Silas Redd - Penn State
Many prognosticators in the Pac-12 have predicted USC will be unbeaten in the conference. Some even have predicted USC will beat Oregon twice in its march to the national championship game.
In its path lay teams who, though underdogs, have other ideas than being the doormat to a USC march to the championship. Some teams might have even ventured to predict their contest with USC will be close, and some might have even ventured into the land of hopefulness by thinking it will be possible to beat USC.
The weaknesses of USC are apparent. A weak defensive line with only one starter returns, and the other, Devon Kennard, is injured with a torn pectoral. However, it is not the defense that the these teams are licking their chops over. It was the fragile nature of the USC offense.
One offensive weakness was their inability in the red zone to punch it in ranking 114th in the nation with seven rushing TDs. The meager 2.9 yards a carry inside the red zone left them 115th in touchdown percentage.
Teams like Utah feel that with healthy players and playing at the altitude of Salt Lake and in front of a home crowd, perhaps the outcome that beat them last year, a single play, will be different this year. Utah with Jordan Wynn healthy will be looking to put up some points just as it did last year, only more of them. The skitters of playing USC and in the Pac-12 are over now.
If last year is any indicator, Utah with Wynn should be able to put up far more than 17 points. Utah fans are hoping for Wynn to spank the USC defense with at least 24, or maybe as much as 35 points. Utah is at home; the air is thin; Wynn is healthy, and the timing of both will be critical.
Washington with Steve Sarkisian at the helm now has his house half full of the players he has recruited, and again, USC will be on the road. Washington's revamped defense this year is untested, but the offense is stronger than ever.
Syracuse, however, has no such hopes having gone 1-6 in a very weak Big East and 5-7 overall last year. Syracuse, likewise has USC at home, but the two teams just don’t match up. USC is bigger, faster and loaded with one of the best recruiting classes in football.
Stanford does have hope at No. 7 in some preseason polls and beat USC last year 56-48 at USC. Now for the bad news. No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck is not at Stanford, and Matt Barkley, who may be this year's No. 1 draft pick is still at USC.
Among those with little hope are Hawaii, California, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame, who has been pegged by some to go only 6-6.
And then there is Oregon, a preseason No. 4 pick.
All teams know Matt Barkley cannot beat them all on his own, though he is a sure first-round NFL draft choice and perhaps the top pick. There is no other quarterback in the Pac-12 matching up to Barkley. It will be hard to find another first-round pick among them.
One of the weaknesses in the USC game may be defense. Some claim it is depth with limited scholarships at 75. Others claim it is the running game of RB Curtis McNeal who had good numbers, but just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. Enter running back Silas Redd, who transferred from Penns State.
Let’s look at the four keys that Silas Redd must bring to USC for them to go undefeated.
Matt Barkley - USC
Silas Redd is coming off a 1,000 yard plus year at Penn State. He is 5’10”, 209 lbs. and is not only fast, but he is strong with good feet and good moves. He is the perfect speedster that USC needs to pick up the pigskin and run the opposition ragged.
Redd had seven rushing TDs in the red zone and a rushing average there of 3.9 yards a carry. Against opposition that included national champion Alabama and nationally ranked Nebraska and Wisconsin, Redd ran for 1,241 yards with a 95.5 yards per game average and 5.1 yard average every time he touched the ball.
The USC running game with Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler combined for over 1,500 yards, but it just couldn’t find the end zone running. Barkley tried to make up for it by throwing the ball into the end zone 23 times. Barkley’s 39 total touchdowns led the team, but teams are gearing up for him this year more than ever.
If Redd can punch the ball into the end zone from the red zone at USC, the potential "Redd Zone" success he brings over from Penn State will push USC from being a good team, to being an unbeatable team.
Redd needs to repeat his seven rushing TDs from the red zone and perhaps behind the USC line, will add a couple more. This will take the pressure off of Barkley, slow up the defensive rush just a bit and give better dimension inside the 20 to an already very good team.
Now, add Redd to the USC offensive mix to create a balance that takes some of the heat off of Barkley, and it expands the kinds of coverage opponents will have to prepare for. Redd's potential behind the USC line begins to really affect the game plan of other teams.
