The Five Most Important Trojans for 2010
The calendar is sneaking up on us now. USC’s opener at Hawaii is a week from Thursday, and things are getting serious.
Time to name the five most important Trojans heading into the 2010 football season:
1. Matt Barkley — This is obvious, I know, but he has to take a huge step up from an understandably shaky freshman season at quarterback. There are encouraging signs, beginning with an offense that seems more flexible, a group of eye-popping new skill players to utilize and the fact he’s lost some weight and seems to be moving around the pocket better. But there also has been something missing so far. In the practices I’ve watched, Mitch Mustain has outplayed him, although that’s not entirely fair. Barkley goes against the first defense most of the time, while Mustain faces the second unit. Still, the sophomore should be asserting himself more than he has so far in fall camp. He has so much natural talent and seems like such a good kid, you have to think he’ll be fine. If he isn’t, this team is in big trouble.
2. Shareece Wright — Yeah, this one might surprise you. Wright is the lone experienced starter in the secondary and needs to flash the shut-down corner skills the coaches gush about. There are many who think the real downfall of the 2009 defense for the Trojans was Wright being ruled academically ineligible. If he can lock down the opponent’s top receiver, it will give Monte Kiffin a lot of options with his young defense. All of them good. It will also take considerable pressure off the other three first-time starters in the secondary.
3. Allen Bradford — He is the running back who has been dominating practice for three years. Now he finally gets his chance to start. Or does he? He slightly injured a knee last week and didn’t participate in Saturday’s scrimmage, and all of a sudden the word is that the tailback position is wide open. I don’t believe it. I think the coaches are trying to light a fire under Bradford, who is the kind of bruising, inside power runner capable of taking over a game. Marc Tyler might be a more gifted all around runner, and flashy freshman Dillon Baxter will get his touches, but Bradford is the only old fashioned Trojan tailback type, and he needs to get into a flow early for this team to be successful.
4. Jurrell Casey/Armond Armstead — Call them an entry, because they are the two players capable of making or breaking the defense. Casey is a legitimate All-American candidate at tackle who comes off a big year. Armstead is the bigger, stronger end they’ve been raving about in practice. They say nobody can block him. If these two are as good as they’ve appeared so far in camp, along with the surprising DaJohn Harris, this defense has a chance to be better than people think. Maybe a lot better.
5. Lane Kiffin — The new head coach has a proclivity for stepping in . . .ah, shall we say horse manure. Wherever he goes, flak seems to follow. The question is, once the season starts, how will he handle it? And then, of course, the even bigger question arises: Can he really coach? We’re about to find out under circumstances that are hardly ideal. This is a young team with a roster that is thinner than some USC song girls. He’ll need his share of luck and his key players to stay healthy. But the offense seems much more creative than it was a year ago, and the players appear invigorated by the challenge. If he can get out to a 4-0 start — and he’ll be favored in each of those games — it could get interesting. But anyone expecting a 13-0 finish is probably stretching the possibilities too far. Road games at Stanford and Oregon State will be particularly difficult. The 2010 over and under? I’d say anything over last year’s total of 9 victories would be considered a very good season.
— STEVE BISHEFF