The Ten of Troy: Team Edition

In this edition of the Ten of Troy, USCFootball.com's staff looks at the 10 players creating the most buzz and intrigue during the first quarter of the college football season. Please note that the rankings do not directly reflect the opinions of the Trojans football coaching staff.

Created by Gerard Martinez | Rollover photos for analysis

1. Leonard Williams | Junior | Defensive End | Daytona Beach (Fla.)

Gerard Martinez -- In three games this year, Williams has 23 tackles, three for loss, one sack and one interception while being double teamed almost every play. Statistics don't truly represent how good Williams is and how important he is to USC going forward. With the Trojans front getting pushed around by Boston College in the run game, Williams health is a major concern. If opposing lines are not forced to double team Williams, it will allow offenses to pick and choose where they attack the Trojans defensive front. With depth already paper thin, Williams taking up two blocker and still making plays is double the production from a schematic point of view.



2. Cody Kessler | Junior | Quarterback | Bakersfield (Calif.)

Ryan Abraham -- Three games in, the Trojans certainly have their share of problems, but quarterback play is not one of them. Cody Kessler has completed 71-percent of his passes, 71 out of 100, for 846 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked five times against Boston College, but when USC finally abandoned the run in the fourth quarter Kessler, while constantly under duress, led the team down the field and into the end zone. We know Steve Sarkisian likes to be a run-first team, but with a young and inexperienced offensive line the best chance for the Trojans to make a run at the Pac-12 South lies with the arm of Cody Kessler.



3. Javorius Allen | Junior | Running Back | Tallahassee (Fla.)

Dan Weber -- In the last two games, Buck Allen has shown all the abilities that made him USC's 2013 MVP with his career-record 154 rushing yards in the Stanford win and his 118 pass reception yards on nine catches in the upset loss against Boston College. But Buck isn't Superman. He had difficulties running the ball against a BC defense designed to stop him (just 31 yards in 15 carries) while Steve Sarkisian stubbornly kept calling his number. As good as Buck is, and with 153 all-purpose yards a game, he's 17th nationally, no running back can get the job done on his own. Yet, Aas BC clearly decided, if you stop Buck from running the football, you have a real shot to beat USC.



4. Nelson Agholor | Junior | Wide Receiver | Tampa (Fla.)

Dan Weber -- Nelson Agholor hasn't had that breakout game as either a pass receiver or punt returner this season, but with nine catches in each of the last two games has still managed to get to No. 10 in the nation. USC fans are waiting for a moment like last year's Pac-12 record-setting two-punt-return TD game for 168 yards against Cal. But Nelson is down to 3.0 yards a return on five this year compared to 19.1 a year ago when he was second nationally in punt returns and his kickoff returns are averaging just 15.7 yards on six opportunities. One hope to help his numbers is for a USC offense that has been limited to 129 plays the last two games to get back to Steve Sarkisian's 80 plays per game goal.



5. Su'a Cravens | Sophomore | Linebacker | Temecula (Calif.)

Gerard Martinez -- Moving from safety to linebacker at the end of fall camp, rumors swirled that Cravens was disgruntled with his new position and ready to transfer. With the transfer talk no-more, Cravens reputation for being around the football and making plays is still evident. This season he has 13 tackles with three for losses. He also has three pass deflections with two of those just a hair short of being interceptions. That is basically where Cravens is right now as a linebacker quasi-safety. He is just a half step slow, but once the 230-pound true sophomore trusts his assignments, he is going to make a crucial play at a crucial time.



6. Andre Heidari | Senior | Kicker | Bakersfield (Calif.)

Dan Weber -- Heidari has returned to the form that made him a freshman All-American placekicker in his senior season with two of his career four 50-plus-yard field goals to his credit including the 53-yard game-winner against Stanford. With 44 field goals in his career, Andre is within range of the USC career record of 57 and already has three of the nine longest in USC history. He's missed just one of his five attempts this season and after a preseason competition with newly scholarshipped Matt Boermeester. His ability to replicate his Stanford successes the last two seasons could well determine USC's success from here on.



7. J.R. Tavai | Junior | Linebacker | Manhattan Beach (Calif.)

Ryan Abraham -- Starting for the Trojans at the rush end spot, J.R. Tavai has made his presence felt in Justin Wilcox's defense. The highlights of his season was the huge sack/fumble he had against Kevin Hogan that secured the victory for USC over Stanford. He is also 5th on the team in tackles with 16 and his two sacks are half of the entire defense's total in that category. Against Oregon State Tavai is going to be relied upon to provide pressure against quarterback Sean Mannion, trying to make him as uncomfortable in the pocket as possible. And now with Su'a Cravens playing opposite Tavai at SAM linebacker, the USC defensive front got a lot more interesting.



8. Josh Shaw | Senior | Cornerback | Palmdale (Calif.)

Dan Weber -- Josh Shaw may or may not be back to provide his senior leadership and physical corner ability to play the ball, the receiver and support the run. But this week is an interesting time to look at the possibility of a return from his team suspension for lying about how he sustained two sprained ankles the week before the opener. It was last season against Oregon State where Josh made an interception in the end zone that may have turned around that key game for USC in Corvallis. That's what Josh does. He makes big plays. He's smart and tough. Despite his off-field failing in August, he's still well-respected and there's a sense among the coaches and players that he will be back.



9. Adoree Jackson | Freshman | Athlete | Gardena (Calif.)

Ryan Abraham -- Former five-star athlete Adoree Jackson is a three-way threat for the Trojans. Jackson's primary position is at cornerback and it appears he may get his first start there against Oregon State. Offensively, Jackson has lined up in several spots, catching four passes for 32 yards including a touchdown. And Jackson's 81 yards on kickoff returns were a spark for the Trojans against Boston College. The true freshman has participated in 103 plays through three games, 24 on offense, 78 on defense and 31 on special teams. The last Trojan to see significant action on offense, defense and special teams was Chad Morton back in 1996-97.



10. Max Tuerk | Junior | Center | Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.)

Gerard Martinez -- With freshmen to his left and to his right, Max Tuerk is another player whose value goes largely unnoticed. The offensive line struggled in the Boston College game, so Tuerk's leadership will be vital to any adjustments the Trojans make going forward. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder who has played guard, tackle and tight end already in his career, is as much needed at center for all the intangibles from making the line calls to just rallying the troops. USC wants to remain a run team first, so Tuerk will have to be the tip of the spear as the tempo of the offense quickens and Buck Allen is a featured weapon.



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