USC Football: 15 Young Trojans Who Could Become Legends
"Bounce back season."
Its a phrase that many around the USC program have been chanting for the last half a year.
Coming off two subpar seasons (by Trojan standards), USC and its fans will be looking for a return to glory in 2011.
But to do so, they will have to count on major contributions from their younger players because this is a young team to start with.
So who are these youngsters that the Trojans are placing so much faith in?
The fact of the matter is that most of them have yet to reveal themselves.
Oh, there are scintillating glimpses here and there and even some "can't miss" players who have already flashed greatness, but there are just as many who have yet to set foot on campus.
This slideshow will try to shed some light on these young (no older than redshirt sophomores) players who the Trojans will be turning to sooner rather than later.
Some on this list are already plying their trade for USC and others, will be here in the fall.
But all of them have chance to be Trojan legends.
No. 15: Antwaun Woods (Incoming Freshman)
At 6'1", 310 lbs and quick like a very big cat, Antwaun Woods will be as good as he wants to be.
The incoming freshman defensive tackle from Taft High School has all the tools to be dominant at the college level and the only thing that may slow him down is the fact that another young defensive tackle, also featured in this slide show, has a year of development on him (this player is also a fantastic talent but more on that later)
Nonetheless, Woods has the ability to be a dominant run stuffer early and if his pass-rushing skills, which can and will be developed, can match his ability to plug the line, the sky is the limit.
And to think, he is not even the best Trojan named "Woods" to be featured on this list.
No. 14: Amir Carlisle (Incoming Freshman)
One of Lane Kiffin's recruiting coups a couple weeks prior to the national letter of intent signing day was to pry a couple of heralded recruits from Pac-12 North member Stanford at the last minute.
One of those recruits was Amir Carlisle, who played his high school football right in Stanford's backyard.
Carlisle, a fast (4.43 forty) and powerful running back, came to the Trojans as a 4-star (as rated by Scout.com) recruit who uses that speed and good size (5'11, 190) to create mismatches once he breaks the first level of defense.
Carlisle also possesses a soft pair of hands and can be utilized in any set the Trojans choose to employ.
Look for him to find his way on to the field early in his career and when he does, expect him to shine.
No. 13: Anthony Sarao (Incoming Freshman)
As mentioned in the prior slide, USC snagged a couple of Stanford verbal commits late in the recruiting process.
Here is the other one.
Anthony Sarao is a hard-nosed linebacker with excellent pursuit abilities who hails from New Jersey and reminds some of the last linebacker the Trojans signed from the Garden State.
You might remember him as Brian Cushing.
Sarao, who goes 6"1", 220, comes to the Trojans in the fall as a 4-star recruit who stands an excellent chance of early playing time, given the Trojans depth woes in the unit.
While Sarao might not reach the lofty heights of Cushing, he has the ability to come damn close and if he does, USC and their fans will be very happy indeed.
No. 12: Victor Blackwell (Incoming Freshman)
When it comes to quality wide receivers, USC has a ton of them.
And in terms of celebrated incoming freshman wide receivers, Victor Blackwell isn't even the highest-rated of the 2010 class.
But when it is all said and done, he could turn out to be best of them all.
Blessed with excellent size (6'2", 195) and speed (4.45 forty), Blackwell does all of the things a great wideout has to do.
Unafraid to go over the middle and with breakaway speed, Blackwell just needs to tighten up his route running a bit to become a quarterback's best friend.
Oh, and one other thing. Blackwell loves being a Trojan.
An early commit, he never wavered on it and was always there to sing the praises of USC to other potential recruits.
Blackwell will crack into the starting lineup at some point and shine especially if a guy like Robert Woods or George Farmer Jr. is garnering all the attention.
No. 11: Greg Townsend Jr. (Incoming Freshman)
The parade of incoming freshmen continues with a heralded defensive end from Beverly Hills High School in California.
Greg Townsend Jr., whose football bloodlines run deep, is a tough and talented end who only needs to pack on bulk to be a dominant player for the Trojans.
He was athletic enough to play linebacker in some camps and that talent will come in handy when he gets that weight on.
Though he is undersized right now (240 pounds), he has the frame (6'4") to carry the extra weight he needs to put on without losing his trademark burst.
In high school, Townsend was double- and triple-teamed and still managed to exert his influence at will.
For the Trojans, he will get single man attention and when he does, he will excel.
No. 10: Kyle Prater (Redshirt Freshman)
The procession of true freshmen is broken with the inclusion of a very talented wide receiver who should be much higher up on this list.
Unfortunately for Kyle Prater, his marvelous athletic ability has been compromised by a series of injuries that have prevented fans of the men of Troy from seeing just how truly special he is.
With NFL size (6'5", 210), and a soft pair of hands, Prater, who came to the Trojans as a 5-star recruit, needs only to find his health in order to become a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
However, so far in his brief Trojan career, that physical well-being has been elusive.
But if he ever gets right, watch out.
No. 9: Aundrey Walker (Incoming Freshman)
As every Trojan fan knows, USC needs offensive linemen.
And with incoming freshman, Aundrey Walker, they got a big one.
Walker, whom the Trojans stole from Ohio State, is a mammoth (6'6", 355) guard whose size belies his nimble feet and athletic ability.
Though he is still somewhat raw, with that size, Walker will be given a lot of attention to mold him into a starter for the Trojans in a very depleted offensive line unit.
Expect Aundrey Walker to see the field early for USC and when he does, he will be a fixture there for his entire Trojan career.
No. 8: Cyrus Hobbi (Incoming Freshman)
This just in from the department of redundancy:
The Trojans still need offensive linemen.
Fortunately for offensive line coach James Cregg, he got a very good one in Cyrus Hobbi from Scottsdale, Ariz.
In fact, Hobbi is so good, many have him already penciled in as a Trojan starter as a true freshman.
Hobbi has good size (6'3", 285) but will need to pack on more weight to become dominant in college.
And he will do just that.
With a tremendous work ethic, Hobbi will benefit from a major college football weight program and with his athletic ability, he can be as good as any the Trojans have ever had.
No. 7: D.J. Morgan (Redshirt Freshman)
The only thing separating DJ Morgan from greatness is his physical well-being.
Probably the fastest Trojan of them all, Morgan combines that blazing speed with great open-field moves to become a home-run threat every time he touches the ball at running back.
Now if he can only find the durability necessary in a violent game.
Before tweaking a hamstring in spring practice, Morgan was one of the most dominant players on the field for the Trojans.
If his surgically repaired knee holds up, the sky is the limit for this redshirt freshman.
No. 6: Cody Kessler/Max Wittek/Jesse Scroggins
At some point in their Trojan careers, either Cody Kessler, Max Wittek or Jesse Scroggins will separate himself from the others and become the next big thing as a Trojan signal caller.
Although all of these talented quarterbacks are behind starter Matt Barkley, No. 7 could be gone after this year and if so, one of these talented trio will have to step and deliver.
The problem is who will that be?
To be certain, Scroggins has a leg up on Kessler and Wittek by virtue of his year with USC as a redshirt.
But all three of these quarterbacks have the skill set to shine, and the quarterback position, now more than ever, is in the national spotlight with a multitude of former Trojan gunslingers in the NFL.
So who will lead the Trojans after the talented Mr. Barkley departs?
How the hell should I know?
That's why I included them all in this slide.
No.5: Lamar Dawson (Incoming Freshman)
The Trojans, as stated before, need linebackers, and when Lamar Dawson, who hails from Kentucky, fortuitously fell into their laps shortly before LOI signing day, Lane Kiffin and his staff had cause for celebration.
Dawson, who was rated a 4-star prospect by Scout.com, has great size (6'2", 230) and speed to go along with excellent pursuit skills.
He is expected to push for playing time from the moment he steps onto the field for the Trojans in the fall and according to all connected with the program, big things are expected from him.
