Quarterback – #4 Isaiah Stanback
Isaiah Stanback is one of the more dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation with his ability to both run and throw. He has a rocket arm and can throw the ball well inside or outside the pocket. What has plagued Stanback in the past is his decision making. When flushed out of the pocket, instead of just taking off and running, Stanback would force the ball into receivers and wind up with interceptions. This season, Stanback seems to be recognizing more quickly when to pull the ball down and take off rather than toss it up for grabs.
That's why keeping Stanback in the pocket will be priority one for the Trojan defense. If they are able to force the Husky signal caller to beat them for four quarters with his arm, chances are good that he will make some mistakes and throw a few ill-advised passes. However, if the Trojans' pass rush provides him with holes up the middle of the field, it wouldn't be surprising to see Stanback take off by himself on numerous passing plays. It will be important for the Trojans to not get pushed upfield on their rush, because if the defensive line can stay inside, forcing Stanback to escape the pocket toward the sideline, those quick linebackers will have a much easier time containing him on the run.
While Stanback has definitely proven himself a more capable passer this season, his legs are what could keep the Husky offense moving on prolonged drives. He leads the team with 64 carries and is second with 306 yards. He's been sacked five times this season and has carried the ball no less than ten times in each game. The Oklahoma Sooners' defense keyed on Stanback and held him to just 18 yards rushing – his lowest output of the season – which is no shock, considering they are the best defense the Huskies have come across to date.
Running Backs – #9 Louis Rankin, #8 Kenny James
Neither of the Huskies' running backs will strike fear into opposing defenses, but both are serviceable. Louis Rankin is a much more explosive runner, averaging 6.1 yards-per-carry this season while carrying 56 times for 340 yards and two touchdowns.
Kenny James is a stockier guy, and more capable of running between the tackles. Averaging just 3.8 yards on 40 carries this season, James will probably be the guy they go to in short yardage situations and passing downs.
I would expect Rankin to receive the bulk of the carries on Saturday.
Wide Receivers – #21 Sonny Shackelford, #5 Anthony Russo
Sonny Shackelford is a big-play wide receiver. He combines great speed with a knack for finding openings in the defense. He's the guy who, if Stanback is afforded tons of time to roll the pocket and scan the field, will get himself open on just about every play. His five receiving touchdowns this season are two more than he had in his previous three seasons combined. He leads the team in that category, as well as receptions (21) and receiving yards (315).
Anthony Russo is a solid, dependable receiver who probably won't wow you with speed, strength or agility, but he can certainly make plays. This season, he has 16 grabs for 237 yards.
Neither of those top two receivers are as good as the duo that Washington State threw at the Trojans' secondary and Isaiah Stanback is a less effective passer than Alex Brink. So if these two guys haul in 18 catches between them, something definitely did not get fixed during the Trojans' practice week
The Huskies will also present Quintin Daniels and Marcel Reese as wide receivers. Daniels caught a 55-yard touchdown pass at Arizona last week, while Reese will provide a height mismatch, at 6-3.
Tight End – #37 Johnie Kirton
Johnie Kirton isn't exactly the physical presence that Washington State's Cody Boyd was, but Kirton is no small guy. At 6-3, 280, he has the size to go over the middle and will no doubt assist in the running game. While his pass receptions usually go for minimal gains (8 catches for 59 yards), he's found the endzone twice this year.
Offensive Line – LT #79 Ben Ossai, LG #74 Stanley Daniels, C #58 Juan Garcia, RG #63 Clay Walker, RT #75 Chad Macklin
Washington's offensive line has been the number one reason for their surprising start this season. Stanback has had plenty of time to throw the ball this season (a huge reason for his cut down in mental mistakes) and the offensive line is opening holes for the running game to pound out a 4.6-yards-per-carry average.
This offensive line is as cohesive as the Washington State line was patchwork. The five starters along the line have played every single snap of every single game this season. Although, if it comes to it, none of the backups have seen a snap of action in a college game.
