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USC's new Deep Ball Threat

We have noted before how the receivers' production in 2008 has been a welcome sight in how the USC offense has performed so far this season. Having a deep ball threat gives SC the ability to spead the field and takes advantage of the various mismatch opportunities that can come up from game to game. Of course simply having a deep ball threat isn't enough, the receivers need to hang on to the ball and they need to run their routes correctly. That has also been evident in the 4 games USC has played this season.

Michael Lev of the OCR takes a closer look at the passing game with some interesting numbers.

• In 2007, the Trojans' top three wide receivers averaged 10.9 yards per reception. In 2008, they average 17.1.

• In 2007, the top three wide receivers averaged 16.3 yards per touchdown reception. In 2008, they average 28.7.

• In 2007, the longest pass play to a wide receiver covered 48 yards. In 2008, through four games, USC already has three receptions longer than that.

"We're already, out of the chute, way better at getting the ball downfield," said USC coach Pete Carroll, whose team faces Arizona State on Saturday. "We've always had nice concepts to get guys deep but didn't connect as much."

Coaches cited multiple reasons USC's downfield passing is on the upswing. But finding out what's right now requires looking back at what wasn't then.

Part of the problem was '07 quarterback John David Booty's style of play. Booty excelled at completing quick, medium-range passes. There's nothing wrong with that if you mix in the occasional deep ball to stretch out the defense and prevent it from ganging up on the ground game, but USC rarely did.

Those are some impressive improvements. It's also significant because if the QB can't or won't get the ball down field the safeties simply have to keep the play in front of them. If the QB, as in Booty's case, focused on quick and medium range passes you will see a lot of bend don't break type of defensive schemes that will sometimes rely on the cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage while the safeties come up and try to contain the run. Oregon tried to stop the run and put pressure on Sanchez relying on their corners to cover the receivers with no help and because of that Sanchez read the coverage perfectly as the Ducks were beat bad a number of times last weekend.

The other important thing to note is that the younger receivers are a year older now and they are more comfortable in the system. They are also now being led by a QB in Mark Sanchez, that has more of a firery personality and leadership qualities. No, that is not a knock on John David Booty. His time at USC speaks for itself and while there were a few hiccups he did a pretty good job for his abilities whenhe was here.

It isn't perfect as little things like not fiighting the defender off the ball to prevent an interception or the QB's making a bad throw in traffic or behind the receiver has got us into trouble a few times but it is a major improvement. If Sanchez is healthy and effective with time to throw he is one of the deadliest in the game. Lets hope we see that this weekend.