Morning drills and throwing sessions are well under way at the University of Southern California. After a disappointing 2010 season, and with the NCAA sanctions appeal still pending, the Trojans are looking to move on and change their fortunes in 2011.
With a tremendous recruiting class that was ranked in the top-5 by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com, the Trojans are definitely stocking up on the blue chip talent. This, together with some very talented—and now tested—young players makes the Trojans an extremely interesting team this season.
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley returns to lead a very talented offense. The defense, now with a year of experience under Coach Monte Kiffin's defensive scheme, will certainly be improved. But with a roster full of so much young talent, there are certainly a few returning Trojans that we should keep our eye on.
Nickell Robey - Standing at just 5 foot 8 inches, Robey is one of the smallest DB's in the Pac-12. But, what he lacks in size, he more than make up for in heart and determination. Robey was a starter in the USC secondary as a freshman, and highlights of him covering Freshman All-American Robert Woods only show his growth and improvement. He has a great deal of talent, and his work ethic definitely makes him one to watch. Look for him to become a bigger contributor to the defense, especially with big plays. Robey has the potential to be most like Ronde Barber.
D.J. Morgan - A guy that was somewhat overshadowed coming in to 'SC, mostly due to a knee injury his senior season, Morgan is a legitimate big-play threat. Easily the fastest member of the Trojan football team, Morgan made it into a few games last year as a special teams player. With world-class speed, an easy-going attitude, and a body built for Pac-12 type play, Morgan stands to have a tremendous season. While there is certainly competition at the top of the running back food chain, Morgan will definitely receive some serious looks. Morgan has the potential to be just like Reggie Bush, which makes a lot of people cringe and worry, but this is for all the right reasons.
Xavier Grimble - USC's best and biggest kept secret is eventually going to leak out. The No. 1 rated tight end prospect coming out of high school, Grimble is indeed an X-Factor for the Trojans. At 6 foot 5 inches, with an athletic 265 pound frame, Grimble is a beast. He will be impossible to guard, especially when covered by a safety or linebacker. He has tremendous size and hands, but it is his speed which sets him apart from the rest. Look for Xavier to quickly become one of the best tight ends in the country, if they choose to keep him at that position. Should he stay though, there is no doubt who he compares to. With his talent, Grimble has the potential to be like most like Tony Gonzalez, and that's no joke.
Robert Woods - Woods already had himself a tremendous first-year campaign. He is a quiet guy off the field, who chooses to make all of his noise on Saturdays. The Freshman All-American is just getting started. His speed is world-class, and his ability to run combination routes and double moves makes him a threat anywhere on the field. Opposing defenses were able to slow Woods down in the second half of the season, but with a few months of strength training and conditioning behind him, Woods is poised to be the next great receiver at USC. Look for a special season and career from Woods, who is a legitimate Heisman candidate if he keeps improving. His style of play, along with his natural talents and his work ethic give him the potential to be most like Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers.
Chris Galippo - A highly-touted linebacker coming out of high school, Galippo has dealt with his share of injuries so far. However, few question his overall talent, and even fewer question his desire to improve and succeed. Look for Galippo to slowly start to take over the leadership of the defense, much like other 'SC linebackers have done in the past. If he can stay healthy, Galippo can be another big-play guy for Kiffin's defense. He definitely has the heart, desire, and work ethic to be player much in the mold of a guy like A.J. Hawk.