College Football News ranks the different units from around the country. USC makes a splash on defense but not surprisingly they struggle to get a lot of recognition on offense. I am not going to comment on this too much as this is pretty accurate from an SC standpoint. This is more for just general knowledge.
2008 CFN Unit Rankings
When linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing decided to forego the NFL Draft for one more year, it ensured that the Trojans would have one of the nastiest back sevens in the country. Not only are the two seniors All-America-caliber, but the secondary is sensational. Safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays are among six players with starting experience. Even without current pros Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson, the defensive line will be just fine. On the outside, speedy Everson Griffen is good enough to make folks forget about Jackson. On the inside, senior Fili Moala is about to shed his anonymity while making a strong push for All-American honors and a spot in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.
Mark or Mitch? The battle between Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain to replace John David Booty at quarterback isn’t exactly over. Sanchez got the nod in April, but he got hurt and is questionable for the start of the season. Mustain has done nothing but impress the staff since transferring from Arkansas. Whoever gets the ball will have gobs of speed and explosiveness surrounding him. After getting a taste of action as a freshman, RB Joe McKnight is on the tarmac and preparing for national lift-off. The receivers are a year older, with the size, athleticism, and addition of former Hog Damian Williams to dominate opposing secondaries. The line loses four starters, putting the onus on sophomores Kristofer O’Dowd, Butch Lewis, and Zack Heberer to perform like vets.
SC has had the Pac-10’s best pass defense two years running. There’s more than enough returning talent and former prep All-Americans to run that streak to three, although a few more interceptions would be nice. In Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays, USC is home to a couple of hard-hitting enforcers with All-America potential. If Josh Pinkard is even close to where he was a couple of years ago, no program in the country will be able to match them at the position. Sure to get picked on early, Shareece Wright needs to give opposing quarterbacks a reason to not look to his side.
Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson were two of the first 28 picks in April’s draft, yet the Trojans are going to be more than fine up front. Fili Moala and Everson Griffen are the new headliners of a front wall that’ll rely on a deeper group of players this fall. The Trojans are so quick and strong up front, opposing backs are rarely able to get to the second level. Of course, not that things get any easier there. Moala is going to make himself plenty of money this fall, and Griffen and Kyle Moore are big enough on the outside to be valuable assets in run support.
Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are a pair of NFL-ready linebackers still hanging around the Pac 10. Their presence will help ease the transition of Luthur Brown or Kaluka Maiava into the lineup, while giving the program a couple of intimidating defensive players who opposing coaches will have to account for every Saturday. Led by Maualuga and Cushing, this group has a nose for the football and a gift for fighting through blockers to get to the ball carrier. With the front seven that USC will be rolling out this year, the only tackles the safeties and corners make will be on completed passes.
Even after Emmanuel Moody transferred to Florida, there isn’t a school in the nation that features four backs as talented as the ones in this backfield. The Trojans are basically injury-proof, meaning even if one or two players went on the shelf, the running game would survive. As is the case with many USC positions, Pete Carroll will be forced to do a juggling act to be sure that all of his gifted runners are well fed throughout the season. It’s going to be a challenge. While Joe McKnight is the star-in-waiting, Stafon Johnson might actually finish the year with the most carries.