Scouting the Pac 10: USC 

Coming off back-to-back National Championships, the Trojans look to make it three in a row starting in September. Bringing back their essential talent from the offensive side of the ball, the program will again have a major impact on April's NFL draft. 

Many were surprised Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart bypassed the NFL for a senior season on the college field.  Potentially the first overall selection last April, Leinart is now the early favorite to be the initial choice in next year's draft.  A cognizant passer who plays with incredible intelligence, Leinart has a great feel for the position and command of the offense.  Always in control of the situation, he makes good decisions and consistently goes to secondary targets if the primary pass-catcher is covered.  Throwing with solid fundamentals, Leinart consistently looks down the field, searching for the open wide out and will take a hit in order to get the throw off.  And while he does not possess the huge arm nor is a quarterback that can escape the rush, this lefty has enough going for him to be the centerpiece of an NFL franchise.  The Trojans have a pair of outstanding running back prospects with complementary styles.  LenDale White is a big, bruising runner on the inside who easily adjusts off the initial hit and breaks several tackles during the course of a single run.  Seeing the hole, he displays good footwork in a small area and has the ability to squirt through the small creases in the defense.  Working hard White runs with authority and get as much out of every carry as possible.  Not elusive, he cannot create and is not a back that beats opponents in a foot race.  That is a problem for Reggie Bush, an undersized yet versatile prospect dangerous whenever the ball is in his hands.  Running low to the ground, Bush displays the ability to immediately cutback and make defenders miss.  Possessing excellent open field running skills, he is also a game impacting return specialist and a skill player that produces catching the ball.  Lacking the size to be every down ball handler, Bush looks more like a third down/situational back.  Both White and Bush are first day prospects.  Tight end Dominique Byrd is a solid pass catcher who makes plays into the secondary, presenting mismatches for defensive backs.  Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, Byrd possesses both soft and strong hands while also displaying the ability to contort for the errant throw.  Making the acrobatic reception, he offers natural receiving skills yet gets minimal results as an in-line blocker.  Pre-draft workouts will be all important for his final grade next April and good forty times will put him into the first day.  Receiver Steve Smith is consistent yet not outstanding in any aspect.  A late round prospect, he is a fifth wide out at the next level.  The team has a trio of offensive lineman who grade highly starting with returning tackle Winston Justice.  A well-built blocker with terrific strength at the point of attack, Justice was a dominant force as a sophomore before sitting out last season due to a student conduct violation.  Should he pick up where he left off in 2003, Justice has first round abilities.  Filling in for him last year was Taitusi Lutui, another king-sized blocker with great power at the point of attack.  An overwhelming force, Lutui quickly gets into blocks and destroys opponents.  More of a small area blocker, Lutui does not play with much balance off the line of scrimmage and is limited in space.  Built for the strong side, there is a good chance he will be used at guard this season with the return of Winston Justice.  A solid post season at right tackle could help him find a spot in the draft's first day.  Finally sophomore Sam Baker is an outstanding prospect for the future.  Displaying solid footwork sliding out off the edge, Baker is a cognizant lineman with the physical skills necessary to stop speedy edge rushers.  Strong at the point of attack, he easily steers defenders from the action and already stands as one of the nations top underclassmen prospects at left tackle. 

Defensively the program lost a lot of talent to graduation and early defection to the NFL draft, yet brings back several solid prospects.  Pass rusher Frostee Rucker plays with great balance, gives effort and displays speed off the edge or out to the flanks.  Quick changing direction, Rucker is fluid making plays down the line of scrimmage and can also be used in space.  Possessing barely adequate size, Rucker looks like a middle round selection that will be a situational rusher at the next level.  Linebacker Dallas Startz is a decent athlete with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline.  Quickly diagnosing the action, Sartz remains disciplined in coverage and is a middle round choice with potential on the strong side.  Safety Darnell Bing is a sudden defensive back that can deliver the knockout blow and displays great explosion.  Disciplined in centerfield, Bing reads the quarterback, stays with the action and keeps the play in front of him.  Quickly planting on the throw, he has a burst of closing speed and makes a lot of plays on the ball.  At times, Bing takes side angles to the ball carrier and would rather knock down rather then wrap out, which results in broken tackles.  He has top 75 potential but must show more consistency as a senior in '05.  Finally cornerback Justin Wyatt is a cognizant cover man with a good feel for coverage.  Quickly picking up assignments, he immediately positions himself to defend the throw.  More of a nickel a cornerback, he is potentially a late round choice. 

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