2005 RECORD 12-1(8-0 in Pac-10)


KEY RETURNEES DELawrence Jackson (Jr.) Led team with 10 sacks in '05 DB Josh Pinkard (Jr.) Mostexperienced member of a young secondary can play both corner and safety LT SamBaker (Jr.) Trojans will run behind him when they need crucial yards

BIG MAN ON CAMPUSAs a freshman from New Brunswick, N.J., he suffered from homesickness and acase of the drops; two years later Dwayne Jarrett has matured into the mostdangerous member of the offense. Using his 6'5" frame to ward offdefenders, he caught 91 passes for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns last seasonand made acrobatic catches look routine. He'll lend a sense of security towhichever inexperienced quarterback winds up starting.

Replacing a pairof departed Heisman winners, quarterback Matt Leinart (2004) and tailbackReggie Bush ('05), could be even harder than coach Pete Carroll imagined. Theplayers most likely to fill the voids have been hindered by injury,ineligibility and legal problems during the off-season, leaving the Trojansmore unsettled in the backfield than they have been since 2003, when Leinartwon a three-way battle to succeed Carson Palmer.

That might makeUSC appear vulnerable after winning or sharing the national championship in2003 and '04 and losing in the title game last year, but as usual Carroll hasplenty of young, talented players waiting in the wings. If he can keep a few ofthem on the field, the Trojans should be in the hunt for yet another title.

John David Booty,a junior, was the favorite to take over at quarterback until he underwentsurgery in March to repair a bulging disk in his back, forcing him to miss allbut the first day of spring practice. That gave highly regarded redshirtfreshman Mark Sanchez a chance to make up ground-until he was arrested on April26 after a female USC student accused him of sexual assault. (The Los AngelesCounty district attorney's office decided not to file charges.) Sanchezfinished spring practice, but the more experienced Booty is healthy andexpected to start the Sept. 2 opener at Arkansas. "The thing that motivatedme through rehab was the thought of being out there for the first snap," hesays. The tailback most likely to take Booty's first handoff is sophomoreChauncey Washington, who moved to the top of the depth chart when HershelDennis suffered a knee injury during spring ball.

Washington was amember of the 2003 recruiting class, which included Bush and the departedLenDale White, and while some USC observers thought he was their equal as arunner, his progress has been limited by academic problems. He has been ruledineligible twice, most recently last January, forcing him to miss all thespring workouts. The 6'1", 220-pound Washington is short on experience butsurprisingly long on confidence for a back who has carried only 19 times for 65yards in his college career. "I know there are a lot of people who don'tknow who I am, but come September, they will," he says. "I know whatUSC fans are used to, and I won't let them down."

Carroll iskeeping his expectations modest. "The main thing is having guys who areconsistent and reliable," he says. "If we have that, we'll befine." The Trojans' backfield may not produce a Heisman winner this season,but if it wins Carroll's confidence, that will be more than enough.