Excitement is building for this year’s version of the Men of Troy.
How will the Trojans defense look after losing so many starters? How will Aaron Corp do replacing Mark Sanchez? Or will Matt Barkley become the first freshman quarterback to start for Pete Carroll?
These are but a few questions the Trojan faithful find themselves asking as the 2009 season looms in the near future.
As the excitement of the upcoming season builds and high expectations reach a crescendo, is too early to think about next year?
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but what will the Trojans look like in 2010?
Let’s look ahead to the 2010 Trojan roster, starting with the offense. Who will be missing and who may be the possible replacements for this years crop of future NFL stars?
This is the group that will take a big hit after 2009.
Jeff Byers, who is on many Preseason All-American lists and who was granted a sixth year of eligibility due to missed time from injuries, is gone for sure.
Also gone is Alex Parsons, the other starting guard, who is a senior and will also play on Sundays.
Kristopher O’Dowd, USC’s starting center and probably the best at his position in the country, is also most likely gone. Although he is only a junior this year, it would be difficult count on him coming back for his senior year.
Charles Brown, USC’s starting tackle, also a senior and also a possible first day NFL pick will be gone as well.
Butch Lewis, a starter for much of last season is a redshirt junior, so he may be back, but there is a good possibility that Tyron Smith, a freakishly athletic sophomore, will start in his place anyway. If Lewis does leave, he too will play on Sundays.
Meanwhile, Nick Howell and Zack Heberer, both expected to see a lot of playing time, are a senior and redshirt junior, respectively. Both of these guys are talented and will make a NFL team somewhere.
However, despite these massive losses, the Trojans are pretty well stocked for 2010.
Tyron Smith, who will be one of the best offensive linemen in USC history barring injury, is back.
Martin Coleman, a 6’5”, 315-pound beast, is a redshirt sophomore this year, so he, too, will be back at guard.
Also expected to vie for a starting position is 6’4”, 300-pound Khalid Holmes, brother of Alex, who is a very talented guard.
Matt Kalil, brother of Ryan, and a very capable tackle in his own right, and is only a redshirt freshman. Expect big things from him in 2010.
Michael Reardon, a 6’5”, 285 lb redshirt sophomore will be counted on to take over for O’Dowd in 2010. The coaches love this guy.
This group gives the Trojans plenty of reasons to smile in 2010, but keep in mind, the 2009 offensive line could be the best in recent history, and with the Trojans' success over the last decade or so, that is saying a lot.
The 2010 offensive line has a ton of potential, but they will be even better in 2011.
Look for the offensive line to be a focus of this year's Trojan recruiting efforts.
This is another group that may take a hit after the 2009 season winds up.
Damian Williams, the transfer from Arkansas and a guy who has made many Preseason All-American lists, is a redshirt junior, as is David Ausberry. The 6’4”, 235-pound possession receiver is being counted on to move the chains.
USC’s home-run hitter, Ronald Johnson, who will be the primary deep threat for Aaron Corp, is a true junior and, with a big season, may not return.
These three guys represent the group that will be seeing the most playing time at receiver for the Trojans.
However, much like the offensive line replacements, don’t shed too many tears for the Trojans.
Redshirt freshman Brice Butler had a great spring and earned playing time in the fall.
Brandon Carswell, a redshirt sophomore, has great hands and runs precise routes while Jordon Cameron, a 6’5”, 220-pound wideout, is athletic and catches everything that comes his way.
Depending on the way 2009 unfolds, Travon Patterson, a redshirt junior and one of the fastest players on the team, may or may not return.
One way or another, the receiver group will have a new look in 2010. Highly-regarded Kyle Prater is a prep stud that the Trojans are recruiting hard and they have their eyes on several others.
Anthony McCoy, all 6’5”, 250 pounds of him, will take his skills to the NFL next year.
However, Blake Ayles, a true sophomore and the number one prep tight end two years ago and Rhett Ellison, son of former Trojan great Riki Grey, are both back, and they are both extremely talented.
Xavier Grimble, the No. 1 highschool tight end in the country and Randall Telfair, the prep No. 4 tight end, have both given USC verbal commitments.
Despite the loss of McCoy, this group will do just fine in 2010.
This group is a fairly easy read, except for true freshman Matt Barkley. Will he redshirt or not? Either way, Barkley will challenge Aaron Corp for the starting position, whether it is this year or next. Some may disagree, but this kid is a superstar just waiting to happen.
Aaron Corp, who I believe will start this year, has the ability to be great.
He brings speed to the quarterback position, something that the Trojans have never had in the Pete Carroll era.
Couple that with the fact that Corp rarely makes silly mistakes with the ball, and it is easy to see why Carroll and company are fired up by Corp.
Corp is a redshirt junior, who, unlike Mark Sanchez, will be back next year.
Mitch Mustain, the All-Everything high school recruit who transferred from Arkansas, remains an enigma. He has all the tools, but just can’t seem to pick up the offense.
Nonetheless, Mustain too will be back next year too when becomes a senior.
Jesse Scroggins, a southland quarterback who is rocketing up the prep rankings, has just been recently offered a scholarship by the Trojans.
However, he has also been offered by Florida and others, so it remains to be seen whether or not Scroggins wants to come in and challenge Barkley.
This group will be tough to figure because there are so darn many of them.
What we know for sure is that Stafon Johnson, who is the probable starting tailback in 2009 and a senior, is gone for sure in 2010.
C.J. Gable, a redshirt junior, and Joe McKnight, a true junior, may or may not be back, depending on either the level of success or frustration they each experience.
They both want the ball, but as long as Pete Carroll continues to employ the rotation he has used since Reggie Bush and Lendale White left, neither will get it to their satisfaction.
Allen Bradford, coming back from a serious hip injury, is a redshirt junior and likely to return, while Marc Tyler, still rounding into form after breaking his leg in his senior year of high school, will be redshirt junior next year. Tyler has a chance to be special.
Curtis McNeal, a true freshman who reminds many of Darren Sproles, had a great spring and will be heard from in 2010.
Fullback Stanley Havili, quite possibly the best at his position in the nation, is a redshirt junior and may or may not be back.
Adam Goodman, his unsung backup, is a senior, so D.J. Shoemate, another stud at fullback and only a sophomore this year, will man the position capably regardless of whether Havilli comes back or not.
The running back group will be strong next year and perhaps even more defined as the stable thins out. Look for either Gable or McKnight to enter 2010 as the leader in this position, but as we all know, Pete Carroll makes his starters earn it, so we will see.
As usual, the Trojans will stock the NFL in the 2010 draft like they have done almost every year since Pete Carroll arrived at USC.
And, as usual, the Trojans probably won’t miss a beat. In fact, given the fact that the young defense will come back pretty much intact, 2010 could and should be a year that the Trojans thrive.
Hope always spring eternal in Trojanland. Even if we are getting are getting ahead of ourselves.