The Devils continue to struggle to maintain a pure identity, however with merely four games remaining in the 2009 season, ASU needs to pool its resources as best as possible to remain hopeful of postseason possibilities.
Offensive Projected Starting Lineup
QB 7 Matt Barkley 6-2 230 Fr. Newport Beach, Calif.
RB 4 Joe McKnight 6-0 190 Jr. River Ridge, La.
FB 31 Stanley Havili 6-1 230 Jr. Salt Lake City, Utah.
SE 8 Ronald Johnson 6-0 190 Jr. Muskegon, Mich.
FL 18 Damian Williams 6-1 195 Jr. Springdale, Ark.
TE 86 Anthony McCoy 6-5 250 Sr. Fresno, Calif.
LT 71 Charles Brown 6-6 285 Sr. Chino Hills, Calif.
LG 53 Jeff Byers 6-3 290 Sr. Fort Collins, Colo.
C 61 Kristofer O'Dowd 6-5 300 Jr. Tucson, Ariz.
RG 56 Alex Parsons 6-4 300 Sr. Irvine, Calif.
RT 70 Tyron Smith 6-6 285 So. Moreno Valley, Calif.
Despite a rough overall performance in USC's loss at Oregon last week, the Trojans by-and-large have had incredibly stable play from its true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, the top quarterback and No. 2 overall national high school prospect last season.
In seven starts thus far, Barkley has completed 118-of-119 passes (59.3 pct.) for 1,727 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, ranking second in the league averaging 246.7 passing yards per game, while rating fourth in the conference with a pass efficiency rating of 141.1.
After surprisingly leapfrogging veteran passers Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain in the late stages of the preseason, Barkley has performed as well – especially on the usual exalted USC stage – as any true freshman in the country.
After the severe weight room injury suffered by tailback Stafon Johnson, USC was tasked with the need to replace the experienced senior in its running backs stable.
In total, junior Joe McKnight leads the pack on the ground for the Trojans, totaling 712 net yards on 112 carries (6.4 avg.) with seven scores. A candidate to take the ball the distance each time he's involved in the play, McKnight primarily couples with Allen Bradford, who has strongly asserted himself due to the increased action in Johnson's absence.
In eight games, Bradford has totaled 397 yards on 57 carries (7.0 avg.) with four rushing touchdowns. The duo pairs to form the proverbial "thunder and lightning" combination, able to beat defenses between the tackles and from sideline-to-sideline.
All-purpose fullback Stanley Havili continues to be a versatile threat for the Trojans, ranking fourth on the team in both rushing (11 carries, 85 yards) and receiving (10 catches, 140 yards, and two touchdowns) despite recently missing action due to injury, placing the recent onus of responsibility onto youngster D.J. Shoemate.
Damian Williams, one of the nation's elite receivers, continues to be the top target for Trojan passers, having collected 43 receptions for 607 yards (14.1 avg.) with four touchdowns, ranking him second in the Pac-10 in receiving yards and third in the league in total receptions.
With Ronald Johnson – who has caught 10 passes in three games – on the shelf for the early half of the season, USC struggled to gain tremendous productivity at receiver beside Williams, as David Ausberry has totaled 10 receptions for 106 yards in six games, while Brice Butler has hauled in nine catches for 155 yards. However, to the Trojans' benefit, Johnson has worked back up to full speed and provides an excellent complement to Williams in the aerial attack.
Tight end Anthony McCoy has been an absolute monster for the Trojans thus far, leading the team with a 23.4-yard average with 16 receptions for 375 yards, a surreal per-catch clip for a 250-pound tight end. Boasting big bulk and highly reliable hands, McCoy is a mismatch waiting to happen and likely will provide a tough test to the Sun Devil secondary.
Always capable to be dominant, the Trojan offensive front combines tremendous experience and high talent level. Tackle Charles Brown and guard Jeff Byers man the left side, while guard Alex Parsons and tackle Tyron Smith hold down the right with Arizona native Kristofer O'Dowd snapping at center.
With the slashing athleticism of McKnight and bruising style of Bradford out of the backfield, the reliability of Williams and dynamic traits of McCoy, the Trojans boast a myriad of options for its rookie quarterback to utilize. The Sun Devil defense will face few weaknesses in the Trojan offensive lineup and will need to be sound in all areas to limit USC.
Projected Defensive Starting Lineup
DE 96 Wes Horton 6-5 255 RS-Fr. Chatsworth, Calif.
NT 44 Christian Tupou 6-2 285 Jr. Sacramento, Calif.
DT 91 Jurrell Casey 6-1 295 So. Long Beach, Calif.
DE 93 Everson Griffen 6-3 280 Jr. Agua Fria, Ariz.
SLB 17 Michael Morgan 6-4 220 Jr. Dallas, Texas
MLB 54 Chris Galippo 6-2 250 So. Corona, Calif.
WLB 6 Malcolm Smith 6-1 225 Jr. Northridge, Calif.
CB 15 Kevin Thomas 6-1 190 Sr. Oxnard, Calif.
FS 2 Taylor Mays 6-3 235 Sr. Seattle, Wash.
SS 26 Will Harris 6-1 210 Sr. Covina, Calif.
CB 36 Josh Pinkard 6-1 215 Sr. Oxnard, Calif.
Lately known the college football world over for its defensive dominance, USC, although not nearly as destructive as last year, hasn't missed a noticeable beat after several key departures from the 2008 squad.
