It would be ideal for the Trojans to head into Eugene tomorrow as a team set in its rotation and confident as to which players will step up but the past week has seen some major changes in the lineup due to injury, suspension, family death, etc. and it will be interesting to see what kind of effect that will have.
Pete Carroll has shown a willingness so far to tinker with his rotation until he finds the players he is comfortable with and judging from the moves he made this week he is still not happy with the production he is seeing from the defensive line. Bobby DeMars has struggled throughout his career to earn playing time and he has been used as the backup to Lonnie Ford but this week he switches to the opposite side of the line as a starter ahead of Kenechi Udeze. Udeze was originally moved from defensive tackle but a couple games with few results left Carroll with a desire to get more production from the spot. We also may see freshman phenom Shaun Cody at tackle. The linebacker spot took two steps forward recently with the return of Frank Strong from injury and Chris Prosser from suspension but we took one step back this week when it was announced that Matt Grootegoed would not make the trip due to lingering concerns over his shoulder injury. It was originally diagnosed as a stinger after the Kansas State game but Groots has not practiced much since then and this is the type of injury that was feared when the 210 lb Grootegoed was moved from strong safety up to the strongside linebacker spot. John Cousins will get the start and he will need to improve on his play against the run.
On the offensive side of the ball, we have seen changes at wide receiver as Grant Mattos becomes the starter at flanker with Keary Colbert moving to backup Kareem Kelly at split end. The announcement came this week that Marcell Allmond will miss the fall semester with a suspension so we will need those three receivers to provide the majority of production although it would be great to see Devin Pitts or William Buchanan contribute. Malaefou MacKenzie has seen a few setbacks due to injury in his USC career but just as he was healthy enough to contribute he learned of the death of his father and had to travel to Samoa for the funeral. The fact that we are missing MacKenzie and Chad Pierson, who is out with a back injury, leaves a hole in the running back rotation that the coaches were hoping would be filled by Chris Howard but Darryl Poston has been moved into the #2 spot ahead of Howard for this game. With the expected return of Malaefou and Chad it will be interesting to see if we choose to burn Poston's redshirt year but if he deserves to play then we should get him on the field. Of course, which players are on the field for the offense may not be as important as finding a rythym for Norm Chow and Chow is normally in the press box calling plays but for his first two games as a Trojan coach he has been on the sidelines.
The importance of this game for the rest of the Trojan season cannot be understated. A win in Eugene means we exorcise some demons from two years ago and gain some confidence before heading into the meat of the conference schedule with the expected return of some key players. A loss could mean a return to a familiar feeling that this team has seen recently around the end of September when the preseason promise turns into the reality of what lies ahead.