MEET THE TROJANSWhile USC may lack the big-play threats and explosive running game that have defined its program in the Carroll era, they are still loaded with talent throughout their two-deep. This is the most athletic team Cal will play all year, especially on defense. SC's talent is young, though, particularly in the secondary.
QB - John David Booty is the real deal, period: the most efficient QB in the conference. It sounds odd, but he should be getting a lot more national recognition for his play. What happened to SC's vaunted SID? Heralded freshman Mark Sanchez is the backup.
RB - Chauncey Washington carries the burden of history as SC's tailback, which means he's in an impossible situation. He is averaging more than 5 yards a carry, though, and has shown signs of life in the last two games (119 yards, 3 TDs v Oregon) after a relatively slow start marked by ball security issues. Washington sprained his knee in the Oregon game and did not practice Tuesday, but he expects to play on Saturday. Backup Emmanuel Moody is out for the game with a badly sprained ankle. Explosive true freshman C.J. Gable, who handles kick returns for the Trojans, will see time on Saturday in the tailback rotation.
Fullback has been the Bermuda Triangle for USC all year - injuries have left them without a scholarship player at the position.
WR - USC has the best one-two punch in the nation with Dwayne Jarrett (42 catches, 12.1 average) and Steve Smith (49 catches, 16.0 average). They're both fairly healthy for the first time this year, which is a scary thing. The 3rd receiver is 6'5" sophomore Patrick Turner (26 catches), who has great speed and size but is still learning. Chris McFoy backs up Jarrett (10 catches). True freshman Vidal Hazelton could eventually be terrific, but not this year. SC doesn't throw to their backs very much.
TE - Fred Davis has 24 catches through 9 games, and is a particularly effective receiver in the red zone, with three TD receptions.
OL - A real strength - this one of the best pass-blocking lines in the conference and the second-best run blocking line (behind Oregon). Their strength starts in the middle with Ryan Kalil, a three-year starter and the best center in the conference. Kalil will slide to help on Mebane in the pass game; he is a very effective run blocker and will present a challenge for Desmond Bishop all day. Sam Baker is the other returning starter, at left tackle. He could be all-conference as well, and is a tremendous pass blocker who shuts down opposing D-Ends. The other starters include Drew Radovich at LG, Chilo Rachal at RG and Kyle Williams at RT. The Trojans are a little thin, as highly-regarded but perpetually-injured C/G Jeff Byers is out for the year. Rachal has battled some ankle problems.
DE - Lawrence Jackson is the Trojans' best player on the line - at 6'5"/265 he is a stout run defender who can penetrate and disrupt an offense's timing. The weakside end is Brian Cushing, a talented sophomore linebacker who runs extremely well though he gives up lots in size (only 235 pounds). They will drop Cushing to weakside backer and shift to a 3-4 on occasion.
DT - Sedrick Ellis is a returning starter, and Fili Moala will see most of the snaps at the other tackle spot. Ellis is the better player, and can be very tough to handle in the pass game with one blocker. Given that Jackson plays on the same side, Malele/De La Puente will need to step up. Ellis slides to the nose when SC drops a fourth linebacker.
LB - The Trojans' linebacking crew is on a par with Cal in terms of raw athleticism. In addition to Cushing, USC features sophomore MLB Rey Maualuga, who hits like a ton of bricks and runs a 4.5 forty. Blocking Maualaga will be the single biggest challenge this year for the interior of Cal's OL. Returning starters Dallas Sartz (strongside) and Keith Rivers (weakside) round out the corps. While this is a solid group, they have had their issues in allowing YAC (much like the Bears). Oscar Lua, a redshirt senior, is a very nice backup to Maualuga at MLB.
CB - Junior Terrell Thomas is their best cover corner and will likely shadow Jackson. Sophomore Cary Harris starts at the other corner - think of him as SC's version of Syd'Quan - super talented but needs frequent help, and SC will play a fair amount of zone to help hide him (just like Cal - lots of similarities between the defenses). Mozique McCurtis rotates at corner as well as safety.
S - Redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison starts at SS and true freshman Taylor Mays starts at free. Don't get too excited, though - each play well beyond their years and are terrific in run support (they rank fourth and fifth respectively in tackles). Mays has the chance to put together a Ronnie Lott-type career at USC before he's done. In addition to McCurtis, true freshman Antwine Perez has seen limited reps, mostly at the free. SC ran a fair amount of zone against Oregon, and both safeties played well in limiting big plays for the Ducks.
ST - Gable is a very capable kick returner, averaging 27.2 yards per attempt. Carroll is searching for an answer in the punt return game, and may replace Desmond Reed with Turner to try to generate something. PK Mario Danelo is efficient (10-11), but has limited range. P Greg Woidneck is OK, and the Trojans are good in punt cover.
Song Girls - Are still smoking hot.