Preview: Notre Dame vs USC

Notre Dame tries to end a five game skid against the USC Trojans this weekend.

 Notre Dame vs.  USC
Fighting Irish   Trojans
Saturday, October 20th
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Ind.
3:30 EST


USC On Offense:

Trojan Offense '06 Rank Per Game ND Defense '06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #24 198.17 Rushing Defense #93 186.71
Pass Offense #57 232.00 Pass Defense #14 173.29
Pass Eff. #62 127.77 Pass Eff. #27 111.71
Total Offense #33 430.17 Total Defense #50 360.00
Scoring Offense #32 34.00 Scoring Defense #72 28.43

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 235 rushing attempts and 212 passing attempts. The offense is still very productive, and they're building our their numbers from their 2006 offensive output (total offense 392 yards, 128 rushing yards, 264 passing yards)

John David Booty (6-3/210, 5th) is their starting quarterback, but he suffered a broken finger a couple weeks ago. Booty didn't play play last weekend against Arizona, and it is expect that he'll miss this this weekend as well. A couple years ago Mark Sanchez (6-3, 225, So.) was widely considered the top quarterback prospect in the country coming out of Mission Viejo high school. But because Booty has been around, he hasn't been able to display that talent. 

The running game is by committee. Chauncey Washington has been getting the starts and most of the carries, but it is running back Stafon Johnson who is leading the team in rushing. Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, and Hershel Dennis are the other committee members. There is a lot of talent and not enough balls to distribute. Not even mentioned is stud freshmen Broderick Green

Last season the Trojans had a group of experienced receivers, and while junior Patrick Turner has played a lot of football for USC, this group is considered inexperienced. Tight end Fred Davis is leading the team in receiving. He came out of high school as one of the top wide receivers in the nation. Now in his final season at USC, he's finally putting up the numbers that he expected. 

The muscle up front was filled with experienced, but they have been decimated by injuries. Sam Baker, Matt Spanos, Jeff Byers, Drew Radovich and Chilo Rachal would probably be the starting line if they were all healthy, but that isn't the case. None of those players are completely healthy, so Pete Carroll will need to piece together a starting offensive line.  

Anticipated Depth Chart.

  Mark Sanchez, So. 21-34-153 3/1 61.8
  John David Booty , Sr. 113-175-1,239 12/8 64.6

Mark Sanchez (6-3, 225, So.) will  likely get the second start of his career. I'm not sure if Sanchez doesn't have more ability than Booty, but the experience that Booty has can't be replaced. Sanchez is a big, solid prospect with a strong arm and nice release. He's mobile, but not a runner. Sanchez is a heady player that will come up with a play when the defense needs a stop.

John David Booty (6-3/215, Sr.) Probably won't start, but he could be available if something happens to Sanchez. He 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.

  RB Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  Chauncey Washington, Sr. 6-1/ 220 84-362, 6 TDs
  Stafon Johnson, So. 6-1/210 46-378 4 TDs
  Joe McKnight, Fr. 6-0/180 21-154 0 TD

Chauncey Washington is the power guy that does most of his work between the tackles.  He's doing an solid job this season with 4.3 yards per carry, but he isn't at the level of the other running backs on this roster.  Washington won't catch the ball out of the backfield very often. This seems like Washington's tenth season at USC. He's been ineligible for a number of seasons due to academic issues. For whatever reason, USC has been able to keep him around over the years. 

Johnson was an all-American coming out of high school, but he struggled with his consistency last year. Now that he's adjusted to what is required at a program like USC, he's come around. He can do everything well. He's got good size, so he can pound the ball inside, but he also has the ability to go to the outside. His best play is probably over tackle where he can either bounce the play inside or outside.  

Joe McKnight was one of the best players coming out of high school last year. He's young, but he has a ton of talent. The fact that he's getting more action than C.J. Gable and Hershel Dennis speaks volumes about his ability. McKnight has the speed to get the corner, but he has no trouble carrying the ball inside. He isn't going to run many tacklers over, but he will put his shoulder down. He strength is his change of speed and his elusiveness. 

  FB Hgt/Wgt Attps-Yards
  Stanley Havili, Fr. 6-1/ 225  7 - 77 yrds, 2 TDs
  Adam Goodman, So. 6-2/ 235  - - -

Stanley Havili didn't want to play fullback, much the way that Allan Bradford didn't want to play fullback, but he's been asked to do so. Like Bradford, Havili has excelled and Carroll has gotten him the ball on the ground and through the air. This guy can be a pain for a defense and the Irish will need to keep an eye on him throughout the day. He has 16 receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. 

If Goodman is in the game, my guess is that he's going to be the lead blocker. 

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Patrick Turner, Jr. 6-5, 220  28 rcpts/289 yds/1 TDs
  Vidal Hazelton, So. 6-3, 210  19 rcpts/181 yds/2 TDs
  David Ausberry, So. 6-4, 225  14 rcpts/123 yds/2 TD
  Brad Walker, Sr. 6-2, 215  4 rcpts/45 yds/0 TD

Patrick Turner took over for Dwyane Jarrett as the primary receiver for USC. He has size. He has good hands, and he has enough speed to be dangerous. Despite all the tools, he just doesn't seem to be the player that Jarrett was. Maybe Turner needs another player to step up opposite him, maybe he needs more consistent play from the quarterbacks... either way Turner is the top guy in the receiving corps.

Vidal Hazelton is the next guy. USC has liked the big receiver the last several years and Hazelton certainly fits that mold. He probably won't go deep very often, but he can work the middle as much as he'll go outside. He's got solid hands and he's the best blocker among the wide receivers. 

