Fall Storylines

The first practice of Fall Camp begins this Wednesday, which means the college football season is just around the corner. Before the Trojans take the field for the opening kickoff Kevin Carden examines the top storylines for Fall Camp.

Is Mark Sanchez ready to lead the Trojans to a national championship?

The expectations are high once again for the Trojans in 2008, who are ranked second in the recently released USA Today Coaches Poll, and no single player will feel more pressure to perform than the new face of the program, Mark Sanchez.

Sanchez follows in the footsteps of three highly successful quarterbacks in Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty and will be called upon to uphold the high standards they established at USC.

Our Call: The good news for Sanchez is he is on a team that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball so he will need to be good, but not great, to lead this team to a BCS Bowl and possibly a national championship.

Sanchez is a natural leader that gained the respect of his teammates with his play and work ethic this offseason. The redshirt junior from Mission Viejo has all the physical tools, is comfortable in the system and has a talented supporting cast so we expect Sanchez to play at a high level in '08.

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Will the receivers step up in ‘08?

In 2007, the USC wide receivers were one of the most scrutinized and criticized units on the entire team. Patrick Turner and the receiving corps shined at times, but no single player developed into a consistent go-to receiver. With a year of experience and the addition of some new talent, can this group redeem themselves in 2008?

Our Call: With added experience and new playmakers in the mix, the receiving corps will be much improved in 2008. Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton will provide the veteran leadership, while Ronald Johnson and Damian Williams could emerge as true big play threats, something the Trojans lacked in 2007. Freshmen Brice Butler and D.J. Shoemate are talented enough to contribute this season and don't forget about David Ausberry and Travon Patterson.

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Which freshmen will emerge as immediate impact players?

Pete Carroll's willingness to play freshmen has become a big part of his ultra-successful recruiting strategy. When recruits commit to USC, they know they will get a legitimate chance to play as soon as they step on campus. This season, the Trojans have several incoming freshmen that could contribute at some point in 2008.

Our Call: A handful of players on the offensive side of the ball have the talent and maturity to play as freshmen. Tight end Blake Ayles could contribute in the passing game, as could freshmen wide receivers Brice Butler and D.J. Shoemate. Matt Meyer, and pretty much all of the offensive line recruits have the potential get in the rotation along the line.

Cracking the lineup on defense will be more difficult due to all the depth and experienced players, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. Two players that look ready to make an impact are cornerback T.J. Bryant and defensive lineman Armond Armstead.

Bryant has been tested by the older players during 7-on-7 and has more than held his own, while Armond Armstead already looks like he has been in the strength program for years and has shown good athleticism during offseason workouts.

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Can the Trojans fill the void left by the departure of Sedrick Ellis?

Last season, Fili Moala benefited from playing next to arguably the best defensive tackle in college football, Sedrick Ellis. This season the Trojans have the tough task of finding someone to replace the All-American defensive tackle. The Trojans will undoubtedly experience a drop off in production at the nose tackle position and Pete Carroll has acknowledged that it is an area of concern but how much of a drop off remains to be seen.

Our Call: Junior Averell Spicer and high-energy sophomore Christian Tupou will both see time at the nose tackle spot and get a chance to prove themselves this Fall. The pair won't have the impact that Sedrick Ellis did but should provide enough production to keep the tackle spot from being a glaring weakness of the defense.

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Can Allen Bradford become a regular contributor in ‘08?

After struggling to fit into the rotation at tailback in his first two seasons at USC, junior tailback Allen Bradford arrived this spring in the best shape of his career, ready to make his case for more playing time and did just that. After his tremendous performance this Spring, Bradford is listed as a co-starter along with Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight at the tailback position.

The question that remains to be answered is: can Bradford build on the success that he had this spring and become a regular contributor for the Trojans in 2008?

Our Call: Bradford is hungry, focused and ready to show USC fans that he deserved all the hype he received coming out of Colton HS in 2006. While he will most likely be fourth in the rotation to begin the season, the 5-11, 225-pound back could work his way into consistent playing time with a strong Fall Camp and start to the 2008 season.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden
at kevin@scplaybook.com


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