Last year he ran for five consecutive 100-yard games. He ran for 703 yards in October before being hurt. He averaged 18.8 carries per game for the whole season. He was the running offense for Penn State.
Even after being hurt, he still ended up as a second-team All-Big Ten honoree. That kind of performance with Penn State won’t need to be repeated at USC. USC had a running game that produced over 1,500 yards, so Redd will not have to be the whole show. He will be able to play a role and provide balance both to the running game and depth to the team.
At USC he may only need to carry the ball 12-15 times a game. But he may be able to contribute in other roles even more than that. USC already has a balanced attack with the running game it already has along with the potent passing game it possesses. Minimizing Redd's use make him even more effective than he was at Penn State.
He is big enough to block and protect Barkley, fast enough to hit the line and a good enough athlete to make others around him better.
USC has two warm-up games at home before its first road game at Stanford. At Stanford is where the worth of Redd must be proven on the field. If there is a downside to Redd, it is that in some of the big games at Penn State the defense was able to target him and keep him from his average 100-yard game.
Last year against Alabama he carried the ball 22 times, but he only had 65 yards and averaged only 3.0 yards a carry. At Wisconsin, the last regular season game, he had 12 carries for 66 yards, and in the bowl game with Houston he had 14 carries for 53 yards.
Some may say the departure of Joe Paterno and the disruptions that followed caused the team to lose its balance, and the opposition was able to target Redd and close him down. Such will not be the case at USC.
Redd will need a 100-yard game, and 18-20 touches in the big games to make the kind of contribution everyone is expecting from him and to fulfill what he is capable of doing. If he can play to his form of last year and get a 100-yard game and two touchdowns in the big games, USC will be on a roll that no team can stop.
The Redd who had mediocre games against Alabama, Wisconsin and Houston is not the Redd USC will be relying on when at Stanford, Oregon, the Pac-12 championship game or the Rose Bowl.
Redd needs big plays and a big performance in big games.
Lane Kiffin - Head Coach USC
USC has nine offensive starters returning from last year. They have been the core of the offense and have been bearing the brunt of the sanctions imposed because of Reggie Bush.
They have gone through the dark years and are now ready to take the Trojans all the way to the BCS championship. Redd is the newcomer. It is doubtful anyone is willing to give Redd the golden key to the front door.
Redd will have to earn that key. His work ethic and performance will have to speak for itself. Many are predicting the addition of Redd will improve their running game and will take the pressure off Barkley. Redd is exactly what the Trojans need to beat Oregon and the rest of the field.
But Lane Kiffin does not see it as a problem. Kiffin, in a radio interview, told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd that he does not expect running back Silas Redd to struggle with his transition from Penn State to USC. Kiffin said the coaching staff would be taking extra time “around the clock” to prepare Redd for the September 1 opener at home against Hawaii.
Kiffin added that Redd’s familiarity with a college system should help speed the process, and Redd would be in the Trojan training camp Monday.
Redd may need to contribute in new ways coming out of the backfield for USC. He caught only nine balls for 40 yards last year.
Not an overwhelming feat, but it shows he can be versatile, and that along with his other manifest talents may allow him to earn his own starting spot.
Redd is a great open-field runner and is fast. The speed factor with the running game USC already has will make them a potential potent ground game team in addition to the Barkley Air Show.
If the addition of Redd is the formula to beat Stanford and Oregon this year, then it will be true for every other team USC will face. The more the Utes, Ducks, Beavers, Devils and the others see Redd, the harder it will be to capitalize on those hopes of beating USC. As for the weaknesses everyone was talking about, like the weakened D-line, those will soon be forgotten.
Predicting is a hazardous occupation. But as a writer you can’t sit around and read all of these stats, run some numbers, calculate the wind, weather and personalities and not make an armchair pick. So here it goes:
Redd will add depth and talent to an already talented USC team, and he will make a difference running for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As for USC?
They will go 13-0 and head to a BCS bowl game and the chance for another national championship.
After all, Barkley is up for the Heisman, and seven of the previous eight winners, including Reggie Bush, who ended up being forced to vacate the title, played in the BCS national championship game. It will be tough for Barkley to win the Heisman trophy without those wins.
The impact of Redd may just hand Barkley that trophy to go along with a national championship. That is the reason USC wanted him.