USC Football: 5 Trojans to Be Excited About Not Named Matt Barkley
Behind the undeniable talent that is quarterback Matt Barkley lies a team full of Trojans hungry for a national championship.
Although the quarterback is the most recognizable player on the team, he has to get help from his teammates on both sides of the ball in order for him to elevate his game.
As USC heads into 2012 with the highest of expectations, it will be more than just a blond-haired Barkley leading the Trojans to the promised land.
Let's take a look at five players whose impact will be crucial to their success this season.
Dion Bailey (LB)
Not only did Dion Bailey tie for the team lead in tackles last season with 81, he did it while playing in only 10 games.
He was named 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and made his presence known every time he stepped on the field.
Three times last year Bailey had at least 10 tackles in a game. During their 30-9 victory over Cal in Week 6, Bailey's tackle numbers were down as he only collected eight, but he picked off two passes in the game and established himself as one of the most dangerous linebackers in the game.
In 2012, Bailey will help lead a very strong linebacker core along with Hayes Pullard. It's scary to think how good he was a freshman, and there's no reason he won't be that much better as a sophomore.
Marqise Lee (WR)
USC had arguably the strongest wide receiver combo in all of college football last year with Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
Lee finished 2011 with 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns and was one of Matt Barkley's favorite targets all year long.
He started his freshman season a bit sluggish with only 13 receptions in his first four games, but finished the year with 39 catches in his last four games.
His most memorable performance was when he caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in USC's 50-0 throttling of UCLA.
It's highly unlikely that Lee will start 2012 on a slow pace. He's got a year under his belt and has a Heisman Trophy candidate throwing him the ball.
Nickell Robey (CB)
What Nickell Robey lacks in height, he makes up for in pure speed. The 5'8'' defensive back will be one of the most vital pieces to the USC defense in 2012.
The native Floridian finished last season with 63 tackles, including his monster game against Stanford where he finished with 10 tackles and an interception.
Robey finished with 16 more tackles in 2011 than he did in 2010, and assuming he can stay healthy, there's no reason his numbers won't improve this year.
Considering he's only as big as most high school juniors, Robey has made a name for himself at USC and the rest of the Pac-12 knows it.
T.J. McDonald (FS)
Safety T.J. McDonald finished 2011 third on the team in tackles and led the Trojans with three interceptions; not to mention he's a Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy candidate.
McDonald's junior year was an eventful one as he made the 2011 All-Pac-12 Team and won USC's Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year.
He started out 2011 with eight tackles against Minnesota and ended with 10 tackles and a pick against UCLA. As one of the most consistent players on USC's stacked defense, McDonald should have just as much success in 2012.
As dangerous as the Trojans are on offense, McDonald is one of the best players for them on the other side of the ball.
Robert Woods (WR)
If you thought Marqise Lee had unbelievable numbers in 2011, Robert Woods' stats are good enough to make opposing teams sick.
In seven of his 12 games last year, Woods went for over 100 yards, including his 14 grabs for 255 yards and two scores against Arizona.
Although he's fueled by Matt Barkley and Lee on the other side of the huddle, Woods has the talent to win the Biletnikoff Award.
He was the only unanimous pick to make the 2011 All-Pac-12 Team, and assuming his ankle is at 100 percent by the time the season begins, he should finish the season as the best wide receiver in the nation.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see him put up at least 10 catches and 150 yards every game next year.