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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden