The Buckeyes play host to USC in Week Two of the upcoming 2009 season, and while they did lose numerous key players on both sides of the ball, they never seem to be rebuilding, but rather, reloading.
I've decided to take a closer look at this USC team and highlight a few players who may be called upon to fill some very big shoes this year in SoCal.
With Mark Sanchez heading off to the NFL, the main attraction at this year’s spring practice has been the quarterback competition. Senior Garrett Green, junior Mitch Mustain, sophomore Aaron Corp and freshman Matt Barkley are involved in a highly contested battle to be Pete Carroll's starting signal caller, and with good reason.
Even Matt Cassel, who never even played while at USC, is now a multimillionaire QB in the NFL!
With Patrick Turner also moving on to the NFL draft, that leaves the No. 1 receiver spot open. Damian Williams is in line to take that spot, followed closely at No. 2 by Ronald Johnson. The third and fourth slots are up for grabs.
Travon Patterson, David Ausberry, Brandon Carswell, Brice Butler, and Jordan Cameron will all be competing for playing time when the Trojans come out in three, four, or five receiver sets.
The starting receivers could affect who will be selected as the starting quarterback and vice versa. Communication and chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers is crucial, especially when a play breaks down and the quarterback is in trouble and needs to count on his wideouts to get open and/or sometimes come back to the ball.
If the receivers don't run routes well and create separation between themselves and the defense, or if they miss an audible, the success of the QB and the team can go right down the drain, so this is also a definite position of interest for the Ohio State defensive coaches.
USC, unlike Ohio State, does throw the ball to its tight ends, so they are worth mentioning.
Blake Ayles, Rhett Ellison, and Anthony McCoy will be joined by former defensive end Michael Reardon, who has just switched positions.
2008 starting center Kris O’Dowd will not practice with the team this spring. He is recuperating from shoulder surgery.
All-American candidate at left guard Jeff Byers will replace O’Dowd at center for spring practice. Khaled Holmes will battle with Zack Heberer for Byers’ spot. Heberer will also be competing with right guard Alex Parsons and possibly Thomas Herring and Martin Coleman, both recovering from injuries.
Butch Lewis, Nick Howell, and Matt Kalil will all go head-to-head for that right tackle spot. On the other side, Charles Brown and Tyron Smith will compete to see who will start at left tackle.
How well these front five protect a quarterback during spring drills and scrimmages could have much to do with Pete Carroll’s quarterback selection.
If it seems as though the offensive line is having too many breakdowns, then Carroll may select a scrambler like Corp or Green. On the other hand, if the offensive line looks strong, Carroll may go with a pro-style pocket quarterback like Mustain or Barkley.
Joe McKnight is the marquee name, but USC's backfield is full of talented backs competing for playing time. Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable, and Allen Bradford will be joined by underclassmen Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal.
While McKnight and Bradford watch from the sidelines this spring nursing injuries, the other four will certainly be giving their all to earn their spot in the hierarchy.
Take away Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, and that leaves quite a void to fill in its own right, but the Trojans will be trying to fill quite a few holes at just about every position, as most of the members from last year’s defense are showcasing their talents for the NFL draft.
Right now, the only spot that looks secure is strong safety with All-American Taylor Mays moving over from free safety. Josh Pinkard will compete with Will Harris for playing time at that spot.
Kevin Thomas most likely will start at one corner, with Shareece Wright likely to take the other side. No doubt T.J. Bryant and Marshall Jones will also be in the mix.
The stiffest competition on defense will be among the front four. Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey will fight over the nose tackle spot. Averell Spicer and Derek Simmons will compete for the three-technique spot.
At strong side defensive end is Armand Armstead going up against Wes Horton. On the other side it will be Everson Griffen taking on Malik Jackson. Hopefully both of them will cut down on those unsportsmanlike conduct penalties they ran up last year.
If Chris Galippo stays healthy, he could lock down the middle linebacker's slot. But Uona Kavienga might have something to say about that.
Look for Malcolm Smith and Jordan Campbell to go at it on the weak side, while Michael Morgan tries to hold down the strong side with pressure from Nick Garratt and Luther Brown, who can play all three linebacking spots.
Although most of these players were not starters last year, they still saw a good deal of action. Their experience, coupled with the need to compete, should guarantee another strong defensive performance this season.
I do believe the Buckeyes will match up favorably with the Trojans in this game, and I also believe the Bucks will win.
That being said, I do not take USC lightly at all. As I already stated in the opening, USC doesn't rebuild, but this is about as close to it as they have come under Pete Carroll.
However, that might not really mean all that much.
After all, remember that Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Rey Maualuga, and Brian Cushing, among countless others under Carroll, were all once newbie recruits just trying to earn a spot and make a name for themselves.
They were able to fill big shoes when given their chance, and that seems to be a recurring theme that has played out pretty well to date for the Trojans...
Here's a 2009 OSU/USC Preview video.
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