2003 USC preview: Defensive backs

It says something when the secondary loses three players to the NFL and yet has a chance to improve this season. With Pete Carroll in charge the Trojan defensive backfield is always going to be in good shape and this year we should start to see a bigger and more aggressive unit that will be plenty deep if we can stay injury free. Of course, we saw over the past few years with injuries that a team can't have too many DB's and it's a benefit that we've got a lot of guys who can flat out play.

Returning players

Kevin Arbet (5-10.75, 187), Marcell Allmond (6-0, 202), Jason Leach (5-11, 202), Mike Ross (5-11, 169), Ronald Nunn (5-10.25, 180), Greg Farr (5-10.5, 192), William Buchanan (6-3, 179), John Walker (6-1.5, 198), Chris Bocage (5-10, 189), Forrest Mozart (6-1, 202), Kyle Matthews (6-0.5, 201), Matt Lemos (5-10, 178)

Key losses

Troy Polamalu, Darrell Rideaux, DeShaun Hill

Incoming players

Darnell Bing (6-2.25, 216), Will Poole (5-11.5, 193), Ryan Ting (5-9, 186), Brandon Ting (5-9.5, 186), Terrell Thomas, Desmond Reed, Eric Wright

Position breakdown

At corner, Allmond returns as a starter and it figures that he will man one spot. Marcell was moved from wide receiver prior to last season and once he was inserted into the line-up on a regular basis in the Cal game it changed the face of our defense and provided a physical stopper at corner. He's got the swagger, attitude and size to match-up with the bigger receivers that every team seems to have these days. As for who will start opposite Marcell, the competition is scheduled to be between Arbet and Nunn but don't be surprised if Poole makes his way into the line-up. Arbet is a savvy veteran who missed last season with an ankle injury and brings experience as a solid nickel back who knows how to blitz the passer. It remains to be seen, however, if Kevin can secure an everydown spot at corner. Nunn also missed most of last season with injury but he's one of the better athletes on the team and at the very least will provide a reliable presence in the rotation. The presence of Poole makes things interesting because he's a veteran with starting experience in the Big East conference while playing at Boston College. Will was projected to be a 4th round pick if he had entered the NFL draft but the prospect of playing corner for Carroll, even if only for one year, was enough to draw him to SC. He has a playing style similar to Allmond.

One of the stars of the off-season workout program has been Buchanan. When Carroll moved Will to corner last season there were a lot of raised eyebrows among USC fans, this writer included, and those concerns were only magnified when Buchanan was picked on during key early season games. "Buch" has seen a remarkable transformation in recent months as his body is catching up to the training of Chris Carlisle and staff with impressive results and it's not such a stretch anymore to think that he'll have a bright future at corner. John Walker is too good of an athlete to get buried on the depth chart and he should contribute this season on special teams. Brandon and Ryan Ting will also be key special teams performers and they showed a good knack for being around the ball this spring.

You don't just walk on campus and replace a player like Troy Polamalu but it won't take long for Bing to establish his own identity and continue the tradition of fine play from the strong safety position. For those who haven't seen him Darnell is one of the biggest yet fastest players you will ever see in the secondary and his transition to the Carroll defense has been a smooth one so far. He's a special player. Leach moves from SS to FS to replace Hill. Jason is another guy who just seems to make things happen as he led the team in picks last season while backing-up Polamalu. The third man in the safety rotation will be one of the biggest hitters on the team in Ross. Don't let his size fool you, Mike can bring it and he's always in good position to make a tackle. Farr has a strong knowledge of the defense after coming to SC last year from Palomar College.

Projected depth chart

CB – Allmond, Nunn
CB – Poole, Arbet
SS – Bing, Ross
FS – Leach, Farr

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