led by potential All-American tackle, senior Sam Baker. Baker would have been a first round draft pick in 2006, but chose to stay in school. Also returning on the line are guards Jeff Byers and Chilo Rachal.

There will be fierce competition for the other two starting spots between a number of players. This year's offensive line will be counted on much more to control games for the Trojans than past ones as the team does not have the elite skill players past teams have had. Their national title hopes may rest on this unit.

The Trojans defensive line could be the best in the country featuring two potential All-American seniors, in tackle Sedrick Ellis and end Lawrence Jackson. The two combined for almost 10 sacks in 2006. The other two spots are filled by returning starters Kyle Moore at end and Fili Moala at tackle. The linebacker unit should be scary as Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga return. Both players are big, fast, intimidating and will likely have a future in the NFL. Maualuga anchors the middle while Rivers will be joined by Brian Cushing on the outside. This linebacker unit could be the best Pete Carroll has ever coached at USC.

If recent USC teams have had a defensive weakness it has always seemed to be the defensive backfield. This means 2007 should be different as USC returns all four starters. Corners Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris are solid and safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays improve with every game. If this unit can keep their opponents' big plays to a minimum the talented front seven should make this defense by far the best in the country.

In all actuality the season will be a disappointment for USC if they don't take home another national title. Coach Pete Carroll has turned USC into an almost unstoppable machine and they should tear through the Pac-10 unscathed this year. If the Trojans can avoid land mine games at Nebraska and at Notre Dame I believe they can take care of business in the National Championship Game.

(C) 2007 Daily Evergreen via CSTV U-WIRE

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