Fall Camp update - Defense/Special teams

Shaun Cody

Now that the Trojans have completed a pair of fall camp scrimmages we're starting to get a better sense of what this USC team will look like in 2004. Click below for a look at the defense and special teams:

Defensive line

This could be the best unit from top to bottom in the country. Much was made in the off-season about the move of Shaun Cody from tackle to end but that switch lasted a total of two days as Cody was quickly put back at tackle during one early practice and hasn't gone back outside yet. Manuel Wright had been starting at tackle but Manuel sat out one practice due to illness so Lawrence Jackson was moved to end with Cody to tackle and the combination worked so good that Wright has been with the 2nd unit since that day. It doesn't seem to matter to Cody where he plays, he is dominant at either spot. Jackson could be the most improved player in camp, he has really seized an opportunity and taken advantage of it with solid play. Wright still has a chance to end up a starter though as the line-ups are far from set. Manuel has a tremendous bull rush. Mike Patterson (photo) is as quick and hard to handle as ever and it's time for him to start earning the national recognition he deserves as one of the top interior DL in the country. Frostee Rucker has slowly returned to action from his toe injury as the coaches are being patient with his return. When he's in there Frostee has been active. Chris Barrett was getting a lot of work with the first team at end as a result of Frostee sitting out some practices and Jackson going to the other side. Chris is impressive physically but even he couldn't withstand the force when Lutui fell on him recently during a pile-up, he hurt his shoulder and will have an MRI this week. Sedric Ellis is the primary back-up to Patterson at nose tackle and he's ready to play. Sed is becoming a beast just like Patterson. Travis Tofi can play both tackle and end and he also blocked two kicks during the first scrimmage of camp. La Juan Ramsey had a hip problem which limited his participation in the start of camp but he made an immediate impact upon his return by causing havoc in the 2nd scrimmage. Ramsey can also play inside and outside on the line. One of the freshmen who could have a chance to play early, especially if Rucker and Barrett are slowed by injury, is Jeff Schweiger. Jeff has shown his speed off the outside so far in camp although he's been battling blisters on his feet. With so many guys ahead of them it's hard to imagine playing time for Alex Morrow, Rashaad Goodrum, Fili Moala, Lawrence Miles or Thomas Herring. Morrow had multiple sacks in the 2nd scrimmage. Moala is huge while Miles also has a monster frame and is only going to get bigger.

Linebacker

This is another very deep and talented group which could be considered among the best in the country. Matt Grootegoed is healthy and in the 2nd scrimmage we saw him making plays all over the field and reminding us why he is a legitimate All-American candidate as a 5-11, 215 linebacker. Lofa Tatupu (photo) has picked up right where he left off last fall as the ringleader of the defense. It says something about Lofa that you don't even hear mention of him being challenged for his job by two worthy candidates in Oscar Lua and Ryan Powdrell. Dallas Sartz continues to be around most every loose ball and that type of instinct fits in perfectly with this group. Dallas sat out a couple days due to headaches and an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Keith Rivers has made an instant impact and when Dallas sat out Keith took snaps with the first team at WLB with Groots moving to SLB. Rivers is the fastest linebacker we've seen in the Carroll era and he had a big hit on Vanderboom to end the 1st scrimmage. Collin Ashton was awarded a scholarship on the night before camp began and he's seen time this fall at both OLB spots. Lua has fought back from two knee injuries to be in the thick of a battle for the #2 MLB spot with Powdrell. Both guys have made their share of plays and this competition is far from over. Thomas Williams is a hard hitter who has a bright future. He's got a long line of guys ahead of him right now but there's no doubt his day will come. Michael Stuart was moved from tight end on the 2nd day of practice. One walk-on to note is Clay Matthews, Jr, the son of the former Trojan All-American.

Defensive back

The strength of the secondary will be the rotation at safety. Darnell Bing is looking quicker than he did last year and he had a good start in camp before hurting his shoulder last week. He'll have an MRI this week to determine his status. Jason Leach has been steady, he's an experienced veteran who knows how to play in this defensive scheme. It hasn't taken Scott Ware (photo) long to make an impact as he put a big hit on Desmond Reed early in camp. Scott is a very aggressive player who will also be part of special teams. He's another guy who has battled blisters on his feet thus far in camp. Josh Pinkard is going to be a big-time player in the future with his size and hitting instincts but playing time might be limited this year so it would be nice if the Trojans could redshirt him. Brandon and Ryan Ting are both seeing time at safety after Ryan had been at corner last season. Greg Farr is a walk-on who will see action on special teams. If there is a concern on this defense it's at the corner spot but if everyone is healthy we've got a lot of experience out there. If I had to guess right now I would say Nunn and Wyatt would be the starters but Arbet could be out there as well. Nunn has been a solid tackler and he's one of the best all-around athletes on the team. He's been able to take part in most practices this fall and has performed well. Justin Wyatt looks more comfortable than we've seen him to this point in his Trojan career and the results show in his play. Justin has terrific speed and his coverage skills have improved. Kevin Arbet hasn't practiced a lot as he continues to rest his foot. He's a very experienced player so it doesn't hurt him as much to miss the practice time, if he can be out there Kevin will be a big part of the rotation. Eric Wright continues to receive praise from Carroll for his practice play and Eric certainly seems to have the instincts for the position. Terrell Thomas has been impressive with his coverage abilities but he was slowed for a couple days after hurting his shoulder. Terrell sat out last year with a similar injury but he's already back at practice now and had a good performance in the 2nd scrimmage. John Walker is an upperclassman now and he's ready for more playing time.

Special teams

Tom Malone (photo) is in mid-season form with his booming kicks at practice. He sat out a couple days to rest his leg but that was only after hitting an 86 yard punt in one drill last week. Ryan Killeen's leg looks strong so far in camp. Mario Danelo is a walk-on who could contribute as a kicker. Reggie Bush right now is set to return kickoffs and punts and he's been nothing short of spectacular in return drills so far this fall. As good as he looked last year he looks noticeably better this year. We could also see Greig Carlson or Kevin Arbet on punt returns and Hershel Dennis or Justin Wyatt on kickoff returns. The long snapper job is still a competition between Collin Ashton and Will Collins.

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