USC Trojans Football: Depth Chart Monitor

Rick McMahanSenior Writer ISeptember 4, 2012

USC Trojans Football: Depth Chart Monitor

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    With the Trojans first test, such as it was, in the rear view mirror, USC now turns it's attention to quarterback Ryan Nassib and his high powered Syracuse offense.

    After last Saturdays 49-10 demolition of Norm Chow's Hawaii Warriors, the men of Troy will travel east to face head coach Doug Marrone's Orange in a game that will go much further to reveal the state of USC's defense than the glorified scrimmage completed last weekend.

    To be certain, Nassib, who played very well against USC in the Trojans win at the coliseum last year, will present far more challenges to Monte Kiffin's defensive crew than the Warriors and if they respond well, it can serve as a springboard for the following weeks game against Stanford.

    But are the Trojans ready for their first road test?

    What is the state of USC as they prepare to travel cross country to face Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey?

    This slide show will look at some of the depth chart issues facing the Trojans while also focusing on possible movements in the two and three deep, injuries and a quick analysis of Syracuse, who was a hard luck loser to Northwestern on Saturday.

    Will the Trojans be 2-0 after this week?

    Here are some things to ponder in answering that question.

Injury Report

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    In addition to the win itself, another very good thing to come from the Hawaii win for the Trojans is that they stayed healthy doing it.

    Though linebacker Dion Bailey was on crutches after the game, he is expected to play against Syracuse.

    More mysterious is the saga surrounding Andre Heidari whose "injury" prompted three failed two point conversion efforts against the Warriors but who later returned to kick both a field goal and later extra points.

    Still lingering is the status of defensive end Wes Horton, middle linebacker Lamar Dawson and cornerback Torin Harris.

    Those three didn't play against Hawaii and while Horton wasn't missed too much because of the inspired play of others whom we will meet in the next slide, the absence of Dawson (to some extent) and Harris (a lot) impacted USC on defense.

    Harris was particularly missed as Norm Chow did not throw to Trojan cornerback Nickell Robey's side of the field after finding success against USC's other corners, Anthony Brown and Brian Baucham.

Chart Climbers

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    One of the revelations to come out of the Hawaii game was the play of the young defensive line group.

    A major source of concern for the Trojans going into the game, the D-line was bolstered by true freshman Leonard Williams who had a sack, a fumble recovery, tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

    Equally impressive was junior college transfer Morgan Breslin, whose unending motor resulted in a sack and two tackles for loss along with constant pressure in the Warriors backfield.

    In addition, Greg Townsend Jr. had a nice game as well.

    Of particular note is the status of linebacker Dawson whose absence prompted Lane Kiffin to note that inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, who slid into the middle as a replacement for Dawson, "is further along at middle linebacker than Dawson" as reported by Pedro Moura of ESPN.

    Kiffin's comfort level with Pullard in the middle was eased by the play of redshirt freshman linebacker Anthony Sarao who had a very nice game also.

    All of these players should bump up the depth chart.

Falling Trojans

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    As of this writing, none of the polls have been released for this week but is there any objective college football fan out there that doesn't think Alabama should be ranked No.1?

    Though the Trojans didn't do anything to remove themselves as the leader of the pack in the AP Poll, the Crimson Tides demolition of top ten Michigan made a solid case, at least early on, that they are the best team in the nation.

    With a razor thin margin placing USC at the top of the heap in the AP's preseason poll, that lead should diminish with the 'Tide having made their case for the title of No. 1.

    But don't worry Trojan fans, it is still very early...

Alabama May Be Great but the Trojans Are Still the Favorite to Win BCS Title

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    As impressive as Alabama was in dispatching Michigan this week, apparently not everyone is convinced about the Crimson Tides' superiority.

    That's because at least one betting website still has the Trojans as the solid favorite to win the crystal trophy in January.

    Although betting odds on the BCS championship game vary from site to site, USC is in the mix in most of them but like preseason polls, does it really matter in September?

Look Ahead to Syracuse

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    With some time to kill before the Trojans took on Hawaii, I turned on the TV to scout USC's next opponent, Syracuse.

    And as a Trojan fan, I didn't like what I saw.

    That's because Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib is the real deal.

    As mentioned before, Nassib had a very nice game against the Trojans last year in the coliseum and he is even better this year.

    If the cornerbacks opposite Nickell Robey don't step up dramatically from the Hawaii game, Nassib will burn them.

    After coming up just short against Northwestern, Syracuse should have the MetLife stadium rocking for USC's first road test of 2012.

    The good news is that the Orange is susceptible to the pass and Matt Barkley and his crew should be able to make them pay for that.

Conclusion

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    That the Trojans still need a lot of work should come as a surprise to no one, least of all their head coach.

    Going into the Syracuse game, USC will need to establish a running game and build on the fine start that the defense established against Hawaii.

    And they will have to do it on the road against a Syracuse team that will be hungry after losing a heart breaker against Northwestern.

    While few expect the Trojans to stumble against Syracuse, when you are a high profile team vying for national attention, just winning will not be enough.

    They will have to do it in style and that means holding down a hot quarterback who is in complete command of his offense.

    For Lane Kiffin, his focus will be getting his young players ready to contribute for the rest of the year.

    As reported by ESPN's Johnny Curren, Kiffin stated, “I think there were 27 new guys, so I think you saw our dedication to playing more guys."

    But that dedication will not only have to translate to wins but they will have to be of the glossy variety.

    Because when your No. 1, winning alone isn't good enough.