Huskies on Defense
Defensive Line – #7 Greyson Gunheim, #74 Wilson Afoa, #91 Donny Mateaki, #66 Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
Greyson Gunheim is the guy to watch for along the defensive line. While the other three are high-motor guys capable of making plays, Gunheim is the one that the Trojans will need to concentrate on keeping out of the backfield. Of his 13 total tackles, six have come behind the line of scrimmage. He has two sacks on the year to go along with two forced fumbles.
The rest of the line will clog up holes in the running game while Brandon Ala will take some turns at defensive end on passing downs. Ala has two sacks this season as well.
Linebackers – #4 Scott White, #47 Tahj Bomar, #34 Dan Howell
Linebackers have accounted for seven of the team's 13 sacks this season. All three are more than capable of coming on the blitz, but Scott White is the most dangerous. He's second on the team with 41 tackles this season, including seven for loss and a team-high three sacks. He's also intercepted a pass as well as forced and recovered a fumble.
Chris Stevens isn't a starter, but could be the team's next best linebacker. His 20 tackles are second among the linebackers, as are his two sacks.
Tahj Bomar has nineteen tackles and a sack, while Dan Howell has added nine tackles, a sack and a 33-yard interception return to put the game away against UCLA.
Cornerbacks – #28 Roy Lewis, #6 Matt Fountaine
The cornerbacks are definitely the weak link for the Husky defense. Matt Fountaine and Roy Lewis rank third and fourth, respectively, on the Huskies in tackles, but a majority of those have come because they allowed pass completions to the receivers they were covering. Neither has deflected a pass this season and both have given up some big plays.
On the plus side for the Huskiers, neither has verbally called out any of the Trojan wide receivers at this point.
Safeties – #1 C.J. Wallace, #26 Jason Wells
CJ Wallace might be the Huskies' best defensive player. He can run, hit and cover – all the things you want from a safety. He leads the team with 48 tackles and is the main guy holding that defensive secondary together.
Jason Wells is a junior college transfer who will probably be picked on by the Trojans. He's totaled 24 tackles and a pass deflection this season.
The secondary as a whole has been thrown on quite a bit this season. Of the 88 first downs the Huskies have allowed, 56 of them have come through the air. They're also allowing 235 passing yards per game. The Trojans' passing game should have little trouble moving the ball against this secondary.
Huskies on Special Teams
Kicker – #14 Michael Braunstein
Michael Braunstein had a solid start to the season, hitting two field goals against Oklahoma and converting all 16 of his extra point attempts. But he then missed two field goals against Arizona (one from just 22 yards) and you always have to worry about confidence when that happens.
On kickoffs, Braunstein has forced seven touchbacks on 23 attempts.
Punter – #17 Sean Douglas
Sean Douglas has a booming leg and is one of the best punters in the conference. He is averaging 46.9 yards per kick this season, aided by 82 and 81-yard punts at Oklahoma. A byproduct of his strong leg is that many of his punts are able to be returned. The Trojans haven't looked all that spectacular in the punt return department, so we'll see if this is the week they can get something done.
Kickoff Returner – #28 Roy Lewis
Roy Lewis is averaging fewer than 18-yards-per-return on ten kickoffs this season. His long for the year is a 31-yarder. Though, if Troy Van Blarcom continues to kick everything out of the end zone, I'm just going to stop listing the opposing kick returner.
Punt Returner – #83 Marlon Wood
Last season, Marlon Wood took the opening kick deep into Trojan territory, but this season, he's strictly returning punts. To date, he hasn't done anything too flashy (a 8.3-yard average on 15 returns), but the skill and ability are there, waiting to break a long one.
While the Huskies have definitely been the surprise of the Pac-10 (besides how badly Stanford is playing), coming into the Coliseum and leaving with a win is not very likely. Though the Trojans have played two relatively close conference games in a row, both came on the road in the season's first month.
The possible return of Sedrick Ellis could have the Trojan defense back at peak form and while the offensive line hasn't been the dominant run blockers of the last few years, they've been outstanding when it comes to pass protection. That bodes very well for the Trojans, as they will undoubtedly put that Husky secondary to work.
On Saturday, we should begin to see the decline of some of the inexperienced mistakes the Trojans have been making as these first-year starters develop a consistency familiar to all national championship contenders.