Scouting the Pac 10: USC

Hot off the heels of sharing the national title in 2003, USC now looks to win the championship outright this season. Head coach Pete has recruited a talented group of players which will impact the NFL draft over the next two years. This team possesses superstars on both sides of the ball yet also includes prospects who will be role players at the next level.  

Offensively it all starts and ends with quarterback Matt Leinart.  A good athlete with an NFL arm, Leinart has a quick release and drives his passes downfield or zips the outs.  Displaying good footwork setting up in the pocket, he senses pressure and is consistently on the same page as receivers.  Remaining poised. Leinart does a nice job looking off the safety and will go to the safe underneath route if nothing is available down the field.  Very accurate, he hits targets in stride and is usually on the mark with his passes.  Leinart does stare down  primary targets yet he still a top-notch prospect that will be an early draft pick whenever he declares his eligibility.  Though suspended this season for off-the-field incidents, tackle Winston Justice is still a highly rated prospect who will also be an early draft choice in the future.  A big bodied lineman who possesses both explosion and strength at the point of attack, he jolts defenders and easily controls opponents once engaged in a block.  Quickly getting his hands up Justice stay square, gets movement from run blocks and is a solid position lineman who protects the quarterbacks blind side.  Not light on his feet, he lacks the fluid footwork and has limited skills on the second level.  Justice must now mature as an individual and make football a top priority if he's to be the very early draft selection he is capable of becoming.  Keep an eye on tight end Alex Holmes, an efficient pass catcher and solid prospect who was highly rated moving into the 2003 seasons before being sidelined the entire year with injury.  

On defense, Shaun Cody is an athletic lineman that can be used at several different positions up front.  Playing with good leverage he works his hands, gives effort getting off blocks and gets a good amount of momentum going up the field.  Fluid, Cody can change direction or redirect to oncoming ball carriers.  Getting off the ball with a nice first step, he rushes the passer with speed and works to keep his feet moving up the field.  With a tall slender build, Cody gets wired in blocks once engaged at the point of attack yet has the frame to add more bulk.  Athleticism and versatility combine to make Cody a potential two gap lineman or left defensive end at the next level.  Playing next to Cody is Mike Patterson, a hard working and deceptively strong defensive tackle.  Patterson quickly gets off the ball with a nice first step, works to keep opponents off him and is tough to move off the point.  A competitive defender, Patterson possesses a burst of closing speed and displays good lower body power.  Touching the tape at just over 5'11", Patterson has difficulty lined up against bigger opponents and will be engulfed at the point of attack.  His explosion and ability to play with leverage makes him a perfect fit as a three technique lineman and a legitimate first day pick next April.  Linebacker Matt Grootegoed is a fearless defender who throws his body around the field and works hard to make the play.  Quickly keying then diagnosing the action he plays like a man possessed and flies around the ball.  Vastly undersized, Grootegoed is slow getting through the traffic and will be taken out of the action by opposing fullbacks.  Grootegoed's best possibility at the next level would be as a strong safety in the defensive backfield where he can add depth and we fully expect him to be a special teams demon in the NFL.  Safety Jason Leach does an outstanding job reading the quarterback from center field and works well with teammates.  Displaying straight line speed he is a hard-hitting run defender who wraps up at the point of attack and gives top effort.  Lacking lateral speed, he would be best in a zone system where he is not asked to cover much ground.  Finally, talented yet oft-injured Kevin Arbet returns for sixth season and the speedy corner possesses the tools to play at the next level.

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