USC Football: 7 Reasons the Trojans Will Improve over Last Year
While the SEC has won the last six BCS National Championships, many believe that if there is any team in the country that can snap that streak, it is this year's USC Trojans team. There is talent all across the board with this team, as it returns 17 starters from last season, including nine on the offensive side of the ball.
While depth in certain areas may concern many Trojans fans, there are a lot more reasons to believe that this team will compete for a title this season.
With less than two months away from kickoff, here are a few reasons this year will be kind to your USC Trojans team.
No Longer Banned from the Postseason
After everything USC has been through the last two seasons as a program, an 18-7 combined record in the last two seasons isn't that bad. The problem is that the Trojans have been banned from postseason play each of those seasons, preventing them from participating in a bowl game.
Now that USC is eligible, it already makes this season more successful than last year before they even step onto the field. Ladies and gentlemen, the Trojans are back in the college football spotlight.
One thing that continues to haunt this program is the scholarship reductions. But that only seems to hurt the amount of players that can join the team, certainly not the quality of players coming in. USC put together a terrific 2012 class of 15 players; many of those recruits were considered at least 4-star players.
With concerns on the defensive line, a player like defensive end Leonard Williams could step on the field right away with his size and athleticism. Linebacker Jabari Ruffin is another player who could make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. And even with the depth at wide receiver, Darreus Rogers will have his opportunities, especially with his size at 6'2" and great hands.
One of the things that is always exciting about college football is the new blood that comes in every year. USC has a lot of that, and many of them will make an impact their first year on campus.
Best WR Corps in the Country
Despite the talented players USC picked up in the recruiting class, the Trojans already had the best group of wide receivers in the country. Robert Woods has already caught 176 passes for over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in just two seasons.
Marqise Lee had a monster freshman season, hauling in 73 receptions for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is one of the most explosive players in the country and will likely have an even more productive sophomore year.
Victor Blackwell is the player to watch this season, as he has great size at 6'2", terrific hands and 4.4 type speed. And of course George Farmer and De'Von Flournoy add even more depth to a position that was already loaded.
There may be a couple of concerns with this USC team in 2012, but wide receiver is certainly not one of them.
The Trojans defensive line is arguably the biggest concern heading into fall camp, but the secondary is without question the strongest unit on this defense. It is loaded with depth, playmakers and of course experience.
Safety T.J. McDonald is the leader of this unit and will look to build on his All-America selection and 67 tackles and three interceptions. The other safety is Jawanza Starling, who is famous for returning a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown in the victory against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
At cornerback, the Trojans are blessed to have a true shutdown corner in Nickell Robey, who earned All-Pac-12 honors last season for his efforts.
The depth then comes in from seniors such as Isiah Wiley, Tony Burnett and Brian Baucham, and junior Torin Harris.
Much like the wide receiver position, the secondary is not an area that will concern the coaching staff heading into September.
Special Teams Is Not an Issue
We have seen way too many times where a great team seems to lack the simple things, like good special teams. We saw last season Alabama could not consistently make field goals, and it cost them an undefeated season and almost a chance to play for the national championship.
USC does not have to worry about that, as Andre Heidari will return and handle the placekicking duties. He nailed 88 percent of his kicks, including every one of his extra points and 15-of-17 field goals. The Trojans had the best field-goal percentage in the Pac-12 and the fourth best in the entire country.
As far as punting is concerned, USC was ranked 11th in the Pac-12, but Kyle Negrete wasn't that bad at all. He averaged 40 yards a kick and put 19 of those attempts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Many overlook the special teams part of the game, but having a reliable unit can make all the difference in the world in a championship run.
Matt Barkley Is on a Mission
During the first two years of his career I didn't quite know what to make of quarterback Matt Barkley. Of course he was talented, but his completion percentage was never where it should have been and he made many bonehead decisions with the football. Last season, he shut everyone up, completing 69 percent of his throws for over 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns, while limiting his interceptions to just seven.
He is the best quarterback in the country, and would have been a first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, if he left early. But the senior came back for only one reason, and that was to win a national championship and go in the record books as one of the greatest Trojans ever.
With an NFL prospect like this leading the way and all the talent around him, I wouldn't be surprised if his goals are fulfilled in 2012.
The talent on this roster is good enough to compete with any team in the country. But playing in the watered down Pac-12 makes things that much easier for the Trojans. Sure, they will have to play teams like Notre Dame, Oregon and a much underrated Cal team, but all three of those games take place in Los Angeles. USC will have to travel to Stanford early in the year, but there is no more Andrew Luck to worry about.
The Trojans will be favored in every game this year, as there aren't too many games to worry about on this cupcake of a schedule. If the Trojans play the way they are capable of playing, this season will certainly be better than last year's, as USC will return to the national championship for the first time since 2005.