I guess you never really look at it that way when you are used to seeing the defense just keep plugging along no matter who leaves for the NFL. We have been blessed (spoiled?) with the amount of talent that Pete Carroll and his staff have brought in. There is no other program that has consistently upgraded its talent year in and year out like USC.
But that is exactly the question asked by Doc Saturday...
The mind, it boggles at the talent on those two units, which produced 11 All-Pac-10 picks (not including back-to-back appearances on the first team by Taylor Mays and Rey Maualuga) and sent 13 players to the draft, nine in the first two rounds -- in two years. If safeties Mays and Josh Pinkard follow the same route next spring, every single regular starter from the 2007-08 Trojan defenses will be on the next level, an absurd ratio even for USC.
So as used as we are to writing off attrition here with the "USC doesn't rebuild, it reloads" cliché, it's worth considering that the core of those awesome defenses -- namely last year's seniors: Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Fili Moala, Kyle Moore, Kevin Ellison and Cary Harris -- was really a special group that won't be easily, or at least not immediately, replaced. This is an obvious concern when you put into perspective just how inexperienced this fall's defense is going to be by comparison:
OK, I can have some fun with this...
You gotta start somewhere, right?
With the high level at which this defense has operated the past few years it is easy to see where some would think that sooner or later the defense won't be as special as we have seen in the past. Doc points that out in looking at the defense in 2006. USC's heart breaking loss to Texas obviously came at the hands of a very special player in Vince Young but that is only half of the story...the USC defense that year was decimated by injury and a number of players on the field were freshmen in that game. That group of freshmen constituted what became the great defenses of 2007 & 2008.
But even with all of those losses a lot of people think that the defense will continue to function at a very high level. Maybe not at what we saw last year when the defense gave up an average of nine points per game but would anyone be disappointed if the defense kept it under seventeen points in 2009?
There were a number of players who have made their presence known on the field who are returning like Everson Griffen who has seemed to make the turn on his approach to the game. Then there is Armond Armstead who I can guarantee will be one of the best Defensive Linemen to come out of the Pete Carroll era...and he is only a sophomore. Junior Christian Tupou is another. The point is SC has all of these guys making contributions on the field even when they are not starting. That on only increases their experience and exposure so when the time does come for them to step into the starting role there is a seem less transition.
Doc makes this final observation...
It's almost a mathematical certainty that this defense must regress. Even if that only means two letdowns instead of one, that could be the difference between their eighth consecutive Pac-10 triumph and the long-awaited eulogies for the conference dynasty of the decade.
I would agree with this, sooner or later it will happen. The Pac-10 is getting better and no team can keep this up this type of production forever and it will be a big let down to masses.
Then again Doc asked us in the past...if not now, when?