In 2005 the defense gave up a staggering 361 yards per game and an avg. 23 ppg. The yardage was the most during Pete Carroll's tenure at USC and the points were the most in 5 years. They had double-digit turnovers in 2005 (+21). With Nick Holt being hired as DC don't look for much to change. They will continue to be aggressive and opportunistic as before. They have the talent on defense to improve next year. A rebuilt defensive line will be the key to SC's defensive success next year. Their linebacking corps is one of the best in the country with talent to spare. The secondary has a lot of rebuilding to do and some of the talent at linebacker may be moved to the secondary. Special teams will need to focus on who the kick returners will be. So lets break it down.
The Defensive Line:
That will be the first priority, shoring up the line. The building blocks are there. Lawrence Jackson and Sedric Ellis will be the anchors of a unit that has lost some great players over the last two years. Jeff Schweiger and Chris Barrett look to fill the other two slots with Alex Morrow and Kyle Moore ready to step in. They allowed 3.8 yards per carry up from 2.6 in 2004 and recorded 32 sacks, down from 2004's 50. A solid D line will keep the pressure up on the opposing QB's, which will hopefully lighten the load on the secondary if the opposing teams try to go up top.
His leadership will anchor the front line
The strength of the defense. This unit had to replace 2 starters from the 2004 team. They later lost Dallas Sartz and Thomas Williams to injury. With inexperienced players the defense was vulnerable to the long run once the RB got around the corner. In the ND and Fresno State games they seemed as if they couldn't buy a tackle allowing Quinn and Pinegar to almost throw at will. There will be some competition for the starting jobs with Cushing, Maualuga and Rivers to be the expected starters. Look for Maualuga to be the leader of the pack. Rivers can go on either the weak or strong side and while it is thought that Cushing and Sartz will compete for the strong side I think Cushing win by default when Sartz moves to the secondary.
Can he move on from the past and lead from the front?
This group will be the most vulnerable of the defense in'06. They are less experienced than the '05 secondary, losing Bing, Wyatt, Ware and Walker. The CB's were crippled by injuries last year and it showed. With Sartz probably moving to Safety and Pinkard available for either CB or S. Terrell Thomas needs to show he's ready to find his spot in the secondary. The Ting's also need to step up and be productive. Ellison and Harris should be ready to compete for jobs in the secondary after both had knee injuries last year. Now they have a number highly talented freshman coming in, led by S Antwine Perez, but they have yet to be battle tested.
This year he and his brother need to step up
Lots of questions here. Taylor Odegard will replace Tom Malone at P. He will definitely get more work than Malone did last year. K Troy Van Blarcom (long FG) can also handle punts. K Mario Danelo also returns. Suffice it to say they will miss Reggie Bush. Ryan Ting has experience at returning punts and Patrick Turner has handled kicks. Kick and punt returners is wide open at this point and probably won't be decide until the end of camp. New ST Coach Al Everest has a lot of work ahead of him in order to get the most out of this unit.