BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 11-2; BIG TEN: 7-2
Won Rose Bowl vs. Michigan 32-18
LOCATION: Los Angeles, California
STADIUM: Los Angeles Coliseum (92, 000)
HEAD COACH: Pete Carroll
OVERALL: 65-12 (6 seasons)
AT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: 65-12 (6 seasons)
Even though we know it already, one cannot help but be impressed when reading, “5 CONSECUTIVE AP TOP 4 FINISHES, BCS BOWLS, PAC-10 TITLES, 11-WIN SEASONS” at the bottom of the Trojans 2007 media guide. It has gotten so good for the fans at So-Cal that a dismantling of Notre Dame, a Pac-10 championship, and an impressive Rose Bowl victory over Michigan was a so-so season for the Men of Troy. It is a far cry from the days of Paul Hackett, but with success also comes expectations. Fair or not, anything less than a BCS Title will be viewed as an underachieving year – they have become the New York Yankees of college football.
WHEN THE MEN OF TROY HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Steve Sarkisian (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil, Kyle Williams, Emmanuel Moody (Transfer)
Believe it or not -- there are question marks on this side of the ball. Yes, they still have nine high school All Americans in their stable of running backs, however have they found a go-to feature back? Last season the running back by committee concept did not work out (4.0-yards per carry). Question two: Which John David Booty will we see this season? Everyone remembers his 391 yards and four touchdowns against the Wolverines, but how about his mediocre performances sprinkled in throughout the season? Furthermore, he is expected to fall in line as a Heisman Trophy winner behind predecessors Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart while losing a pair of second round draft picks at receiver to the NFL. Along the offensive line, with right tackle Drew Radovich starting the season injured, they will have only two returning starters up front. Small, nagging injuries have plagued the Men of Troy in the preseason. Having said all that, left tackle Sam Baker is a potential top ten pick, wide receiver Patrick Turner leads a talented group and is more physically gifted than the record-setting Dwayne Jarrett and the plethora of skill players they possess is almost embarrassing.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Sam Baker (SR), 2) Patrick Turner (JR), 3) John David Booty (SR), 4) Fred Davis (SR), 5) Joe McKnight (FR), 6) Chauncey Washington (SR), 7) Drew Radovich (SR), 8) CJ Gable (SO), 9) Allen Bradford (SO), 10) David Ausberry (FR), 11) Vidal Hazelton (SO), 12) Hershel Dennis (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL:
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Nick Holt (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 10
KEY LOSSES: Dallas Sartz, Oscar Lua
On the defensive side of the ball -- there are ZERO questions marks. End Lawrence Jackson is coming off a sub-par junior season, but he is more than capable of emerging as a premiere pass rusher, with fellow senior Sedrick Ellis (DT) a proven commodity. Keep an eye on true freshman Everson Griffen (DE), an absolute beast. At the next level they have the top linebacking corps in America, good enough to challenge some NFL units led by MIKE Rey Maualuga, a sideline-to-sideline tackler whose motor never quits. Keith Rivers is the solid senior who can cover ground and always makes the play. On the other side, SAM Brian Cushing could challenge the ends as the team’s top pass rusher for the Trojans, a phenomenal athlete with a knack for getting behind the line of scrimmage. If linebacker is their best position, safety is not too far behind, with a trio of future pros manning the last line of defense. Returning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Taylor Mays has unquestioned range and better than ideal size (6’4”/225) at free safety, with strong safety Kevin Ellison a skilled performer in his own right. Pushing them for playing time will be Josh Pinkard who was the fastest of the group, but is coming back from an ACL injury. They can free-lance a bit, inasmuch as their corners can handle their own, with Terrell Thomas their best cover man.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Taylor Mays (SO), 2) Brian Cushing (JR), 3) Sedrick Ellis (SR), 4) Lawrence Jackson (SR), 5) Rey Maualuga (JR), 6) Terrell Thomas (SR), 7) Keith Rivers (SR), 8) Everson Griffen (FR), 9) Kevin Ellison (JR), 10) Josh Pinkard (JR), 11) Cary Harris (JR), 12) Chris Barrett (SR)
No respite for Troy this season – they may not face a top ten team all year, but they must take on many teams that could challenge them on any given Saturday. In September, they make trips to Nebraska, always a tough place to play, as well as Washington, who could be the surprise team in the Pac-10. They close out October with back-to-back road contests, at Oregon and Notre Dame, two more locals known for their home crowds. It gets even tougher in the month of November as they take trips to California, likely their most difficult game of the season, as well as Arizona St. who Dennis Erickson will have believing they can win. At home, they host Oregon St. and UCLA – the two programs that knocked them off last season. Not top heavy, but after the opener against Idaho the cupcake portion of their schedule is complete.
Consistency: Both of their losses last season, at Oregon St. and at UCLA came against non-ranked opponents. The Bruins limited them to just nine points in the regular season finale, while the Trojans garnered 86 yards on the ground versus OSU, 55 against UCLA and just 48 in the Rose Bowl versus Michigan. As mentioned above, Booty had his share of average game days, which he must cut down on this season. He completed only 12-of-25 passes against ASU and was 12-of-21 at cellar dweller Stanford, a pair of defenses he should have been able to thrash. While none of their opponents can match them mano-a-mano, that edge in talent did them no good in Pasadena or Corvallis last season and everyone will be gunning for USC, no one has a bigger target on their chests.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
They are on every cover and atop everyone’s preseason poll and rightfully so, as Pete Carroll may have assembled a group with more raw talent than has ever been collected in the history of college football. Are the freshmen ready to make championship type contributions? Can veterans such as Booty handle the pressure as well as those on the National Championship teams did? No one knows for sure, that is why they play the games, however there is no hype surrounding this squad. They are in a word – legit.