Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 USC Football

It's been awhile since I've written anything here. I was tempted to do this season write-up a few days but I figured I should enjoy the holidays a little longer.

2010 for the Trojans was marked with very few highs and many, many lows. First and foremost the USC program finally paid for the sins of former head coach Pete Carroll. With no chance at a bowl berth for this year and next USC lost some hope, the chance to play two extra games and highly-regarded OL Seantrel Henderson.

New coach and familiar face Lane Kiffin brought his father Monte and Ed Orgeron as assistants. Also a solid recruiting class were reasons for optimism. The returning players were good but certainly not top ten material. Oregon and Stanford were on paper (and it turns out, in reality) better teams than USC. Realistically the Trojans were looking at a four-loss campaign.

While the spring brought some optimism, most notably RB Dillon Baxter and Shareece Wright playing shutdown corner, DL Christian Tupou suffered a season-ending injury and highly-touted freshman, WR Kyle Prater, would likely redshirt.

Due to a lack of depth (thanks to poor recruiting and sanctions) Coach Kiffin opted for no tackling through the fall as a way to prevent injuries. The lack of physicality turned out to plague the defense all season, as poor tackling and missed assignments were commonplace.

Close games would define the season, as game-ending field goals against Washington and Stanford would prove to be crushing losses while nail-biting wins against Arizona State and Arizona kept the year from sinking. A tough loss to a rejuvenated Notre Dame and blowout losses to Oregon State and Oregon wrapped a five-loss campaign that many Trojan fans didn't see coming.

Matt Barkley had a season that I'd like to think of as two steps forward and one step backward. He was noticeably... err, less fat this year and his improved physique showed in increased mobility and less fatigue late in games. Matt grow into the unquestioned leader. He developed a great rapport with breakout WR Robert Woods during the first half of the season. As for the bad Barkley continued to make poor decisions, needlessly trying to whistle the football into tight spots. And the injury he suffered against Oregon State obviously took its toll, forcing him to miss the Notre Dame game as well as play ineffective against UCLA. Overall he had a good season and should grow into one of the Pac-12's best if not the entire nation in 2011.

Allen Bradford was the best Trojan RB -- that is, when he wasn't fumbling the ball. Marc Tyler had his moments and looks poised to anchor the running game next year. Dillon Baxter failed to live up to his YouTube hype and had a subpar freshman year with only a few highlights. Character issues were also a problem with Baxter, which reminded more than a few SC fans to be wary of a speedy backs from the San Diego area. Meanwhile Stanley Havili continued to be a rock for the Trojans from the fullback position; running, catching and blocking whenever his number was called up.

Robert Woods was by far the most pleasant surprise of the season. During the first half of the year he exploded with 200-yard receiving games and impact plays in the return game. Look for #13 to be Barkley's go-to-guy next year. Ronald Johnson had a good senior year that will unfortunately remembered for his dropped ball on what would have been a game winner against Notre Dame. Brandon Carswell and Brice Butler chipped in as decent third receivers while the tight end position was a wasteland between Rhett Ellison and Jordan Cameron.

The offensive line was a mess early on but gelled as the season progressed. Center Kris O'Dowd was the anchor and in my opinion the lone consistent positive. Right tackle Tyron Smith is leaving early for the draft and is projected as a first round pick. That blows my mind and deceives what my eyes have seen, but anyway. Michael Reardon, Khaled Holmes, Matt Kalil and Butch Lewis round out an inconsistent group.

Speaking of an inconsistent group, woo let's talk about the defense.

Safety TJ McDonald took over for incumbent Drew McAllister and proceeded to constantly hit high and out of bounds. Shareece Wright did a great job punching the football loose from ball carriers but didn't live up to the preseason hype as a cover man. True freshman Nickell Robey had his ups and downs but ultimately served a reliable defender who gained a ton of experience that will serve well down the road. Torrin Harris whiffed a lot.

The linebackers were bad, probably the worst group on the entire team. Malcolm Smith did cause several key turnovers and played the pass well. But neither Devon Kennard nor Chris Galippo could hold onto the MLB position. Galippo came on strong on special teams and in the second half but not before committing a boneheaded personal foul penalty that proved fatal against Stanford. Michael Morgan also failed to make a big impact.

The defensive line wasn't much better save for Jurrell Casey, who's leaving school early. Wes Horton had a couple nifty sacks. Nick Perry is an awesome pass rusher but rarely played for some reason.

The kicking game sucked but it's obvious assistant head coach John Baxter is working his magic on the special teams units. The coverage team is no longer aimlessly wandering around and the line breaks through during kick blocks. That was obvious during the game-winning extra point deflection against ASU. Even with limited scholarships Lane Kiffin is committed to bringing in a punter AND kicker for the upcoming season. And with Robert Woods poised to be USC is definitely going places and making a difference in the game of hidden yards.

USC is set to meet with the NCAA in January in regards to possible reductions in sanctions. The Trojans, led by new athletic director Pat Haden, have made huge strides to comply to the sometimes inane and archaic NCAA rules. Lane Kiffin has brought in a slew of JUCO players as the team prepares to hunker down to future scholarship reductions.

The future remains fuzzy for USC football. Only time will tell if the Trojans can regain their status as top contenders.

No comments: