Now that the 2011 College Football season is over for the USC Trojans, it seems to be a great time to begin looking at the future.
The Trojans boast a plethora of young talent that has been able to perform past expectations. Of the 25 recruits that landed at USC as part of the 2011 recruiting class, nine of them had had some part in the success of the team last season. That also means that 16 players were given the 'redshirt' label, meaning they will get to showcase their talents in the 2012 season for the Trojans on their push to a possible shot at the National Championship alongside returning safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley.
Here is a look at the 16 redshirt freshmen that will be taking the field for the Trojans next season.
Antwaun Woods, Defensive Tackle - Woods is first on this list due to the fact that he could have the biggest impact for USC next season. Seniors DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou are graduating and both headed to the NFL while redshirt senior Armond Armstead could opt to either head to the NFL or transfer after missing last season. Woods is a big body at 322 lbs. and is a stout defender at the point of attack. If the Trojans want to stop runs up the middle, it could start with Woods' emergence.
Cyrus Hobbi, Offensive Lineman - Hobbi could be a very good part of the Trojans' rotation along the offensive line which already features young players Marcus Martin and Aundrey Walker. With Matt Kalil opting to go to the NFL, the offensive line should only have to fill one spot amongst the starters and Hobbi's presence could make the transitions easier on other players such as Kevin Graf or Walker who may be moved over to the left tackle position.
Anthony Sarao, Linebacker - Sarao will add to an already stacked linebacker corps that was once the main concern of the Trojans defense. Sarao is a quick linebacker with good size. He fits well into the rotation with Lamar Dawson, Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard as an athlete with good size and lateral speed.
The addition of Sarao, along with incoming freshman Scott Starr, allows the Trojans to keep a fresh rotation of quick players to match up with the likes of the Oregon Ducks who focus on fast-paced football in an attempt to keep defenses tired and off of their game. Sarao was a crucial part to the Trojans' scout team last season.
Soma Vainuku, Fullback - The great thing about the Trojans' offense is how they utilize so many weapons on offense, including the fullback. Vainuku has many wondering if he could be the next Stanley Havili, who was very impressive in his time with USC. Vainuku could be very productive in coach Lane Kiffin's offense as a runner, blocker or receiver and that is what is needed with Rhett Ellison and Ross Cumming both departing as seniors.
Victor Blackwell, Wide Receiver - The wide receivers on the Trojans is already full of talented players as it is and Victor Blackwell will only add to that. He'll join Robert Woods and Marqise Lee (who are almost guaranteed as the starters), along with George Farmer and Kyle Prater as young, talented players who will provide major weapons for Barkley in the passing game.
Junior Pomee, Tight End - Pomee was originally listed as a wide receiver by recruiting sites coming out of high school, but he is set to play tight end for the Trojans. Again, he's a quick weapon at a position strongly utilized in the Trojans' offense.
Last season, Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble proved to be great security blankets for Barkley, helping the quarterback out in some tight spots. Pomee has a chance to make an impact early depending on other possible recruits and whether Christian Thomas is healthy and ready to go.
Christian Heyward, Defensive Tackle - Another defensive tackle that could step in right away since there are two departing seniors at the position. He'll join the rotation of George Uko, J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods as a quick pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. His playing time could also be determined by USC's ability to land top defensive tackle recruits in the 2012 class.
Greg Townsend Jr., Defensive End - Once again, a player at a position that is being affected by the NFL draft. Nick Perry is departing, but Townsend should mesh with the current rotation quite well. Devon Kennard and Wes Horton should man the starting positions with Kevin Greene, Townsend and any possible recruits rotating. The drop off is very little in the rotation and Townsend has the advantage of genetics with his father being a former NFL defensive end.
Cody Kessler, Quarterback - Kessler has a chance to solidify himself as the backup and heir to Matt Barkley with a solid showing in the spring. He impressed all the coaches last spring training and has to beat out competition from Jesse Scroggins and fellow redshirt freshman Max Wittek. Kessler is considered the favorite to backup Barkley as he is an accurate quarterback and throws well on the run, something that has been utilized in the Trojans' offense with bootlegs.
Kessler also possesses the quick release that Lane Kiffin likes in order to set up the bubble screens and quick passes that were staples of the offensive gameplan last season. Cody is a very talented player that could see some playing time late in games, if USC could pull together some big leads.
Max Wittek, Quarterback - Wittek will be challenging Kessler and Scroggins for playing time as well. Wittek is the bigger of the quarterbacks, standing at 6'4", 210 lbs. Wittek had a successful high school playing career at Mater Dei high school and is more than capable to play if needed at USC. He's got a good arm and decision making, which would make him a great backup plan to Barkley in case anything should happen to the star quarterback.
Ryan Henderson, Cornerback - Henderson was impressing in spring training last season before redshirting. He will come in at a position with some talented depth. Nickell Robey and Isiah Wiley should return as starters and Henderson and Torin Harris should be backing them up. Henderson is a good sized cornerback standing 5'10" and should be able to fit right into the rotation when he sees the field in the 2012 season.
Charles Burks, Fullback - Originally recruited as a defensive end, Burks was moved to the offensive side of the ball when it was unsure who would replace Havili. Burks is an athletic player out of Costa Mesa, CA that had seven and a half sacks as a senior at Edison High School. He could see some playing time along with Vainuku as the Trojans try to see who fits best with the system they're running.
Cody Temple, Offensive Lineman - It seems as though versatility is the them with the Trojans as Temple is listed as a center along the offensive line, but shined as a defensive tackle in high school. Temple is one of the four highly regarded offensive lineman the Trojans landed last recruiting class along with Hobbi, Martin and Walker.
Now, Temple will backup Khaled Holmes next season and help the rotation along an offensive line that allowed the fewest amount of sacks last season.
Buck Allen, Running Back - With Marc Tyler graduating, Allen will most likely be the biggest running back on the roster unless they are able to bring in another recruit. Allen was receiving high praise in training as a reliable back. He will help along the rotation of backups to Curtis McNeal aside D.J. Morgan and Amir Carlisle. Allen had a very good senior season at Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Florida, rushing for over 1,500 yards and adding the Florida Class 4A Title to his school's trophy case.
If Allen can come on as a back that could pound the ball between the tackles, he could see a good amount of playing time. As of right now, he's the only running back listed over 200 lbs.
Peter McBride, Long Snapper - McBride is a good player at one of the game's most underrated positions. The long snapper is relied upon to make sure snaps on placekicks and punts do not go bad. A bad snap on a kick could change the entire game as we've seen. McBride is a solid snapper and should fit in well with the Trojans' special teams next season.
Kris Albarado, Punter - With Kyle Negrete getting major praise and playing so well last season, it would be hard for Kris to get on the field right now. However, Negrete is already going to be a senior which means it won't be too long before Albarado gets a chance to boot some punts for the Trojans special teams. He's got a good leg and averaged 45.3 yard per punt as a senior in high school.
These are just some of the new faces that will be on the field at the Coliseum next season. Combine them with the recruits of the 2012 class and the future continues to look bright for the Trojans.
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