Greenspan: LB Devon Kennard - The Pac-10 chase comes down to three teams: USC, Oregon and Oregon State. If the Trojans want to win the conference, it means stopping LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers. Kennard clearly has the physical gifts to be an NFL player, the thumper capable of punishing running backs and shutting them down. If he develops the necessary instincts and recognition, the sophomore could single-handedly carry the Trojans into the BCS.
Carden: CB Shareece Wright – Wright is arguably the best, and definitely, the most important player on the defensive side of the ball. In Wright, the Trojans have a possible lockdown corner and one of the most talented defensive backs in the Pac-10. The senior from Colton has the potential to become a truly special player and finally reach the potential that we have seen glimpses of in the past. Without Wright, the inexperienced secondary would be a major concern against the talented quarterbacks in the conference.
Most important offensive player
Kevin Carden : WR Ronald Johnson - It was a hard choice between Allen Bradford and Ronald Johnson on this one, but in the end I believe that Ronald Johnson is the most important offensive player on the 2010 roster. The senior wideout is the clear cut No.1 receiver on a team that has a lot of talent but no true No.2 at this point. Johnson is Barkley's favorite target, can stretch the defense with his speed and a lead by example guy that has the respect of his teammates. Without Johnson, the passing game could have major issues.
USC will win the Pac-10 if…
Greenspan: The defense forces 28 or more turnovers and freshmen develop into major offensive contributors. - Dillon Baxter and Kyle Prater clearly benefited from their time on campus and should be impact players this season. If the Trojans can get something from those two and perhaps one other newcomer, say a tight end or another receiver, to compliment Johnson, Havili and Allen Bradford, they'll score more than enough points to hang with any offense in the conference. Pete Carroll's best defenses never had issues producing two takeaways per game. That's a reasonable target, especially if the defensive line wreaks havoc by getting to the quarterback consistently.
Carden: Matt Barkley continues to develop and the Trojans avoid major injuries. - Barkley has shown great improvement this spring and has been much more consistent than when he first arrived on campus last spring. If he continues to make progress with his decision making and can limit interceptions then he should be one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-10. With a lack of depth at some key positions the Trojans will also have to avoid any major injuries to get back to the top of the Pac.
USC will struggle if…
Greenspan : The linebackers get manhandled again. - Remember seeing Oregon State tight end Joe Halahuni get down the hashes uncovered? Remember seeing Jeremiah Masoli and James get seven yards down the field before someone laid a hand on them? That can't happen again. The linebackers have to make plays, against both the run and pass, for the Trojan defense to rebound from last season's debacle.
Carden: The linebackers don't play better than they did in 2009 or the young secondary struggles. - The move of Devon Kennard to linebacker has brought some size and toughness to the group, and they have looked solid this spring, but the questions will remain until they show they can stop a strong running attack during the season. As for the secondary, they have a lot of talent, but are still young and inexperienced, which could be trouble early in the season.
USC cornerback Shareece Wright is poised to have a big senior season.
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