The true leaders are the guys that step up when the coaches aren't around, and that is exactly what Barkley has done during the players-only workouts this offseason. Add Ronald Johnson, Allen Bradford and Shareece Wright to that category as well.
We've learned that Kyle Prater and Robert Woods didn't become elite college prospects on talent alone. Both freshmen have sought out the advice of the veterans, and have routinely been two of the last players to leave the practice field this offseason. Prater has followed the lead of senior Ronald Johnson, who is arguably the hardest working player on the team, and Robert Woods has shown the same drive since arriving on campus.
We've learned that Lane Kiffin will continue to be portrayed as the villain by the national media. Justified or not, this is a narrative that has drawn in readers and viewers, so you can be sure that it will be around for quite some time. Now, I'm not saying the guy is a saint, but I have never seen anyone get more negative press for accepting a better job.
We've learned that the assistant coaches this year are much better than last year. This is no knock on the past regime either, it's a compliment to the talented, veteran staff that Lane Kiffin was able to put together under some difficult circumstances. It doesn't get much better than having the NFL experience and recruiting ability of Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Kennedy Pola and Joe Barry.
We've learned that the Trojans remain largely united despite sanctions and other distractions. While other schools are able to pursue USC's juniors and seniors like free agents, as part of the NCAA sanctions, most players have made it clear that they intend to stay and work toward winning 13 games in 2010.
It may seem like there has been a defection every other day, but when you step back and look at this crazy situation that the NCAA has created, the players should be commended for staying so focused on the upcoming season.
We've learned that former high school teammates Allen Bradford and Shareece Wright could be the two most talented players on the team. Both players have had their share of hard times at USC but they are now poised to be breakout performers in 2010.
We've learned that freshmen don't look like freshmen anymore. The current class arrived at USC in midseason form. Christian Thomas and Randall Telfer both have big athletic frames, George Uko looks like a junior along the defensive line, Xavier Grimble has tree trunks for legs and the entire secondary class is a very well built group.
We've learned that depth will be a concern for USC in 2010. The roster is still full of talented players but the Trojans remain thin at offensive line and linebacker. The losses of Jordan Campbell, Travon Patterson, Malik Jackson, Glen Stanley and Seantrel Henderson have also added to the depth issues.
We've learned that Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott has the conference headed in the right direction. Scott wasn't able to put together the first super conference (Pac-16), but he got close, and proved that he is one of the new power players in college football in the process. Next up, enhance the Pac-10's national exposure with a better TV contract.
We've learned that while recruiting will definitely be more difficult with the recent NCAA sanctions, the new staff has already proven that they can still attract the top prospects to USC. Kiffin, Orgeron and the staff have picked up commitments from Marcus Martin, Kent Turene and others since the NCAA decision, while keeping the rest of the class solid in their commitments. This is very positive news for USC fans.
We've learned that the NCAA needs to reevaluate their decision to allow USC's juniors and seniors to transfer without sitting out a year. As Lane Kiffin said at Pac-10 Media Day, the NCAA has created a free agency situation that allows other schools to contact players into the season. The role of the NCAA should be to limit distractions for student-athletes, not create them.
We've learned that Dillon Baxter's productive spring wasn't a fluke. The elusive freshman has continued to display his versatility during the offseason workouts by making plays in the passing games as well as on the ground. Look for Baxter to provide big plays in a variety of ways this coming season.
We've learned that there really is no such thing as an offseason at USC. The "offseason" started with Pete Carroll heading back to the NFL and the hiring of Lane Kiffin to replace him. Then the NCAA sanctions, some transfers and a whole lot of rumors. Fast forward a few weeks to the release of Seantrel Henderson and the hiring of Pat Haden. And top it off with the hiring of Kennedy Pola, a lawsuit and the release of Glen Stanley - just in time for Pac-10 Media Day.
We've learned that the defensive line coached by Ed Orgeron could be the strength of the team in 2010. Just like the good ol' days, Orgeron has a lot of talent to work with along the defensive line with Jurrell Casey, Nick Perry and Armond Armstead ready to make the next step in their development.
We've learned that Ronald Johnson is ready to assume the role as Matt Barkley's go-to wide receiver. After missing five games in 2009 with a broken collarbone, the hard working senior has had an impressive offseason, and is starting to look like one of the top pass catchers in the Pac-10. The passing game is expected to be more aggressive in Barkley's sophomore season and Johnson should benefit from the new approach.
Ronald Johnson is poised to have a big senior season for the Trojans.
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