Carson Palmer offers a perfect symbol for this team with equal parts brilliance and struggle. For this offense to work the QB needs to be "on" in every game and the consistency isn't there yet for Carson although the lack of playmakers around him has been well documented. He's a quiet leader who brings toughness, has an arm that others drool over and when he's hot there's nobody better. Carson played this season with an injured left knee yet never complained and he's gone through 3 off coordinators and 3 QB coaches in 4 years. Matt Cassel could still fight for time but might be the #2 TE/H back on the team next season. Coaches talked to him about the move but he is concerned about lack of snaps this year in preparation for QB opening in spring 2003. Matt Leinart has been an early favorite of Chow with his knowledge and accuracy but Billy Hart really impressed the coaches while being named scout team Off POY.
Abhorrent and embarrassing for Tailback U. Injuries hurt but this is an area that must improve although it's hard to say what will happen when Sultan McCullough returns because Justin Fargas is ready and chomping at the bit to prove himself. Justin is up to 212 lbs. and Hart says he was simply unbelievable running against the first team defense in practice this fall. Sultan ran well early in the year before being hampered by injury. Players don't know if Malaefou MacKenzie is coming back next year but he was the one person we couldn't afford to lose this year and it showed when we lost him. We are looking for someone with the ability to make people miss and Chris Howard can do that. With this line why didn't we see him more? The coaches gave Darryl Poston every opportunity to prove himself ahead of Howard but injuries kept him from really taking advantage. Darryl has been asked before about a possible move to corner and it may be time to make that switch. Bless Sunny Byrd for his work this season as his hard running style was a breath of fresh air in these days of the passing offense but for this system to succeed we need more than he can provide. Chad Pierson needs to lose weight but can be real weapon. Charlie Landrigan deserves every handshake of appreciation that he will get through the years from Trojan alumni who admire the way he performed on the field. He is a terrific representation of what a Trojan should be.
Kareem Kelly is turning into as big of an enigma as R. Jay Soward. If he stays and has an average season he will leave as the all time leading receiver in school history so why is there so much talk of underachievement? Perhaps it's because of the poor routes, dropped passes, lack of consistent effort, etc. He could be amazing but right now we would settle for consistently good because 3 TD's on the season isn't getting it done for a guy who fancies himself as one of the best receivers in the country. Keary Colbert should be the go to guy next year and he really stepped up in the 2nd half of the season including the UCLA game on two bad ankles. Grant Mattos started off strong but then a combination of injury and sudden case of drops kept him from being a factor. Devin Pitts was a pleasant surprise. Marcell Allmond was a big loss and it is a mystery if he will come back at this point. Steve Stevenson is in the eternal doghouse. William Buchanan should be a star and the coaches were very tempted to burn his redshirt year.
What does it say when a converted linebacker in his first year on offense is arguably our biggest playmaker. Kori Dickerson showed unbelievable potential this season as a tight end and by the end of the year he was a true weapon with improving hands and impressive athletic ability. It would be a shock if he doesn't make it in the NFL. Alex Holmes is a devastating blocker who is turning into a dependable pass catcher that needs to be gang tackled.
Stop if you've heard this one before….the offensive line must improve next year for the offense to have any chance to succeed. This has become a real problem area in recent years and hope lies with the fact that we have a young group that has grown together and has the potential to continue improving although it can be argued whether or not it is a good thing to return this group with the troubles they have shown in all areas. Jacob Rogers is a big man who earned honorable mention all conference honors and is still learning a new position in addition to battling a shoulder injury, he'll be just fine. Lenny Vandermade is a solid player but was more inconsistent this year than expected. He is probably more suited for guard and it will be nice to see what can happen next year when he and Norm Katnik settle into a regular slot instead of being part of a 3 man rotation with Faaesea Mailo. Katnik was easily the most pleasant surprise as the coaches love his technique and versatility but they just wished he weighed more. Mailo is indicative of the problems on the line, a player who showed so much promise as a true freshman yet who never progressed in his career. Zach Wilson is another player who hasn't progressed as much as we might have hoped and his mental errors on special teams this year are not what you expect from a 3 year starter. Eric Torres needs to be more consistent and two players to watch this off season will be Joe McGuire and Nate Steinbacher as both will need to step up their game to earn playing time because the coaches will look to bring in several offensive linemen in this class and those players will be given every opportunity to play if they are ready.