The USC Trojans were 8-5 in 2010 (finishing third in the Pac-10), but only three plays and a time clock operator from an 11-2 season.
Not bad for a team with a new coaching staff and only 71 scholarship players after NCAA sanctions allowed junior/senior players to transfer without sitting out a year.
The Trojans had the eighth toughest schedule in the nation according to the highly respected Sagarin ratings, and that included seven road games.
Defense, especially against the pass, was the teams biggest weakness.
USC redshirted most of their top ranked 2010 recruiting class. One exception, WR Robert Woods (65 rec, 792 yds, 6 TDs), became the Pac-10 freshman offensive player of the year.
The Trojans lose 17 seniors and three juniors, including some key players. These include FB Stanley Havili, RB Allen Bradford, RB C.J. Gable, WR Ronald Johnson, WR David Ausberry, C Kris O’Dowd, OG Butch Lewis, OG Michael Reardon**, OT Tyron Smith*, TE Jordan Cameron, DT Jurrell Casey*, LB Malcolm Smith, LB Michael Morgan, CB Shareece Wright, K Joe Houston, and K Jacob Harfman.
*All Pac-10 first team juniors entering the NFL draft **Bypassed senior year due to injuries
USC’s 48-man, two-deep depth chart returns 27 players and 14 starters (six offense, eight defense) including DT Christian Tupou, a former starter who was injured in 2010.
But, the Trojans face the toughest football sanctions since the SMU death penalty including 30 scholarship reductions over three years and a two year bowl ban. USC is appealing half the scholarship losses and one year bowl ban, and those penalties are delayed during the appeal.
The NCAA appeal hearing was held on Jan. 22 and a decision is not expected until after the Feb.2 signing day, so USC will be able to give out at least 20 scholarships in 2011 plus the nine early enrollees who have already signed. This will give USC about 80 scholarship athletes, but some will redshirt.
Any college except USC would find it very difficult to recruit given the NCAA sanctions. But, the Trojans currently have another top five recruiting class per Scout and Rivals including 17 commitments for 2011 plus the nine early enrollees who have signed and started classes. And the Trojans are not done.
Given the 2010 weaknesses and the key players leaving the team, what are the top positional needs to fill in 2011 and how is USC doing? All of the star ratings are from Rivals.