USC Football: Power Ranking the Trojans' Top 10 Players for the 2014 Season
The 2014 season is almost upon us, and with it comes the high aspirations of a Trojan team that is extremely talented but also woefully thin on the depth chart.
With a starting lineup that may be as good as any in the conference, health will be a key issue if USC plans to return to the upper echelon of college football this year.
This slideshow will take a look at those top players and rank them in order of their value to the Trojans as well as their individual abilities.
Some of the criteria that went into formulating this list are based on statistics, while others are purely subjective.
Who are the top 10 Trojans of 2014?
Here is one person's opinion…
No. 10: Randall Telfer (Tight End)
With the unfortunate loss of Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick for the season due to academic woes, the availability of Randall Telfer for the tight end unit is paramount to the success of Steve Sarkisian's offense in 2014.
A redshirt senior, the 6'4", 260-pound Telfer brings experience and pass-catching talent to an offense where tight end is a featured component of Sark's hurry-up style of play.
Because this unit is lacking depth, Telfer is crucial and therefore occupies the No. 10 spot on this list.
No. 9: Antwaun Woods (Nose Tackle)
It took a while, but big Antwaun Woods now looks poised to make some serious noise from his nose tackle position.
At 6'1", 325 pounds, the redshirt junior is an unmovable force on the inside, and his ability to stuff the run will allow Leonard Williams (more on him later) the opportunity to wreak havoc both with penetration as well as at the line of scrimmage.
Also, with the loss of Kenny Bigelow to a knee injury earlier this summer, Woods becomes even more valuable to a defensive line that can't afford many more injuries.
No. 8: Max Tuerk (Center)
Given the uncertainty of how the offensive line will be constituted once the season starts, it is quite possible that I am placing Max Tuerk too low on this list.
Incredibly versatile, Tuerk can excel anywhere along the line, and his placement at center is a testimony to just how special the 6'6", 285-pound lineman is.
Tuerk will be the key to how well the offensive line plays this year, so his inclusion on this list is truly a no-brainer.
No. 7: Josh Shaw (Cornerback)
When Josh Shaw decided to return for his senior year with the Trojans, a huge sigh of relief could be heard emanating from the direction of defensive backfield coach Keith Heyward.
A physical corner at 6'1", 200 pounds, Shaw is big enough to man up the opponent's taller receivers yet nimble enough to cover slot guys as well.
Providing steady leadership in the unit, Shaw is a critical component in shutting down the opponent's passing game.
No. 6: Javorius "Buck" Allen (Running Back)
After being buried on Lane Kiffin's bench for most of his Trojan career, Buck Allen burst onto the scene in the last half of 2013 and along the way provided outstanding production from his tailback position.
Averaging 5.8 yards per carry last year and finding the end zone 14 times carrying the ball, the nifty runner also proved to be a capable receiver coming out of the backfield with 22 receptions for 252 yards and another score.
It will be interesting to see what Allen can accomplish in a full season.
No. 5: Cody Kessler (Quarterback)
It took the departure of former head coach Lane Kiffin for Cody Kessler to come into his own at quarterback for the Trojans, but once that occurred, Kessler was pretty much a model of consistency over the last two-thirds of 2013.
Now entering this year as the undisputed starter, Kessler will be counted on to go to the next level if USC hopes to entertain thoughts of a conference championship.
And if that does indeed happen, Kessler will climb higher on this list of top Trojans of 2014.
No. 4: Hayes Pullard (Mike Linebacker)
Perhaps the most important player on USC's defense, linebacker Hayes Pullard isn't flashy but simply gets the job done.
A model of consistency, Pullard led the Trojans in tackles last year, and he will be counted on in 2014 to provide his typical solid play along with the steady leadership that inspires his fellow teammates.
Pullard will certainly be missed when he takes his considerable talent to the NFL next year.
No. 3: Su'a Cravens (Safety)
There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when young Su'a Cravens will occupy the top spot on a list like this, but not just yet.
Blessed with incredible athleticism and an even greater football acumen, Cravens is already a beast as a true sophomore, but with time, he will undoubtedly be a first-team All-American and a top-10 NFL draft pick.
In the meantime, Cravens will continue to terrorize any receiver with the temerity to venture into his side of the field as he crafts a legacy worthy of being mentioned in the same breath with Trojan legends such as Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu.
No. 2: Nelson Agholor (Wide Receiver)
The Trojans have sent a lot of premier receivers to the NFL recently, and the next in line is true junior flanker Nelson Agholor.
In 2013, Agholor became the go-to guy when Marqise Lee went down to injury, and for his trouble, Agholor led the Trojans in receptions and receiving yards.
Expected to turn pro after this year, the 6'1", 190-pound Agholor will have something to prove to NFL scouts before he takes his talents to the Sunday stage.
No. 1: Leonard Williams (Defensive Lineman)
The No. 1 player on this list will come as no surprise to those who follow college football in general and the Trojans specifically.
Big Leonard Williams is a 6'5", 290-pound preseason All-American whose freakish athleticism has landed him on most NFL draft prognosticators' top-10 lists for the 2015 draft.
After playing last year with only one good shoulder, Williams will enter this season healthy, and that is bad news for opposing offensive coordinators, who will spend many sleepless nights trying to game-plan a strategy to keep him from wrecking their offensive strategy.
Good luck with that.
As is the case with most lists of this type, worthy players are being left off in an effort to meet the 10-player limit dictated by the parameters of this slideshow.
Wide receiver Darreus Rogers, running back Tre Madden and left tackle Chad Wheeler are just a few Trojans whose inclusion on this list could be easily justified, and they aren't the only players USC will trot out in 2014 who could be considered.
Although USC will face depth issues throughout the upcoming year, its starting lineup is probably as talented as any found in the Pac-12 Conference, which is why a list such as this is so difficult to formulate.
Maybe next time a "top 22" list would be in order?
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