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On the Receiving End

With all the attention given to the running game against Nebraska we haven't talked much about the passing game. Obviously, there are still some issues here with Patrick Turner dropping some balls and also probably having a case of the yips in regards to going over the middle after that nasty hit from Rey Rey in practice. I realize that PT didn't practice for a couple of weeks so his "timing" may be off but it isn't going to get any easier in the games as the opposing defenders will be looking to tee off on him so he needs to nut up and get in the game. Turner has some work to do if the offense is going to hit on all cylinders.

Turner's troubles against the Cornhuskers hurt quarterback John David Booty's statistics, but otherwise did not harm the Trojans. USC turned to its running game and romped to victory.

But as USC's most experienced receiver, Turner is regarded as a vital cog in the Trojans' passing attack -- and their chances of winning a national title. So getting the 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior from Tennessee on track is one of top-ranked USC's prime goals as it prepares for Saturday's Pacific 10 Conference opener against Washington State at the Coliseum.

"We know who the guy is and we trust it, but you still have to get through it," Coach Pete Carroll said of Turner, who missed the opener against Idaho because of a pinched nerve in his shoulder.

Turner's struggles against the Cornhuskers were reminiscent of the Trojans' last trip to the Midwest for a game against an opponent other than Notre Dame.

In 2002, the Trojans journeyed in September to Kansas State. Then-freshman Mike Williams dropped several passes that proved costly in a 27-20 defeat.

Williams rebounded with four receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns the following week in the Pac-10 opener against Oregon State and went on to become the most dominant receiver of the Carroll era. Williams regarded the Kansas State flop as a turning point in his career.

It was noted in training camp that Turner was taking a position of leadership on this team especially with the receivers. Now is the time for him to make that statement and do his part to help John David Booty secure a more balance offensive attack. We won't blow holes open like we saw against Nebraska in every game that we have coming up so it will be imperative for Turner get his head back into the game quickly and the game against WSU should be a perfect opportunity get back on track.
Turner's leadership role has other ramifications as well especially when it comes to working with the new receivers on the team like Ronald Johnson.

Johnson has struggled a bit in his first two games and that is to be expected as the freshman phenom receiver settles into the offense, Joe McKnight has had the same issues, but to me I see Johnson as another Percy Harvin type of receiver. He is a player can that catch the ball but also be used in a running back type role.

The 6-1, 190-pounder is listed third on the depth chart behind No. 1 Patrick Turner, a 6-5, 220-pound junior, and 6-3, 210 sophomore Vidal Hazelton.

But that doesn't mean Johnson's biding his time.

Johnson had one rushing attempt for four yards in USC's season opening win over Idaho and one catch for four yards in a blowout win at then-No. 14 Nebraska.

Johnson's had even more opportunities and is regretting missing out on them, having dropped a pass and claiming he should have caught the other ball of the three thrown his way against the Cornhuskers.

The old adage of establishing the run in order to set up the pass couldn't be more obvious with this group of receivers. Once the offence starts hitting on all cylinders things could really get crazy. I'm not necessarily worried as it will all come together but as we head into the tough road schedule in mid October it would be nice to have it all the components working in sync. SC isn't worried either about balance either, but that doesn't mean we should get complacent.

So, I think the tone needs to be set by Turner and the only way he does it is on the field. This is the weekend to do it.