The attack begins upfront for the Trojans, where bookends Everson Griffen (35 tackles, 8.0 sacks) leads the conference in quarterback takedowns, while teammate Nick Perry (20 tackles, 7.0 sacks) is second, creating a devastating combination for opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Wes Horton, listed as a possible starter in contention with Perry, has totaled 12 tackles and one sack this year. Also expected to contribute at defensive end is Phoenix native Devon Kennard (12 tackles), who spurned his hometown Devils to attend USC this February.
Occupying the starting tackle spots are Jurrell Casey and Christian Tupou; Casey has been incredibly active up front with 41 tackles and 4.5 tackles-for-loss, while Tupou has posted 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. Collectively, the pair has also totaled 3.0 sacks and five quarterback hurries.
Despite no famous names such as Cushing and Maualuga backing up the Trojan line, a new crew has had to step into place and has done so admirably to lead the Pac-10's fourth-ranked defense, led by the stellar play of middle linebacker Chris Galippo (51 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss).
Not far behind in terms of productivity is strong side linebacker Michael Morgan (40 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks) who ranks second in the league in stops behind the line of scrimmage and tied for ninth in sacks, giving USC three of the top 10 sacks artists in the league.
Malcolm Smith (30 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss) and Shane Horton (20 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss) have split time manning the weak side and each player figures to see ample reps against the Devils.
Fortunate for the inexperienced Trojan defense is the presence of All-World safety Taylor Mays – possibly college football's greatest overall athlete. A sure fire high first round NFL selection, Mays has continued his dominant play with a team-high 57 tackles this season, combining Lamborghini speed with Mack truck power, Mays can affect the game unlike just about any defensive back in the country.
Veteran Will Harris (38 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss) patrols the strong safety position opposite Mays, providing an underrated and experienced presence in the secondary. Sophomore Drew McAlister (13 tackles) is listed as the top reserve at free safety, while true freshman T.J. McDonald (six tackles) backs up Mays at strong safety.
Cornerbacks Josh Pinkard (30 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception) and Kevin Thomas (37 tackles, five pass deflections) round out the senior-loaded starting secondary, while sophomore T.J. Bryant (14 tackles, two pass breakups) occupies the third cornerback position.
In all, the Trojan defense poses a variety of potential game-altering challenges toward the Sun Devil offense; specifically in its tremendous pass rush along the defensive line and veteran experience in the secondary, creating a number of challenges for quarterback Danny Sullivan to overcome.
Special Teams Lineup and Preview
K 38 Jordan Congdon 5-9 175 Sr. San Diego, Calif.
P 48 Jacob Harfman 5-11 200 Jr. Chino, Calif.
KR 2 C.J. Gable 6-0 205 Jr. Sylmar, Calif.
8 Ronald Johnson 6-0 190 Jr. Muskegon, Mich.
PR 18 Damian Williams 6-1 195 Jr. Springdale, Ark.
Not just one of the nation's premier wide receiver, Damian Williams also ranks second in the nation in punt return average (18.0) and ties for a then nation-high in punt return touchdowns (two). In a game such as this where field position will be a crucial battle for the Sun Devils, ASU will need to clamp down and be crisp on coverage to disable the highly potent Williams.
A variety of Trojans have seen action on the kickoff return squad, led by Ronald Johnson's 22.9-yard average on five kickoffs since he gained full health, while C.J. Gable has returned more kicks (14) than any other at this point.
Former Nebraska Cornhusker Jordan Congdon has been highly effective in his first year at USC, connecting on 10-of-12 field goal attempts; making all nine tries inside 40-yards.
USC has split punting duties between Billy O'Malley and Jacob Harfman, the latter of whom has emerged recently and maintains a 40.8-yard average on 19 total punts this year.
No conference team has fared worse against USC in the past decade than ASU; the Sun Devils own the longest losing streak of all Pac-10 squads against the Trojans, having last beaten Troy nearly 10 years ago to the day – Nov. 6, 1999 in the Coliseum.
In order to turn back the clock to the late ‘90s, ASU will have to play a near perfect contest – despite the vulnerability shown by USC last week. Make no mistake about it, Pete Carroll will have his team prepared and looks to make a rebounding statement against the Devils in Tempe.
Five Questions: ASU vs. USC
- How can ASU overcome the emotions of a last-minute loss to California?
- How will tailback Cameron Marshall perform if called upon to be ASU's top running back?
- Will backup quarterback Samson Szakacsy see action in special packages?
- How will ASU's receivers unit hold up after a variety of recent injuries?
- Can ASU's defense set the tone when USC has the ball?
Injury Update and Lineup Notes
- Depending on Nance's health true freshman tailback Cameron Marshall could get his first start on the year.
- Coach Erickson indicated that backup quarterback Samson Szakacsy could have an expanded role against USC.
- With the injury to Adams Bo Moos will get more reps this week.
- Everson Griffen (Agua Fria High School) and Kristofer O'Dowd (Tucson Salpointe) are Arizona natives.
- Defensive end Devon Kennard was a teammate of ASU's Steven Figueroa and Zeb Togiai at Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista High School.
- Linebacker Uona Kaveinga was a high school teammate of ASU's Otis Jones at Hawthorne (Calif.) Leuzinger High School.
- Running back Joe McKnight was a high school teammate of ASU's Jonathan English at John Curtis Christian School in River Ridge, La.