Offensive Player: John David Booty. This is an obvious choice because of all the factors involved. We don't need John David to be the one who wins the game for us on Saturday, we just need for him to manage the offense and avoid any mistakes that could give Arkansas some momentum. John David is surrounded by a lot of talent on offense and he's got a hungry Trojan defense that is ready to stifle the Razorback attack. His focus will need to be on managing the huddle, making sure the correct plays are called, staying in command and making a few key throws to Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. If he can do that, the Trojans should be fine. One big advantage for John David will be the comfort level of being in a frantic, Southern football environment. He's been there before as the leader of a top high school program in Louisiana so the loud fans and humid weather shouldn't be as much of an issue for him as it might be with other players. If John David wants to study how to react, he can also take a look at how Matt Leinart handled his first start on the road against Auburn three years ago. If we can walk out of Fayetteville with similar results, Trojan fans will be smiling.
Defensive Player: Lawrence Jackson. The Hogs will be starting Robert Johnson at quarterback and it doesn't sound like he has exactly been setting the world on fire with his performances during fall camp. If LJ can get some consistent pressure on him, it should be enough to rattle Johnson and prevent him from getting into any kind of rhythm. The lack of consistent pressure from the Trojan d-line was noticeable last year even though Jackson was one of the few who showed the ability to get to the quarterback. Lawrence is ready to take the next step toward becoming one of the elite defensive ends in the country and he could make a strong statement in this opening game.
Michael J. Davidson
Offensive Player: John David Booty is the one player who must have the biggest impact on the game. He does not have to have great numbers. He does not have to win it all by himself. What he MUST DO is be the leader out on the field. It is on him to keep the flow of the game going; he must command the respect of his players and he must let the guys know that he won't blow it; at the very least he has to be competent, and at best, he will tear up the Hogs.
Defensive player: The one player who must have the biggest impact is Sedrick Ellis. Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson have been gone for an entire season. Since their departure, the interior of the defensive line has not been able penetrate with regularity and it has also been vulnerable against the run. It all starts up front and it's time for Sedrick to step up and establish himself as the MAN who can bring it and who can also stuff the run or at least demand a double team, thus freeing up the stud linebackers to stuff the run.
Offensive Player: The obvious, in my mind and probably most fans', is to choose John David Booty but I'm going to take the pressure off our signal caller and look to his supporting cast in the backfield. Because we lost two thousand yard rushers in Heisman Winner Reggie Bush and thunderous Lendale White, then complicated that with a season ending injury to 5th year senior Brandon Hancock, I'm going to set my sights on Chauncey Washington. Despite rumors that Washington will not start, I think it is imperative that he have an immediate and ongoing impact throughout Saturday's game. The Trojan's running-back corp needs a leader and that role falls squarely on Washington's shoulders. He needs to perform at the level his predecessors did in their time at SC in order to give both his fellow backs the time needed to acclimate to D1 ball, as well as his quarterback, John David Booty, the run support required to take away any sense that the Trojans' offensive attack is at all one-dimensional. A super performance by Chauncey Washington and the USC run game will send shockwaves reverberating around the nation that Pete Carroll's team is going to be just as big a headache for Defensive Coordinators as they were last year and the year before that.
Defensive Player: When a defensive unit has so many weapons, so many players you can't wait to see hit people, it makes the choice of "must have an impact game" tough, but then I look a little closer and one position stands out for me more than any other - Nose Tackle. And the Trojans' NT is none other than Sedrick "Baby Phat" Ellis. If Pete Carroll and Nick Holt elect to maximize the talent of this year's deepest and most talented unit, the linebackers, by running the hybrid 3-4 and hope to be effective at it, then Sedrick Ellis has to step up big-time. If Ellis, when toe-to-toe with the center is able to shut down the inside lanes, he will free Cushing, Barrett and Jackson up to wreak havoc in the opponents' backfields. And that will spill out onto every aspect of the Trojans' defensive unit. If Ellis is as good as Ryan Kalil has indicated then USC's defense is in very good shape. He is going to have to be if the Trojans hope to be the sort of dominant, shut-out pitching, defense like their 2003 counterparts.
Offensive Player: While the obvious first-glance answer to this question is John David Booty, I'm not going to go with him. It's true that Booty needs to have the least negative impact on the game, but he doesn't need to have the biggest impact. If Booty's final stat line Saturday reads something like, 0 Interceptions, 0 fumbles, and a completion rating better than 55%, the Trojans have a great chance of coming away with a victory, no matter how many passing yards or touchdowns he has.
On the other hand, if Booty is on his back for most of the game or the Razorback defense doesn't have to respect the run because holes aren't being opened for the tailbacks, the offense will suffer. Which is why my offensive guy is Ryan Kalil.
Arkansas' Defensive Coordinator, Reggie Herring, could probably tell you, down to the second, exactly how long it's been since the Trojans humiliated his defense. This off-season, Herring has probably spent 9/10ths of his time preparing for this weekend's game. He's going to throw all kinds of pressure at the Trojans' quarterback, and Ryan Kalil will be the first line of defense. His protection audibles and overall leadership skills are going to go a long way in determining how effective the Trojan offense will be against a fired up Razorback defense.
Defensive Player: Again, the obvious choice of Sedrick Ellis is bypassed for a different guy. Pete Carroll has done everything he can to get four linebackers on the field at the same time. Call it a 3-4, call it a 4-3, call it whatever you want. The fact is that Pete Carroll made this adjustment in order to get Brian Cushing on the field.
Cushing might be called a linebacker during team introductions. He might be called a linebacker in the media guide. He might be a linebacker next year, but for right now, lining up against Arkansas, he's a defensive end. It's going to be important for Cushing to stay at home, to occasionally take up blockers and to be an overall force on the line. Cushing can and will be a disruptive force in the passing game, but he must show that he can be that same kind of asset in the running game.