2009 record: 9-4, 5-4 (5th-tie in Pac-10)
2009 bowl: Beat Boston College 24-13 in Emerald
2009 final AP/coaches' ranking: 22/20
Coach: Lane Kiffin (0-0 1st year; 7-6 overall, 2 years)
Offensive coordinator: Kennedy Pola (1st year)
Defensive coordinator: Ed Orgeron (1st year)
Returning offensive starters: 6
Returning defensive starters: 5
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (grass; 92,000)
Last league title: 2008
2010 schedule: [view]
2010 roster: [view]
2009 statistics: [view]
Offensive: First things first. It’s impossible to view the USC Trojans in the same light as recent seasons. The NCAA has imposed its sanctions, which include a two-season bowl ban, so the program has taken a severe hit as it begins a new era under Lane Kiffin. The pressure is on sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley to deliver after the celebrated buildup to his true freshman season. Senior wide receiver Ronald Johnson could be poised for a breakout season. Senior Allen Bradford, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry, returns as the primary back, but there’s already a buzz about freshman Dillon Baxter, perhaps the next great USC tailback. The offensive line, headed by senior center Kris O’Dowd and senior guard Butch Lewis, should have its usual muscle. It’s still smarting, though, from the loss of super recruit Seantrel Henderson, the prize of USC’s signing class, who was released from his commitment following NCAA sanctions.
Defensive: With Monte Kiffin, the head coach’s father, and Ed Orgeron in place, there is optimism surrounding USC’s defensive outlook. The Trojans’ strength is at linebacker, where seniors Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan are the leaders. The pass rush has possibilities, particularly with junior defensive end Armond Armstead and junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. The secondary, though, must be completely rebuilt, and there might be an abundance of young players in crucial positions with the exception of senior cornerback Shareece Wright.
Specialists: Associate coach John Baxter has been a special-teams wizard, helping Fresno State to a national-high 49 blocked kicks from 2002-09. The return game is solid and senior punter Jake Harfman returns. Expect senior Joe Houston and Harfman to share the place-kicking duties.
Coaching: Well, this should be interesting. Pete Carroll, after two national titles, seven Pac-10 titles, seven BCS bowl victories and seven Top 4 finishes in nine seasons, bolted for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, a few months before the NCAA dropped its hammer. Kiffin, 34, the former USC assistant, promptly bolted Tennessee after one season and returned to Los Angeles. Kiffin already has proven his ability to recruit and stir the pot. Can he be an effective head coach? That’s still the question, and things won’t get any easier with NCAA sanctions in place.
Heisman hopefuls: Barkley is a name to bear watching in the Heisman race — this season and next — regardless of USC’s presence in the NCAA jailhouse.
Overview: It might be difficult for USC to sustain a run like it had under Carroll. And the next two seasons, banned from bowl appearances, will be difficult. But USC is still USC. The brand is still strong and the recruiting territory is still fertile. The days of Pac-10 dominance are over for now — and maybe for good — but it would be foolish to write off the Trojans as a sudden non-factor in the conference. Despite all the uncertainty, there’s too much talent on board.
Next up: No. 19 West Virginia
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
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