How large are those expectations?
He has been assigned the No. 55 jersey and those Trojans who have gone before him with that number include Junior Seau and Willie McGinest, among others.
Trojan fans can only hope that young Lamar can live up to that legacy.
No. 4: Dillon Baxter (Sophomore)
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Last year Dillon Baxter was a YouTube sensation, from whom big things were expected from as a Trojan running back.
Those expectations didn't quite pan out as Baxter fought maturity problems which saw his playing time diminished and also included a one-game suspension for accepting a ride in a golf cart from a wannabe agent.
However, the talent that Baxter possesses can't be denied and with those abilities, which include passing skills and great hands, the only thing that can stop Dillon Baxter from being great is Baxter himself.
Trojan fans hope that with age comes wisdom and along with that, he clears a path to the inevitable greatness that appeared to be his destiny not so long ago.
No. 3: George Farmer Jr. (Incoming Freshman)
The Trojans are already blessed with one of the most dynamic young players in the country in wide receiver Robert Woods (more on him later).
And as great as Woods is, there may be a younger wide receiver who is even better.
Who has the temerity to make this outlandish claim?
Why, none other than Robert Woods himself, and he happens to be an authority on the player in question.
George Farmer Jr., with whom Woods played at Serra High School, is faster and bigger than Woods, and Robert has no trouble admitting it.
The only knock on Farmer is that he sometimes loses concentration and drops balls that he should snag.
But if Farmer can ever shed that nasty habit, he can be as good as anyone who has played the position for the Trojans.
No. 2: George Uko (Redshirt Freshman)
Everybody knew that George Uko had talent when he signed with USC in their 2009 recruiting class.
That opinion didn't change when Uko was tabbed as the scout team defensive player of the year for the Trojans in 2010.
But when he showed up in spring and dominated everyone who lined up opposite him earlier this year, everyone took notice.
In fact, Uko, a five-star recruit, was so good that he has now displaced DaJohn Harris as the Trojan starter at defensive tackle.
Still only a baby, Uko's progress has been stunning and by the time he is ready to leave USC, it will be as a high first-round NFL draft choice.
No. 1: Robert Woods (Sophomore)
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Anyone who has seen Robert Woods play will nod in understanding when they see his placement as No. 1 on this humble list.
Already honored as a freshman All-American, Woods is simply unstoppable as both a wide receiver and as a kick returner.
This was after Woods caught 65 passes for 792 yards and averaging over 25 yards per return in 2010.
It should also be noted that Woods went through a three-game stretch where he was gimpy and was unable to contribute much.
With good health throughout the 2011 season, one can only imagine the numbers he will put up.
To be sure, Trojan fans are very happy Woods decided for the cardinal and gold coming out of high school.
But no one is as happy for that decision than Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley.
Though these 15 players made this list, they are by no means the only worthy young Trojans.
Indeed, a case could be made for many others both already on the USC roster and those that will be coming in the fall.
Included on this list of those left off but not necessarily the only ones are these current Trojans:
Anthony Brown (CB), Dion Bailey (LB), Nickell Robey (CB who should probably have made the list), Hayes Pullard (LB), Soma Vainuku (FB), Gio DiPoalo (OL), Kevin Graf (OL who also could have made the list), Xavier Grimble (TE), Christian Thomas (TE) and Randall Telfer (TE)
And here are some other really good incoming freshmen:
Javorious (Buck) Allen (RB), Junior Pomee (TE), Christian Heywood (DE), Marquise Lee (S/WR), and Tre Madden (LB)
The problem with lists that feature really young players is that they tend to get good really quickly.
In fact, so quickly that sometimes they can make prognosticators look really silly.
And for the Trojans sake, I hope that those who did not make the cut make this list look foolish in 2011.
And chances are that is exactly what happens.
It is inevitable.
Check out this terrific article by Bill N on the challenges Lane Kiffin have regarding Trojan recruiting: