USC has a number of NFL caliber players on their roster, including wide receiver Marqise Lee, who was the PAC 12 Freshman of the Year last season. Photo by Ken Brooks
Punishments did not hold the Trojans down for long.
When the NCAA dropped the hammer on USC two years ago, the program looked like they were done for a long time. Like it would be years before they would be back on top of the mountain. But now that they are off of their two-year bowl ban, they are right back at No. 1 in the country, and that is with the loss of 10 scholarships.
USC has weathered the storm and climbed back to the top of college football by making wise choices in their recruiting process. After a 10-2 season last year, USC is bringing most of their key players back. Even though there is not a lot of depth to this team because of the loss of scholarships, this team’s starting unit is the best in the nation, filled with NFL caliber players.
Offensively this team is loaded with firepower, with arguably the best quarterback in the nation with Matt Barkley, and arguably the best pair of wide receivers in the nation in Robert Woods (Gardena Serra HS) and Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra HS). All three of those players will most likely be taken in the first round of the NFL’s draft when they are eligible.
Last year Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. That was a year after being named PAC 10 Freshman of the Year. Lee was not far behind Woods, catching 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. His efforts were rewarded by being named the PAC 12 Freshman of the Year.
When Barkley is not throwing the ball to future NFL players, he now has two 1,000-yard running backs to hand the ball off to. Last year Curtis McNeal (Venice HS), who waited patiently for his turn to get on the field, ran for 1,005 yards, and Penn St. transfer Silas Redd ran for 1,241 yards last season.
On the defensive side of the ball USC is looking very good at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Last year Hayes Pullard (Crenshaw HS), Dion Bailey (Lakewood HS), and Lamar Dawson all started as freshman, and they proved to be the heart of the defense.
The defensive backfield has experience, with All-American safety T.J. McDonald deciding to return for his senior year. He could have been a first round draft pick in this past year’s NFL draft. Also in USC’s defensive backfield is safety Jawanza Starling, who is a three year starter.
If there is a problem spot on this roster, it would be USC’s defensive line, which does not have much experience or depth at all. A good defense starts with the line. If this unit cannot come together and play well, than everybody playing behind them may have a difficult time covering their assignments and making plays.
USC’s schedule should not derail them, unless they stumble against an inferior opponent along the way. The only team on their schedule that may give them trouble is Oregon, who could possibly get two cracks at USC. Once during the regular season in Los Angeles, and a potential PAC 12 Championship Game match up.
This should be a fun season for USC fans, because there will be a lot of blowouts, and USC is in a great position to make a run at another national championship.