The 2000's were definitely the decade of the Trojans. USC under Pete Carroll put together one of the best runs in college football history during the past ten years. He took a storied program to a different level during his tenure and it will be quite awhile till we see that type of juggernaut put together in the Pac 10/12 again.
The party ended during the off season when Pete Carroll left to take a job with the Seattle Seahawks. The other shoe dropped when the NCAA hit the Trojans as hard or harder than anyone they have penalized in the last twenty years. The impact won't be felt on the field immediately but it will take the Trojans most of the decade to recover once scholarship reductions begin.
Lane Kiffin was named head coach after half a dozen better qualified candidates took a pass on the job. Kiffin had one controversial year at Oakland (NFL) and one at Tennessee before being handed the Trojan job.
Kiffin has most of the tools on hand to compete for a conference championship in 2010. He put together a great coaching staff led by his father Monte and former SC assistant Ed Orgeron. Collectively this staff knows how to coach and recruit at the highest level. They will be challenged immediately to motivate because USC will not be eligible for a bowl this season.
On offense the Trojans will be led by So QB Matt Barkley. Matt was an immediate starter out of high school and that was one big reason the Trojan offense struggled all year long. The other reason for the struggle was the lack of a consistent power running game to take the pressure off the young quarterback.
Barkley won't experience as many growing pains this season. Reports from spring practice were extremely positive. It seems that Matt has settled down and is no longer a deer in the headlights. He is lighter, faster, and the game has begun to slow down for him which is bad news for Trojan opponents.
Sr TB Allen Bradford returns to lead the USC running game. Uber frosh Dillon Baxter will press him for playing time immediately this fall. Baxter could be the next Reggie Bush without the sports agents. Stan Havili returns as the Pac 10's most dangerous fullback.
Sr Ron Johnson leads a talented bunch of returning wide receivers. Fr Kyle Prater has the ability to make an immediate impact. Sr Dave Ausberry has been plagued by the injury bug but has as much potential as anyone in the conference if he can stay healthy. Jr Blake Ayles will be the man at TE but Fr Xavier Grimble may push him right away if he can get the blocking schemes down.
USC has enough quality blockers to field a quality starting unit but there are depth concerns. Sr center Kris O'Dowd returns to anchor a line flanked by Sr guard Butch Lewis and Jr tackle Tyron Smith. Sr guard Zach Heberer has starting experience and So Matt Kalil looked like he nailed down a starting job at tackle this spring. Beyond the starting five USC has some serious questions if starters are injured. They don't have a lot of experienced depth.
The Trojans have experienced beef on the defensive line. They will be able to put together a good looking rotation inside while developing younger ends on the outside. JR Armond Armstead returns after an injury plagued year in 2009 to anchor one of the ends. So Nick Perry, So Wes Horton,and Jr Malik Jackson are also in the mix on the other side. On the inside Sr Jurrell Casey has AA potential, but Sr NT Christian Topou will miss the season because of a knee injury. Juniors DaJohn Harris and Hebron Fangupo will have to pick up the slack in his absence.
USC returns three starters at LB with a boatload of talent lined up behind them. Jr Chris Galippo, So Devon Kennard, Sr Michael Smith, So Jarvis Jones, Sr Michael Morgan, and Juco Shane Horton give the Trojans a two deep that most teams in the country would envy.
With all four starters gone, there will be a lot of opportunities for a relatively young group of talented defensive backs. What these guys lack in experience they may be able to make up in potential. As usual the Trojans will be reloading with kids who were HS All Americans.
So Byron Moore was moved to safety last spring. Jr Marshall Jones will likely fill the other safety spot. Sr Shareece Wright and Jr TJ Bryant are the leading candidates at the corners. Nothing is written in stone back here. Competition for all four starting positions will continue till the opener.
Washington vs USC
Can Washington beat USC?
Sure they can and the Huskies proved it last season at Husky Stadium. That being said the Huskies aren't close yet from an overall talent and depth perspective to teams like Troy. The Trojans have as much potential as Nebraska does on defense and the offense has to be better than last year given that Matt Barkley now has a year of experience under his belt.
Super frosh Dillon Baxter has the ability to come in and spark a USC running game that has been very average over the past couple of years. If USC can create more balance it will give Barkley the opportunity to use the multiple tools that surround him in the Trojan arsenal.
Beating USC or anyone in the conference on the road is always a challenge and the Huskies will be a decided underdog going into this one even if they somehow get by the opening gauntlet of BYU, Nebraska, and Syracuse. If Jake Locker is healthy Washington can stay competitive the entire game and like last year the team that plays best in the fourth quarter will win the game.