David Ausberry is like the other two... this could be an issue for USC, the fact that their top recivers are of the same mold. Travon Patterson was the speed guy, but he hasn't shown much this season. 

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Fred Davis, Sr. 6-4, 250  29 rcpts  498 yds  4 TDs
  Dale Thompson, Sr. 6-4, 255  1 rcpts  9 yds, 0 TDs
  Anthony McCoy, So. 6-5, 255  - -

Fred Davis leading USC in receiving? Either Fred Davis is an incredible tight end, or the wide receivers are struggling. My guess is that it's a little of both. There's never been a question about Davis' ability to catch the ball, but he wasn't a very good blocker in the past. He's really worked to develop that part of his game and in his last season he's become a complete tight end. Nonetheless, the fact that a tight end is leading the Trojans in receptions must be a concern.

Dale Thompson is USC's blocking tight end, and he will see a lot a snaps, the problem is that USC doesn't appear to get him involved in the passing game...

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  LT Sam Baker, Sr. 6-5, 305 28 Starts
  LG Jeff Byers, Jr. 6-4, 285 10 starts/ Limited Exp
  C Matt Spanos, Sr. 6-5, 305 2 Starts
  RG Alatini Malu Sr. 6-4, 330 1 Starts
  RT Drew Radovich, Sr. 6-6, 300 32 Starts

Sam Baker is a four-year starter and a two-year All-American. He's widely considered that best left tackle in college football. He is very nimble and does a great job in pass protection. He's more finesse than power, although certainly can knock players off the ball.  

Jeff Byers was considered the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school, but he has struggled through injuries most of his career. He's been failry healthy this year, until he suffered a torn tendon in his thumb. He's a tough run-blocker with a nasty streak. He isn't as nimble as he had been in the past, but he's tenacious. 

Matt Spanos didn't earn the starting center spot out of fall camp, because he suffered an injury, but he was in the mix. He doesn't have much experience. He was held out last season, because he was academically ineligible. 

Alatini Malu has been slowed by a hamstring injury, and it's uncertain whether he'll be ready to go. He only received one start last season, but I like his play. He's big and fairly athletic for his size. Drew Radovich will probably get the call at right tackle. He's big and athletic. 

Chilo Rachal, O'Dowd and tackle Charles Brown have been injured, but should be back for Notre Dame.

USC On Defense:
Trojan Defense '06 Rank Per Game ND Offense '06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #5 66.83 Rushing Offense #119 32.14
Pass Defense #32 199.83 Pass Offense #111 158.71
Pass Eff. #12 100.52 Pass Eff. #115 97.12
Total Defense #8 266.67 Total Offense #119 190.86
Scoring Defense #25 19.33 Scoring Offense #118 11.43

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.

Pete Carroll's defenses are annually one of the best in the nation against the run and this season is no different. They messed around with the '3-4' last season, but returned to the '4-3' this year. Still. USC runs a multiple-front defense. The line has a lot of talent and experience. The depth isn't there yet, but it will be by the end of the season. 

The talent and depth at linebacker is incredible. There is also a wealth of experience. Thomas Williams, Rey Maualuga, and Keith Rivers will likely start, but the three behind them are probably just as good.

In the past the secondary was suspect, but this unit has talent, experience and playmaking ability. Taylor Mays is a true freshman who is playing like a much mature player. Cary Harris and Terrell Thomas are fantastic athletes, as are both safeties. Taylor Mays gets a lot of the press, but Kevin Ellison is just as good as the strong safety.

Anticipated Depth Chart. 

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Lawrence Jackson, Sr. 6-5, 270  22 tackles/ 4.0 sacks
  NT Sedrick Ellis, Sr. 6-2, 305  22 tackles/ 4.0 sacks
  DT Fili Moala, Jr. 6-5, 295  13 tackles/ 0.0 sacks
  DE Kyle Moore, Jr. 6-6, 275  19 tackles/ 1.0 sacks

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 Paul Duncan, and this could be a trouble spot for the Irish. Although the switch to right tackle has helped Duncan, he is still struggling. Jackson is a difficult match up for a seasoned player and Notre Dame will need to give Duncan help on this corner.

Sedrick Ellis has added the weight he needed to in order to be more effective inside. He's a disruptive player. Notre Dame had difficulty with him last season, and this Irish line isn't nearly as dominating this season. Fili Moala is struggling to establish himself on the inside. He plays a little upright, but he does take up space. 

Kyle Moore is a big athletic player, but I'm not sure he is as physical as USC would like him to be.

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  SLB Thomas Williams, Sr. 6-3, 235  28 tackles/ 1.5 TFLs
  MLB Rey Maualuga, Jr. 6-3, 250  40 tackles/ 3.5 TFLs
  WLB Keith Rivers, Jr. 6-3, 235  46 tackles/ 3.5 TFLs

Williams jumps back to the defensive side of the ball after moving to fullback last season. he's a heck of a player that plays very well in traffic. Any guy that starts for USC at linebacker, is a player.. They have so much depth here, it's mind- boggling. 

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, 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 (46). 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. 

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  CB Cary Harris, Jr.. 6-0, 180  39 tackles/ 1 INTs
  CB Terrell Thomas, Sr. 6-1, 200  39 tackles/ 2 INTs
  FS Taylor Mays, So. 6-4, 225  48 tackles/ 3 INTs
  SS Kevin Ellison, Jr. 6-1, 220  52 tackles/ 1 INTs

Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris have a world of talent. They've battled the injury bug in the past, but played injury-free last season. Neither player supports the run real well, but you ask your corners to cover not, tackle running backs. With the linebackers that USC has, these corners should need to make many tackles.

Like the corners, the safeties can make plays. 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. Top Stories