USC On Offense:
Forget about Ohio State and Michigan. Look past your natural distain for USC. Stop the chest pumping and bravado. Just for a second, think about why you watch college football. As much as last season's game in South Bend bothered me, I walked away knowing that I had witnessed something special. They all won't live up to the 2005 battle, but as long as Pete Carroll is at USC and Charlie Weis is at Notre Dame, it is likely that the games will be exciting and memorable. These games will add to the amazing history of this series. If you can't appreciate this game, you are missing the point.
Much has changed with USC since the Irish last played in Los Angeles. Tyrone Willingham received his final pounding as Notre Dame's head coach; Norm Chow, Matt Leinart, LenDale White and Reggie Bush have moved on to the NFL. Despite being in a transition phase, and USC has a depth chart filled with young, talneted bodies, and Irish fans should expect the same type of team that has been dominating college football for five seasons.
USC runs out of the "I" formation or the offset "I", using two wide receivers, and a tight end. They will use
multiple wide receiver sets, and occasionally go to two tight ends. USC strives to be as balanced as possible between the run, and pass.
On the season, the Trojans have 332 rushing attempts and 335 passing attempts.
The offense is still very productive, but there has been a considerable drop-off
from last seasons totals (total offense 580 yards, 260 rushing yards, 320
Anticipated Depth Chart.
John David Booty (6-3/210, Jr.*) can do everything from a physical standpoint and he appears to have a handle on the mental side of the game. He throws a good deep ball, he has touch and he can put plenty of zip on the ball when necessary. Booty does seem to run hot and cold at times. There are stretches where you're not sure where he's throwing the ball, and then he'll come back and make some incredible throws. Booty has been in the system and he appears to be well on his way to adding to the string of big-time quarterbacks at USC.
Mark Sanchez (6-3, 225, Fr.*) is the next guy in line. I'm not
sure if Sanchez doesn't have more ability than Booty. The only thing keeping him
on the sideline is experience.
Chauncey Washington is the 2006 version of LenDale White.
Washington is the power guy that does most of his work between the
tackles. He's doing an solid job this season with 4.9 yards per carry, but
he just doesn't bring it like White. Washington isn't used in the passing
game often, but he does have nine receptions for 93 yards
Thomas Williams is USC's version of Travis Thomas...only in reverse. Last season Travis Thomas played a big role in the Irish backfield and this season he moved to linebacker. Thomas Williams started at linebacker for USC against the Irish in 2005 and registered eight tackles. Due to depth issues and injuries Williams made the transition to fullback. He does a decent job as
a lead blocker, but he just doesn't appear to be completely comfortable in his new
role...it could be that he lacks confidence and that he's still settling into the position.
He hasn't touched the ball on offense.
Dwayne Jarrett is a finesse wide receiver; He has a great feel for the game and he seems mature beyond his years. He understands where he needs to be on the field. He's a long-strider, with above average speed. USC likes to get him the ball just about everywhere. If you give him a 10 yard cushion,
Booty will simply get him the ball on a hitch, a stiff arm on the cornerback and suddenly the play is 15 yards down field.
He has been much more consistent catching the ball this year, although he can be pushed off the
ball. He's a very difficult match-up for any cornerback because of his size and speed.
Jarret hasn't caught many balls against Notre Dame, but when he has they have
been huge. In two game against the Irish Jarrett has 10 catches for 203 yards.
Turner is similar to Jarrett at this stage in his career, but
probably not as dangerous. Once Jarrett and Smith move on, Turner will probably
be the next great USC receiver.
Dale Thompson is USC's blocking tight end, and he appears to be receiving most
of the snaps as of late. The only problem with that is that USC doesn't appear
to get him involved in the passing game...although that doesn't mean USC won't
put the ball in the air when he's in the game.
Sam Baker is very nimble and does a great job in pass protection. He's more finesse than power, although he'll knock you off the ball.
Chris Frome did have some success against him last season before he went down
with a knee injury. Frome should be able to hold the edge on Baker but I don't expect
him to generate much pressure.
Alatini Malu (6-4, 330, Jr.*) will mix in at guard, and based on his performance in the Cal game, he'd be my choice at guard.USC On Defense:
Pete Carroll is the mastermind of the USC defense and his philosophy is speed -- the more the better. He believes in good, solid defense, and he believes that the offense will generally make a mistake before they get to the end zone. He believes in reducing big plays and keeping the ball in front of the
defense. The USC defense will blitz from anywhere on the field; cornerback, linebacker or zone
blitz. In the past Carroll waited to blitz until the offense got moving, but
this season, he appears to be more aggressive.
Anticipated Depth Chart.
This unit is playing very well, but they aren't getting into the
backfield like they should. Lawrence Jackson is a big, strong defensive end. He isn't a speed guy,
but he has the ability to overpower the offensive lineman. He's very difficult to move off the corner and he's got a nose for the ball. Jackson will likely line up across from
Sam Young, and this could be a trouble spot for the Irish. Young is having a
solid year for a freshman, but Jackson is a difficult match up for a seasoned
player. Notre Dame will need to give Young help on this corner.
Dallas Sartz has a lot fo experience, but he's been bothered by injuries. He doesn't have the athletic ability and this season he appears to be a step slower. He does have a nose for the ball. I just think he's a liability in the passing game.
Rey Maualuga is second on the team in tackles. He's what you think about when you start looking for middle linebackers. He got his feet wet last season as a true freshman, and now it looks like he's going to be around for awhile. Not a good thing, because he can bring it with the best of them.
Keith Rivers could probably play any of the linebacker positions, and he's even been used at rush defensive end. Rivers is a player and if he can put everything together he'll be an All-American. Rivers can run and hit. He plays well in traffic and he has superior instincts. His quickness makes him difficult to block in space. He leads the team in tackles (67). He can be too aggressive at times and at times he tries to go under blocks and finds himself out of place.... that's being picky though. He had a huge game last year against Notre Dame.
Oscar Lua (6-1, 245, Sr.*) started at middle linebacker last year. That should be an indication of how good Maualuga is. Lua will rotate in and he has 25 tackles on the season. Kaluka Maiava (6-0, 225, So.) will also work into the game. He has 30 tackles on the season.
Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris have been bitten by the injury bug. Both have a world of talent, but they're just getting settled in. Once they have more experience, they will make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Like the corners, the safeties are young and inexperienced. Mays
has been making plays and has shown to be everything Trojan fans expected him to
be. Ellison doesn't get the press that Mays does, but he might be a little more
steady. These two work to keep everything in front of them. Pete Carroll will
accept having balls caught in front of his safeties, but he doesn't not want
anything to get behind them.
Preview: Notre Dame vs USC
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