In 2005 it was easy to discern the team leaders of SC's team that season. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were two of most recognizable players in the country. They were always on the field together and they will be forever linked to one of the greatest offensive machines in college football history.
In 2006 that instant recognition diminished a bit as we settled into the John David Booty era. For SC fans there numerous identifiable players on the 2006 team but for the general college football landscape Booty and maybe to a lesser extent Jarrett were the players that were recognized. In 2006 the reasons were obvious, all the talent from 2005 went to the NFL so with all the new talent coming it was going to be a little more difficult for them to have an identity.
I am a firm believer of flying under the radar; it takes the pressure off to perform. Pressure does different things to different people. Some people when you squeeze them they focus others they collapse like a two-dollar suitcase. Of course some place pressure on themselves and the results are mixed. This season with all the hype that has surrounded this team Booty continues to be the face of the program with a little bit more exposure of some on the defense becoming more nationally known such as Brian Cushing, especially after his stellar performance in the Rose Bowl. Others, like freshman phenom Joe McKnight, have the potential to carry that torch as time moves on.
Nestor across town made a comment before the season started that he couldn't buy into all the SC hype (no, you're kidding me right??) because SC didn't have a dominant running game last season despite all the talent we had. He listed other reasons as well such as a thin O line the loss of Jarrett and Smith etc etc. But that one comment on our running game has stuck with me, not because it was shot at SC, I am used to it by now and I don't expect him to heap praise on us, but because while there was truth to that statement last season it is clear that SC has some horses this season and they are not afraid to use them. There isn't another program out there that has had the depth of talent that has been taken from all over the country like there is at SC.
A case in point is Fred Davis. Initially recruited as Wide Receiver Davis has found some success at Tight End. His experience will be worth its wait in gold in helping the younger receivers along as they settle into their new roles.
Fred Davis showcased the soft hands and deceptive speed that made him one of the most coveted high school receivers in the nation a few years ago. The senior caught a career-high nine passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night as USC overwhelmed Washington State 47-14 in the Pac-10 opener for both teams.
"It's been a long time coming," Davis said. "I'm trying to help my team any way I can, whether it's blocking or catching the ball. This game was probably a little more catching-the-ball than usual."
This is a great example of using all of the available talent.
A lot was made about SC having 10 Tailbacks on the roster and many questions were asked about how do use them all and how do you keep them all happy? It is difficult for those who don't follow the team religiously to try and find USC's identity with all the talent we have. Pete Carroll is delicately balancing the needs of the program with the needs of the players. For the most part he has been successful; Moody is the exception. In three games SC has played just about every eligible RB except for Marc Tyler in order to get them playing time. Because they are so loaded it makes it more difficult for opposing defenses to lock in on specific players and their respective talents in particular formations.
Freshman running back Joe McKnight proceeded to rip off a couple of flashy runs of 14 and 16 yards on his first two touches, putting an exclamation point on something everyone already knew.
USC is super-loaded. Washington State isn't.
Giving McKnight -- surely the most exciting tailback in the Trojans' arsenal -- garbage-time carries is like sneaking Tiger Woods into your best-ball foursome at the company outing.
This is what the Pacific-10 is up against. Wave after wave of talent.
Pete Carroll doesn't look to be bending to the pressure of who's playing when and how much. Of course the inevitable transfer of a player or a discussion with a players parents will come up. If you think its bad this year wait for 2008 when you will three top quarterbacks vying for the starting job.
For the most part it appears that he is flying under the radar and forging ahead. He is not concerned about who is #1 in the country because he knows if keeps on winning it will work itself out. The identity that people are looking for is right there in front of them it's just not the traditional type of identity that we are used to seeing.
That's what happens when you juggle the talent.