In the recent past, the University of Southern California Trojans have had little better than average teams - at least until 2011. The defense was improved but one area of concern over the last few years has been the secondary. That doesn't look to be the case any longer.
The USC defensive backfield gave up a lot of yards last season. To be fair, the offenses in the Pac-12 Conference are brutally good and when you have people like Andrew Luck (the #1 pick in the NFL draft) throwing at you, the secondary is going to take some hits. But regardless, the Trojans weren't very good … but that's changing in 2012. Here's a quick preview of who will probably start and those that may rotate in or back them up - they're deep and talented.
Strong safety - Jawanza Starling may start here but if anyone tells you right now who will be the actual starter, they're guessing. Starling is a senior and the 6'1" 200 pounder had come on strong last season. It isn't so much that Starling isn't good but that he has competition like 6'1" 195 pound junior Demetrius Wright, nipping at his heels - he had a good spring. Also, there's a new player in the mix: 6'2" 200 pound redshirt sophomore Josh Shaw. Shaw received a hardship waiver from the NCAA (source - ESPN) and the Florida transfer will be eligible immediately. Shaw can flat out play and will be on the field at some time in 2012.
Free safety - T.J. McDonald is the surest starter on the defense, what with being a returning senior All-American. The 6'3" 205 pounder will be backed up by 6"1" 205 pound fifth-year senior Drew McAllister or Shaw.
Cornerback - Small in stature but big on talent is the best way to describe 5'8" 165 pound junior Nickell Robey. He's a lockdown corner with quickness, speed and a knack for the ball. His backup is redshirt sophomore Anthony Brown who's only slightly bigger at 5'9" 185 pounds. Redshirt freshman Ryan Henderson has had some injuries but if he comes back healthy, he has the ability to compete for playing time - and note he's also somewhat slight at 5'10" 175 pounds.
Cornerback - The other side is up for grabs. My guess is 6' 180 pound senior Isiah Wiley will be starting after having arguably the best spring practice. But right there with him is Torin Harris and Brian Baucham. The problem is fourth-year junior Harris and fifth-year senior Baucham have had injuries that have slowed their progress.
To reiterate, Shaw should play somewhere and you will likely see him at nickel back and/or he may even play some corner like the 'up for grabs' cornerback spot - again, he's that good. The team also has highly sought-after junior college transfer Gerald Bowman (source - Scout.com), just to add even more depth.
Overall, the defensive secondary on the USC Trojans will be the deepest group - maybe on the entire team. They look talented and ready … and that's a welcome change.
Sources - University of Southern California, ESPN
Daryle W. Hier lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC, having followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
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