Expert Opinion: Who Will Perform in Week 3?

USC beat writers Whitney Blaine and Dan Greenspan opine on what Trojans will perform Saturday against Syracuse.

----"Player that Should Play" ----

Whitney Blaine, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer/Reporter

A tad unorthodox suggesting that Ross Cumming should play against Syracuse but I think the linebacker turned tight end should. Cumming knows the defensive side of things and it should be to his advantage reading coverages. Also, he is a quick learner and coaches told him to know the game plan this fall camp, rather than focus on the specifics of the playbook. Of that gameplan, he said he knows 100 percent of it.

Looking at film from the previous two games, the redshirt freshmen tight ends in Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer are still learning the blocking schemes. While Ross Cumming may not have the advantage mentally, his physicality could be useful in run blocking situations.

That offensive line needs as much blocking help as it can get, so a physical player like Cumming could prove potent. Why not rotate Cumming in and see what he can do, especially in a Syracuse opponent that the Trojans' expect to dominate?

Dan Greenspan, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer/Reporter

Confused that running back Dillon Baxter has seen two touches through two games? You're not alone. The sophomore seemed poised for redemption after a tumultuous first season, changing his running style and attitude for appreciative coaches, but remains fourth on the depth chart.

Trying to get a handle on Baxter is almost impossible. He looked almost unstoppable running the Wildcat last season and clearly has immense talent. At the same time, the San Diego (Calif.) Mission Bay standout was visibly upset leaving the Coliseum in stark contrast to fellow sparsely used tailback Curtis McNeal, elated by the win over Utah.

While a transfer seems like the obvious endgame right now, this week appears to be a natural opportunity to see what Baxter can do on the field, everything else be damned.

---"Non-Starter that Will Make an Impact"----

Dan Greenspan, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer/Reporter

Why is safety Drew McAllister such a natural ball hawk? He credits his time playing quarterback at Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista High School.

That one aspect makes him such an intriguing piece to the Trojans defense going forward.

Former high school quarterbacks Matt Grootegoed and Lofa Tatupu were difference makers at linebacker under Pete Carroll because they had an innate understanding of where passes would be thrown, the angles to take and how to bait the signal-caller into mistakes.

McAllister seems to have that same understanding of the game. In limited action as a freshman, he had had three interceptions before hip injuries limited him to 11 appearances the last two seasons.

Because USC has lacked that constant force in the secondary to create takeaways the last few years, McAllister has always been an intriguing possibility.

Now healthy, head coach Lane Kiffin vows to play him in relief of T.J. McDonald against Syracuse. If he plays well, it wouldn't be a shock to see him perhaps carve out a larger role playing next to McDonald.

Whitney Blaine, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer/Reporter

Linebacker Lamar Dawson didn't play a down in the season opener against Minnesota. A week later in the Utah game he played two series and recorded just one tackle.

Chris Galippo has been impressive this season overall, holding the weight of this linebacking corps and leading the (redshirt) freshmen along either side of him to two victories so far. And while Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard have been impressive in both showings, Galippo needs to stay fresh as opponents get tougher deeper in the season. Galippo fathers the linebackers and it's enough pressure on him to do his own assignment let alone make sure the surrounding freshmen don't make mistakes.

Against the Orange, look for Dawson to take a lot of that weight off Galippo. Dawson knows the playbook already, he just doesn't know the college game yet. He's been great in practice, but he hasn't really been tested yet. He likely won't be in Saturday, either, but this game will be a good confidence booster if he can make some plays.

If Kiffin & Co. can figure out a solid linebacker rotation, putting players like Dawson and Shane Horton and even Will Andrew out there, the starting linebackers can be more productive on every snap they play, which will obviously be key against later opponents like Oregon's fast-paced offense and when blitzing tough quarterbacks like Arizona's Nick Foles and Stanford's Andrew Luck.


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