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2 USC

Aug. 20, 2012
Aug. 20, 2012

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Aug. 20, 2012

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2 USC

Sanctions will soon take a toll, but the window's open for another title run before then

This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2012 issue

The Skinny

CITING "UNFINISHED BUSINESS," quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald delayed their NFL careers to play for the 2012 Trojans, who officially have their swagger back. USC isn't just loaded. (The Trojans have 15 returning starters and both kicking specialists.) They're hungry, having been prevented by NCAA sanctions from playing in the last two postseasons. Barkley, a four-year starter and the preseason Heisman front-runner, will be throwing to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, fellow future first-rounders who combined for 2,435 yards and 26 TDs in 2011, one of the most prolific statistical seasons ever put up by a BCS receiving duo. This offense is going to set records.

Key Recruit

SILAS REDD You could have quibbled that the Trojans lacked depth in the backfield behind 1,000-yard rusher Curtis McNeal—until coach Lane Kiffin signed Redd, a Penn State refugee who rushed for 1,241 yards in '11. He's the final piece of a very impressive puzzle.

Breakout Player

HAYES PULLARD The speedy, instinctive, 6'1", 235-pound sophomore weakside linebacker tied for the team lead in tackles last season (81), along with his 6½ tackles for loss and four sacks. There is vast upside here at a position that is already a program strength.

Final Analysis

THOSE PROBING for weaknesses might point out that the Trojans have lost three starters along the defensive line. But the back seven is so talent-rich that it won't matter. To better defend the spread attacks popular in the Pac-12, Kiffin hired a new linebackers coach, Scottie Hazelton from North Dakota State. The Bison won last year's FCS national title, with many of their victories coming over spread teams. Depth, though, will be an issue for the next three years at SC. As part of its punishment, the Trojans are limited to 75 scholarships. On the bright side, they can once again play in the postseason, and will—on Jan. 7, against Alabama, for a national title.

THE VITALS

Coach

Lane Kiffin (3rd year)

25--13 (12--6 Pac-12)

2011 Record 10--2 (7--2, 1st in Pac-12 South)

Final AP Rank 6

Returning Starters Offense 8, Defense 7

2011 STATS

Total Offense (FBS Rank) 456.8 YPG (21)

Rushing Offense 162.6 YPG (51)

Passing Offense 294.2 YPG (15)

Total Defense 374.8 YPG (54)

Rushing Defense 111.4 YPG (18)

Passing Defense 263.3 YPG (102)

TELLING NUMBER 3

Seasons Barkley has been captain, an SC record. Also the number of SC's toughest foes (Cal, Oregon, Notre Dame) the Trojans play at home (Stanford, Washington games on road).

TOP PLAYERS

Offense

QB Matt Barkley

Sr. 6'2", 230 pounds

69.1%, 39 TDs

WR Robert Woods

Jr. 6'1", 190 pounds

111 RECs, 15 TDs

WR Marqise Lee

Soph. 6'0", 195 pounds

73 RECs, 11 TDs

Defense

S T.J. McDonald

Sr. 6'3", 205 pounds

67 tackles, 3 INTs

CB Nickell Robey

Jr. 5'8", 165 pounds

63 tackles, 9 pass breakups

LB Dion Bailey

Soph. 6'0", 210 pounds

81 tackles, 2 sacks

Special Teams

PK Andre Heidari

Soph. 5'10", 200 pounds

50/50 PATs, 15/17 FGs, 4 tackles

PHOTOCHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMILike Barkley, future first-rounder McDonald returned because a 12th Trojans national championship is within reach.PHOTOCHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI