To me when it comes to the receivers things just haven’t been the same since the loss to Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game. We have seen it in the production but it becomes more of an issue when you look at the talent that SC has brought in the past couple of years.
Fair or not the receivers has been the brunt of a lot of criticism the past few years particularly last season.
Perhaps no group on the USC football team received more criticism last season than the wide receivers.
General lack of consistent production and some drops plagued the young group.
A year older, stronger, wiser and faster, though, and the group is intent on erasing any bad memories from last season, replacing them with a much-improved 2008 campaign.
The talent is there no question and we have seen glimpses of what can be achieved. And with the additions of Arkansas transfer Damien WIlliams and RS freshman Brandon Carswell the presure is really going to be on the receivers to step up production in 2008.
Looking back on the past few seasons you can see how production has fallen off. Jarrett and Smith did some remarkable things in 2005 but that is understandable when look at the juggernaut that was the USC offense that season.
Pretty impressive numbers!
But things changed significantly in 2006 when Jarrett and Smith were pretty even in their production. Two things stand out here; 1) The loss of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and LenDale White, you don't replace that kind production over night. 2) Jarrett's early in the season shoulder injury against Arizona which seemed to hamper him the rest of the season.
* I didn't add Davis' numbers here on purpose.
Jarrett started out a little slow in camp to the point that then offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin publicly called the receivers out , particularly Jarrett for his lack of fire. While Jarrett was out Chris McFoy was a capable replacement but his only standout game was against Wazzu in Pullman. Patrick Turner made his way onto the scene with an impressive showing against Arkansas but as we have seen he doesn't make the big or clutch plays that Jarrett or Smith did and he has had trouble hanging onto the ball. Hazelton wasn't even on the radar screen in forms of production, only hype.
2007 saw the departure of both Jarrett and Smith so it became Patrick Turner's unit to lead the question was would he step up? Well, right out of the gate he was injured in practice when he took a monster hit from Rey Maualuga. Why this happened and its effects can debated later but Turner wasn't the same for the rest of the season, he just didn't seem to have the spark that we were used to seeing in other receivers.
We wanted to see both Turner and Hazelton really take control of the game while being able to mix some things up with David Ausberry who was a redshirt in 2006 and incoming freshman phenom Ronald Johnson.
It's pretty ominous and kind of hard to miss the fact that Tight End Fred Davis was leading receiver last season. If it wasn't for his production I'm not sure how well SC would have done last season. Ausberry had a bit of the drops as well as PT and VH and Johnson showed us just how special he is going to be with some of his play on special teams and some of the catches he made last season.
The receivers need to do better than what we have seen if SC is going to continue to dominate the Pac-10. Sanchez may provide the swagger needed to fire this unit up and his leadership is going to be key to getting these guys to step up.