Five on the Rise

With the Lane Kiffin era underway, SCPlaybook looks ahead to the 2010 football season and lets you know which players on USC's roster are poised to have breakout years. Look inside to see which five Trojans are ready to step up and take their play to the next level.

SCPLAYBOOK'S FIVE ON THE RISE
Shareece Wright  -  6-0, 185  -  Cornerback
Analysis:  The talented cornerback looked ready to break out the past two years but a neck injury and academic issues stalled those plans. When at 100 percent, there are few cornerbacks that have the cover skills, physicality and swagger that Wright brings to the field. With a strong offseason, he will have the opportunity to be a true lockdown corner for Monte Kiffin's defense in 2010. His combination of cover skills and willingness to come up and make plays in the running game reminds us of former USC cornerback Will Poole, but with more upside. Don't be surprised if Wright emerges as one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-10 this coming season.

Jurrell Casey  -  6-1, 280  -  Defensive Tackle
Analysis:  You could make the argument that Casey had a breakout season in 2009 when he racked up 59 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries. But we believe the 6-1, 280-pound defensive tackle has the potential to develop into one of the better linemen in all of college football. Casey's ability to stuff the run in the middle as well as put pressure on the passer has drawn comparisons to former USC greats Mike Patterson and Sedrick Ellis. Casey still has a long way to go to match the production of those two Trojans, but he should benefit greatly from the return of fiery defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and could develop into USC's next difference maker along the line.

Allen Bradford  -  5-11, 235  -  Tailback
Analysis:  Much like Jurrell Casey, Allen Bradford made a big impact for the Trojans in 2009. But we think the best is still to come from the physical tailback from Colton High School. Bradford rushed for 668 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while receiving less than nine carries per game. With the departure of Joe McKinght and Stafon Johnson, Bradford will enter fall camp at the top of the depth chart and USC fans may finally get the chance to see what the 5-11, 235-pound tailback can do when given the ball 15-20 times per game. He brings an aggressive attitude to the offensive side of the ball to go along with his impressive combination of size and speed.

Malcolm Smith  -  6-1, 225  -  Linebacker
Analysis:  Malcolm Smith and the 2009 linebacker corps had the tough task of replacing arguably the best linebacker unit to ever take the field at USC. The new group was a bit undersized and inexperienced, and took their lumps in lopsided losses to Oregon and Stanford, but should be improved in 2010. Smith came on strong in the final stretch of the season and finished second on the team with 72 tackles. He had a career-best 15 tackles and returned an interception 62 yards for a score in USC's 28-7 win over the crosstown rival UCLA Bruins. As a junior, Smith racked up 36 tackles in the final three games of the regular season and is poised to be a senior leader for the defense this coming season.

Devon Kennard  -  6-3, 255  -  Linebacker
Analysis:  Devon Kennard was one of the top defensive ends in the country coming out of Desert Vista High School (AZ), and displayed his potential along the line, before finding a new home at strong-side linebacker late in the 2009 season. At 6-3, 255 pounds, he provided some much needed bulk to USC's undersized linebacker unit. Kennard recorded 34 tackles while learning a new position as a freshman and will benefit greatly from having a year of game experience under his belt. Regarded as one of the hardest working and instinctive young players on the team, Kennard has the skills and savvy to develop into a productive linebacker with the help of assistant coach Joe Barry.

Just missed the list: Nick Perry, Brice Butler and Matt Barkley


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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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